In Loving Memory of the Male R&B Singer

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to today to get through this thing called music minus the presence of S-curls, pelvic thrusts, 5-minute vocal riffs, saxophone solos and 8-count dance breaks under a perfectly lit, post-rain side street.

Oh how hard it is to say goodbye to the men whose posters were plastered to our teenage walls and whose CDs filled our car visors. It seems like just yesterday you were counting how much you loved us, literally, courtesy of Brian McKnight, or begging us to come back home after we hit the end of the road (Side Note: why wait until the end of the road to say something? Next time, hit me up after the first left turn). Then suddenly, in the blink of a Day 26 album, you were gone.

Let me go on record in saying there are few things I love more than a singing black man. Whether in a group or riding solo, seldom does it get better than seeing choreographed chocolate delight prancing around a stage, unafraid to tap into their male emotions while dry humping a microphone stand. I’m not talking about the Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, hip-pop artists of the world. I’m talking about the sangin’, down on one knee, you’ve called in to request their song on the radio and threw a fit when the DJ finally played it and you only caught the vamp, type of sangaws.

From the one-name heavyweight titans like Teddy P., Babyface and Luther, to the some hit wonders like Tevin Campbell, Tyrese and Joe, I love them all. Side Note: am I the only one continuously amazed at Joe’s B-level success considering his stage name is the most forgettable, non-dazzling, plainer than Jane name ever? Joe. Say it out loud and watch all of the excitement JuJu out of your body. But that’s his prerogative and in spite of his birth name situation he has made it, so for that Joe, we speak your name.

Back to the lecture at hand. Despite the over-processed hair, high nasal vocals and Labelle inspired costumes, these men were the ish. People heard their songs and were compelled to have babies. Who does that?! Surely not anyone listening to a John Lennon song. But despite their churchy-laden vocals, good looks and sculpted bodies, sometime somewhere they left us. Though the exact date of death is unknown, inferences suggest the sub-genre passed away peacefully shortly after the re-emergence of hair texturizers. On record, the demise became official in 2011 when the last Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance was given to Usher however, I believe it all went downhill in 2007 following T-Pain’s Epiphany album, and the sudden prevalence of “shawty snappin.’”

A pillar of the music industry and a favorite of the National Committee of Black Aunties, these extraordinary men of melanin will greatly be missed. Maybe it was the decline of New Jack Swing that stopped their shine. Or maybe it was the second coming of Christ disguised as some chick named Beyoncé that scared any potential male equivalents from daring to be great again. Whatever it was, I just miss bare chests under linen shirts.

Preceded in death by singers Stevie Wonder, Peabo Bryson, Tevin Campbell, Ginuwine, Wanya Morris, Johnny Gill, Ralph Tresvant and Carl Thomas, though we’re not sure what happened, where you went or when you plan on returning, you are, and will be missed. To the remaining survivors, Usher, John Legend and Maxwell, we’re counting on you guys. We’re rooting for you. We’re all rooting for you.

So to the grown a$$ men not afraid to cry in-tune and on-beat while pelvic thrusting like the rent depended on it, we salute you. To the men who tolerated a stranger’s panties being flung at their face with the cleanliness unknown, you will forever be remembered in our hearts and CD collections. To the men who knew their dance moves were s**t and had no business doing anything other than a head nod but yet and still pressed their way through a full 8-count to delight our hearts, your efforts were not in vain.

In honor of every male R&B vocalist who’s come before us (with the exception of R. Kelly for general f**kboi purposes), and written against an instrumental backdrop of “My, My, My,” we dedicate this to you.

P.S. The official burial of the male R&B singer will occur in the basement of music producer Jazze Pha’s Darp Studio which is rumored to house the last remains of singer Bobby Valentino’s career.

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