Record Executive Weighs In On The State of R&B: “The Artists Aren’t As Innovative As They Should Be”

Published: Saturday 22nd Aug 2015 by David

“You could cut the exact same songs with a black female singer that I cut with Ariana, and they would be nowhere as big.”

The comment above was made by Republic Records Executive Wendy Goldstein as she awaits the release of ‘Beauty Behind the Madness’ by her artist The Weeknd.

However, despite enjoying success with the entertainer of Pop and Rhythmic platforms, the industry power player has revealed that she’s anything but happy with the state of R&B music in today’s world.


Her conversation with ‘Billboard‘ below…

When asked to weigh in on contemporary R&B’s struggle to match Hip Hop on a critical and commercial front she shared:

I don’t think the artists are being as ­innovative as they should be. Even on the hip-hop side, the records have been dumbed down so that very few really smart records get through, like a J. Cole, Kendrick or a Big Sean. But on the singing side, it has been worse. No one has been able to pull up with a defining record that’s a game-changer. That’s what R&B needs right now. Guys that we were ­hoping were going to be that have been very slow to get out of the box again, like Frank Ocean and Miguel. And it’s partially radio’s fault. They’re not so open to ­playing ­[adventurous] things until they’re big somewhere else.

Urban has a fundamental problem trying to find its place, and it absolutely is the fault of the system: You could cut the exact same songs with a black female singer that I cut with Ariana, and they would be nowhere as big. But I also feel that we have to get a little more adventurous in urban. When you think about groups like The Fugees and Outkast — where are those groups today? Where’s that person who has that voice like Lauryn Hill who can be as f–ing grimy and “hood” as possible, but then come out with a song like “Killing Me Softly” that was No. 1 around the world? The only true R&B that’s out there right now, I hate to say it, are legacy things. But kids know no ­genre-specific boundaries, so you’re ­getting more hybrid acts like The Weeknd or Janelle Monae, which wouldn’t ­necessarily sit at just R&B [radio]. At some point, you’re going to see the hybrid things break out.

We concur.

Unfortunately, the same can be said for the majority of today’s Pop contenders who are just as (forgive us for this) basic but have been able to hide behind hits designed for radio.

Meanwhile, innovative and groundbreaking acts such as Jazmine Sullivan, Kwabs, Lianne La Havas and Dawn Richard are ignored by labels who seem to think audiences are uninterested in soulful and layered artists when those soulful and layered artists are black.

The result? A gang of “urban” singles artists shifting forgettable party anthems doing their part to push the idea that authentic R&B and Hip Hop artists have no place in the mainstream.

Fortunately, numbers moved by the likes of Toni Braxton, Eternal, Tracy Chapman, Lauryn Hill and Seal prove that this simply isn’t true and that it’s the labels and not the music buying public with the problem.

Your thoughts?

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  1. Tae August 22, 2015

    Now this is a great read! I would live to hear more discussions on this to figure out where we need to go. Our black female artist are very underappericated and the labels and fans are at fault. Yes I said fans ( yall love when they flop so yall can “drag” them then go along and kiss these white artists asses because they are “slaying”) smh we have got to do better.

    • Barb-wire August 22, 2015

      Nothing but the truth…

      • Molly #September4thSurprise August 22, 2015

        You’re a hypocrite tho sit down @barb_wire

    • You tried August 22, 2015

      I think reall music has been completely shut out of the industry! It’s a about the hustle now! Not the love! And when it’s for the LOVE OF MUSIC it will be embraced as art! I’m tired of the “talking sh** ” records and money power and none sense where’s the message! Not fast hits SONGS THAT ARE MEANINGFUL AND THAT WE WILL BE REMEMBERED!

      • prestige August 23, 2015

        Ive read all these psuedo explanations but not one of you took blame for not buying and Supporting. We all know that most of you get it the free way.. We know that along with with a multitude of factors affects RnB sales… The exec figure why put so much money into a genre when all most of you do is get it for free and dont buy! If you want change put your money where your mouth is and pay for the material the RnB artists put out people…

    • Daisy Duke August 22, 2015

      I completely agree with this, the consumers are too far up these basic main stream artists asses the REAL innovators don’t get the chance they deserve. Radio isn’t going to play music WE aren’t requesting them to play! Artists like Shaton who I listen to is #1 right now in Spain but he’ll probably never get the chance he needs to get heard like he deserves and he’s dope like a lot of other artists be it independent or signed. It starts with US

