A study finds on average, songs have 16 references to sex.
Earlier this month, I was reading a story on CNN.com, “Where is the love in R&B music?” Writer John Blake wondered, “When I listen to R&B today, I ask myself the same question Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway posed in their classic 1972 duet: “Where is the Love?”
He continues: “Listening to black music today is depressing. Songs on today’s urban radio playlists are drained of romance, tenderness and seduction. Black people gave the world Motown, Barry White and “Let’s Get It On.” But we don’t make love songs anymore. Why?”
Blake’s observation is backed up by stats. University at Albany psychology professor Gordon Gallup, Jr. studied the 174 songs that made the Billboard Top 10 in 2009, analyzing three musical genres among the top-selling songs: R&B, country and pop. Gallup and his team found that R&B contained the most references to sex per song, an average of 16 sex-related phrases per song. The top three sexual themes in R&B songs were the singer’s sex appeal, the singer’s wealth as a means of attracting a partner, and descriptions of sex acts. A total of 19 song themes were examined. The least-popular theme was “courtship” the study said.
Earth Wind & Fire keyboardist and founding member Larry Dunn told Blake that the new generation of Black R&B artists is more cynical because more come from broken homes and broken communities. “How are you going to write about love when you don’t know what it is?”
Admittedly, this is a thought that’s run through my mind, most recently as I left my iPod at home and only because of that, I was listening to the radio. The DJ played “Quickie.” Over the beat to Bob Marley’s classic, “Could You Be Loved?” Miguel croons a jump-off anthem, “ I don’t wanna be loved/ I just wanna quickie/ No bite marks, no scratches, and no hickeys/ If you can get with that/ mami come get with me.”
Blake also mentioned “Quickie” in his article. A CNN commenter let the singer off the hook, insightfully explaining, “Nobody can deliver a message of love or good tidings unless you sincerely feel it. And in reciprocity, the receiver of same message has to be in the same capacity. One cannot blame the songwriters/lyricists for expressing what they feel and it sells because they connect to listeners.”
Admittedly, this isn’t Miguel’s fault. The song is popular because people relate to it and like it. And it’s not like R&B hasn’t been in trouble for a while now. Back when I was in high school, Raekwon was wooing women by observing, “you got stacks like the International House of Pancakes” on Jodeci’s “Freek’n You” remix (no diss), and Method Man was pledging his lyrical allegiance to Mary with “Shorty I’m there for you anytime you need me” on “You’re All I Need to Get By.” Not my mother’s music, but it worked for me. Around the same time, R. Kelly was attempting to peel the panties off women by crassly telling us how we, “remind me of my Jeep.” Even as a hardcore Kellz fan, I couldn’t get with that one. Like, your Jeep, dude?
Things haven’t gotten much better in the fifteen (or so) years since. I find myself avoiding the radio for many reasons, but mostly because I’m tired of being objectified and praised as a woman for all the wrong things. My iPod is chock-full of what I don’t hear enough of on the radio (unless it’s the oldies station); Jill Scott, John Legend, Anthony Hamilton, Corrine Bailey Rae, etc. It now provides me with the type of music I used to be able to find on my favorite FM station.
Which artists do you turn to for a good love song?
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk
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