Rhythm and Blues music, commonly referred to as R&B, rose in popularity in the late 1940s after World War II. R&B replaced the term “race music” as a less offensive marketing term to describe this genre of music, which was originally created solely for African American audiences. Originally, R&B was a combination of jazz, gospel, and blues, focusing on “boogie” rythms, with famous artists like Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry.
Traditional R&B music mainly used brass instruments and woodwinds, drums, piano, and vocals. These were also the instruments commonly used in jazz bands; however R&B used steady beats that produced a heavier sound. The lyrics of R&B songs focused on things such as racial issues and segregation, love, relationships, and dancing. During the fifties, the lyrics of R&B music became very sexually aggressive, and R&B music became associated with provocative dancing. Artists like Muddy Waters exemplified this in songs like “I Just Want To Make Love To You.” R&B included steady rhythms and numerous instruments, with catchy and interesting arrangements and musical styles that were meant to encourage dancing.
As decades passed, R&B became known as soul music. It also defeated race boundaries: people who were not African American began making and listening to R&B music, for example contemporary R&B artists like Robin Thicke and Justin Timberlake. Contemporary R&B music mainly uses pop beats, giving it a very different sound than older R&B music that used gospel and jazz sounds; however, some aspects of these genres are sometimes used in contemporary R&B music as well. Contemporary R&B grew out of the 1970s funk style of music, becoming popular in the 1980s.
Music videos rose in popularity in the 1980s with Music Television, commonly called MTV. The original purpose of MTV was to play music videos that were guided by VJs, on air hosts who give information on the bands and artists. The television channel’s target audience is adolescents and young adults. MTV started playing more R&B music videos in the early 1990s, featuring R&B bands like Tony Toni Tone and Boyz II Men. Starting in late 1997 MTV started focusing more airtime on pop and hip hop/R&B music. Examples of popular R&B music videos featuring female artists and bands include Brandy and Destiny’s Child. By 2000, MTV had much success featuring a top ten countdown program that featured the top ten music videos from the pop, rock, hip hop, and R&B genres. This program maintains its popularity today, with the R&B nomination for the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards being Drake and Rihanna’s “I’ll Take Care of You.”