  2. isi August 22, 2015

    Tyrese,Jill Scott,Teedra Moses,and The Foreign Exchange have all in the last couple of weeks put out great bodies of work, the latter two albums being even better the more famous two names. What exactly is inovative about 1989? Taylor’s most certainly not the first country artist to switch to pop.Shania and Faith Hill did better jobs at the switch!Omarosa was right,a black person has to be extraordinary, while a white can become famous for just being white. I especially love the part where she has the exact answer to the problem(Radio not playing their records)but still somehow makes it R&B artist fault!What about The labels underpromoting R&B artist to give their label mates of various genres a bigger promo budget? The worst of R&B is just as good if not better than anything pop and a lot of genres have to offer. If she thinks Frank Ocean and Miguel are the only innovative R&B artist she doesn’t really listen to R&B!

    • Rey August 22, 2015

      Yes! Yes! Yes!

      • Toohotfortv August 22, 2015

        I was thinking the same thing. If she just took a spin around soundcloud she’d find dozens of amazing and innovative artist.

    • Benjamin Granger August 22, 2015

      THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Faf August 22, 2015

      THe problem is there’s nowhere for them to showcase there’s no trl 106 or vh1 countdown so where’s see we supposed to learn about these artists besides urban radio

      If I’m not looking for r&b I won’t find it

      • bb August 23, 2015

        here are plenty of places but they dont want to. Ariana can sell the nbr of singles RIhanna sells or the nbr of albums Beyonce sells.
        A black female could beat Ariana’s nbrs if she the same promotional campaign Republic gave Ariana.
        Tinashe should have been sent to Europe to do TV performances and BAted BReath should have been worked on radio over there as well as 20.
        If LAna Del Ray can break Europe that way then so can Tinashe and Elle Varner.
        Wendy doesnt need to be running A&R in urban music.
        This executive doesnt even know how to scout talent or cross promote them. SAD.

      • bb August 24, 2015


        Also, there are plenty of places to showcase RNB artistss but the labels dont have a crossover strategy except Columbia Records.
        They can showcase black RNB artsts the same exact places they showcase Sam Smith…
        both pop and urban radio formats, GMA, Today SHow, mainstream music festivals, MTV award, BET Awards, Kimmel , Fallon, etc… they labesl just dont want to do the same for black RNB artists.
        Columbia has done well wth John Legend, Beyonce, and Pharell.

  3. Al August 22, 2015

    Very true indeed even the male rappers gone down this dance route s***.
    RNB aint been good for a while. Someone needs to save rnb but no one will.

  4. Casual-T August 22, 2015

    To be exact, Ariana Grande isn’t innovative in the least. She’s directly derivative of Mariah Carey. I disagree with this woman in that I don’t believe the problem is racial. A black female singer could cut the same records as Ariana and see them be big hits if said black female singer had the same musical arrangements and label backing. Beyonce and Rihanna — and before them, Whitney, Janet, and Diana — built their careers on crossover and outright pop records.
    I’m actually liking what is going on in r&b right now. Janelle Monae, Jidenna, The Weeknd are all making impacts, but I especially like that radio is becoming less beholden to the labels and is more responsive to the streets and social media. Perhaps r&b as a genre has been worked to its boundaries already, so the innovation is coming via hybrids/crossover artists. Hip hop is still evolving and has more room to accommodate non-traditional vocal styles and sounds, and that’s why we’re seeing interesting-sounding artists bubbling up from the streets like Fetty Wap and Future.

  5. B2B August 22, 2015

    She had some really good points and I totally agree with her about R&B artist not being innovative. Everything has been dance based the last few years and I blame these lazy ass producers who are recycling beats over and over. I just love how Beyonce stepped off her radio pedestal and released 4, a magnificent r&b album that had urban hits on it, but no one will credit her for her efforts. In 2011 nothing sounded like 4. MJB dropped the London Sessions which was a very different sound for her and it flopped. Fantasia’s Side Effects of you was dope but didn’t receive the exposure it should’ve… I mean Fantasia>Adele but because Adele is white, pop and rhythmic radio will play her soul cuts.

  6. Gee August 22, 2015

    Ariana has done nothing innovative or great she has just copied a blueprint that has been layed for her by her superior. Honestly label and the industry as a whole are losing right now so anything that can make these labels money they will jump on the bandwagon and singles are the way to go unless you are Taylor Swift. Not even Ariana is putting up those types of numbers this executive has a point to certain degree though I will give her that.

  7. Ajm265 August 22, 2015

    I honestly think the music industry is dead or almost there. True labels are backing pop acts and hip hop acts because that’s what they think the GP wants to hear. However most adults tune out the radio and kids will listen to any BS that comes on more than 10 times. With applications like spotify and apple music we can choose to listen to our old favorite R&B songs. And artist like Monica, MJB, keyshia cole, Fantasia, Jazmine are labeled as boring because they don’t make booty shaking music. Social Media is truly taking over as the new form of entertainment and the music industry is doing whatever it can to get the final dollars from songs.

  8. obsidian August 22, 2015

    It’s so funny how we take notice of an issue once a white person offers his/her opinion! I’ve been conveying her message on this blog for years, but everyone failed to acknowledge it!!! I made the exact same argument about Ciara’s career, but readers referred to me as crazy, and delusional. NOW WHO’S CRAZY!!!!

    • ronnoc August 22, 2015

      …and nobody listened to you because you aren’t white, or because you’re a nobody? Hmm

  9. Stephy August 22, 2015

    R&B started to die out around 2008. When America allowed that Euro/Dance Pop music to come over here. It’s never been the same since. This generation just doesn’t care much for a grown man/woman who can blow, sanging about something. And, the MUSIC just doesn’t feel “classic/timeless” anymore. Todays R&B music sounds flavorless, forgettable & empty, period.

    • Mark111 August 22, 2015

      Nope, 2006 when snap n B came in. Also JT and Rihanna (plus a lot of other artist like Gergiev and Gwen, Britney, Beyonce) started to blur the two lines of r&b and pop. Don’t forget that pop was very urban back then.

  10. JanStan August 22, 2015

    I don’t know how old everyone here is but everything is cyclical. It wasn’t long ago that TLC, Usher, Toni, Destinys Child etc etc were ruling the charts. It seemed like there wasn’t any other type of music. Before that it was grunge, then boy bands and on and on. I think the problem is magnified because there doesn’t seem to a next big thing but thats true of ALL genres. Remember there’s been one album released this year that’s gone platinum. ONE. And that was Drake a hip hop/r&b artist. So look at the industry as a whole and u can see it isn’t the genre that’s having a problem, its the industry. Touring is going to be where its at and sadly if you don’t have a back catalog of hits to tour and other business ventures you’re career is pretty much over in 5-6 years max.

  11. Fancy BISH August 22, 2015

    Wendy Goldstein told no lies…also, R&B is lacking true singing powerhouse vocalists as well…the kind of voices that inspired the Babyfaces, R Kellys, Berry Gordys, Smokeys, Quincys, Teddys, L.A. Reids, Clive Davis’, Tommy Mottollas, etc to really stand behind them and push them creatively and commercially…she’s doing a great job with The Weeknd, and he’s great at writing his own material…but R&B singers today need to pass the pen and publishing more often…meaning, they need to find stronger material if they aren’t successful at writing their own material…many great R&B singers didn’t write their own material and that’s OK…many R&B singers today can’t write a real hit to save their life lol…but they will TRY numerous times writing mixtape level stuff, hoping for the best…chile please lol…having said this, I LOVE black music in all forms because black artists created hip hop, soul, R&B, jazz, funk, and rock n roll…and that’s the TRUTH RUTH…

    • Adrian August 22, 2015

      I agree and disagree with her statement of R&B while I agree there needs to be true innovative music of the genre as R&B in the mainstream world has gone either pop or hip hop with repetitive lyrics about s** (Examples like Tinahse and Jerimah, Trey Songz come to mind) but they’re is a major Disagreement in that they’re isn’t enough talent coming out of this genre. they’re many different gems that’s really come to light in music including the music artists that’s been around for years including Elle Varner, Ledisi, Candice Glover, Luke James, Especially Jazmine Sullivan and Tina Campbell who’ve all as of now have come out with deep cuts that could gain traction today. I blame almost everyone in this case on the topic because even commenters on ThatGrapeJuice have been fickle and less kind to R&B artists, Labels for continuously trying to follow the trend of raunchiness and not hyping up more singers as they should just because “they’re is nobody on radio like them” despite giving white soul singers a pass and completely white washing the industry in music, Radio as well for while having the most power in what should be played always drops the ball and ignores R&B singers for the same generic reasons they always come up with, and last but not least the Fans and Audiences, while most may buy R&B and hip hop which I believe is the genral public now are still not going out there to support more indie and different artists and even if they did aren’t going out of they’re way to really promote them on your personal social media and fans who don’t continue to support even the veterans who helped shaped the genre to its form such the legendary Janet Jackson who is bashed daily and Mariah Carey who’s career hasn’t been on a high since 2008. It’s an incredible shame as R&B was on the most popular genre in music and urban genres like Hip Hop, Rock, Jazz, Gospel, and Soul music are the ones who paved always for such sweet genre as “Pop” music who continue to steal the formula of those genres. So to me it’s up to everyone to make a difference Music industry included.

  12. Shadeed Rice August 22, 2015

    I agree with everything she said.. Except for her saying that “R&B artists aren’t innovative enough”. I don’t believe an artist should have to step out of their comfort zone just to make a ‘radio hit’. Whether their music continues to flop or not. REALLY artists don’t even care about numbers!

  13. Shadeed Rice August 22, 2015

    Excuse me. I meant to say real artists don’t care about numbers.

  14. Credits August 22, 2015


  15. Lake Erie August 22, 2015

    Yes, I have to agree. Today’s music is definitely dumbed down and I hate the fact that radio only plays a lot of r&b songs when its big elsewhere. It’s been a lot of hip hop songs that never even got released as an official single but radio played it as an “exclusive” and somehow it ended up on the charts and some topping. I wish they treated r&b like that. Example: I pretty read on here that everyone loves that Mariah “faded” song. What if radio had played that song as an “exclusive” as they call it. Could you imagine it’s impact back then?? They did the same thing with “Clique” by kanye west, a lot of people may not know but that song didn’t get the singel treatment at first. The DJs and radio was spinning cuz it was “their” favorites, etc and BOOM it blew up. Smh. So yes, I blame radio essentially.

  16. Mark111 August 22, 2015

    Music changes people. Get over it. Want good music? Miguel, Frank Ocean, FLA twig, Ciara, Beyonce, Rihanna, and a whole lot of 90s artist are still making music. That Toni and Babyface album is a masterpiece. Are you looking for music or looking at the charts?
    Plus I go back and listen to to 90s music. Go back and rediscover, because I looked over Ooooohhhhhhh on the TLC tip decades ago and that album kicks. Even go back the Motown and 70s Marvin Gaye. It doesn’t have to alway be current and it doesn’t always have to be one genre. I listen to pop and rock for a bit and came back to r&b and appreciate black music so much now.
    Music is at a great space, artist can do whatever they want now and go that extra mile. Maybe the artist you listen to were never as talented as you thought, maybe they were just on a string by the machine.

  17. Molly #September4thSurprise August 22, 2015

    It sucks for black artist they put out the best music but don’t get rewarded for it but hey its been like this forever.

    • Mark111 August 22, 2015

      White artist are flopping too, the hell are you talking about?

      • Molly #September4thSurprise August 22, 2015

        Album wise everyone is flopping, single wise I don’t think so…. and hey atleast those flopping white artist can still get nominated for awards and perform on mainstream award shows unlike our flopping blacks.

  18. ThatMessJuice August 22, 2015

    …says Thatgrapejuice which promotes the same dull musicians. Lianne La Havas released an album a month ago…was there even a single feature Thatgrapejuice? You bloggers are just at fault for pushing a Rita Ora over a Lianne…basically FOH!!!!

    • Music matters August 22, 2015

      Maybe David name dropped her as a way to rectify that problem. Think before you shade.

  19. Travon Austin August 22, 2015

    This is nothing new. HIP HOP and R&B has struggled for years. They always had an issue making mainstream hits. Mariah Carey changed that and is probably the only one that can bring it back. In 2005 she brought R&B music back to the masses. That entire year Rap Music and R&B music ruled the industry. Since and without her it hasn’t and doesn’t.

  20. FakeSongwritingCredits August 22, 2015

    Someone has to say it, music scene is a joke right now, keep putting Taylor Swift and her one note voice on a pedestal and true talent will never reach a bigger audience, I mean tell it like it is, there was a time when Celine, Mariah, Whitney co-existed slaying the charts with talent and now well…

  21. RihannaIsMadonna August 22, 2015

    I detact no lies, look at Talk A Good Game best album EVER! But…its a racial issue & we r crippling ourselves social media, stans & dragging has made us underappreciate our artist we feel closer to them cuz of IG, Twitter etc. Whereas early 00’s & before they were classy, hungry for this and passionate we idolized them so we bought the music & radio’s played it now it gon downhill

    • Music matters August 22, 2015

      Please stop. Kelly is incapable of releasing good music becatse she’s a lazy artist. TAGG was basic at best.

  22. Real Music August 22, 2015

    In my experience Wendy Goldstein is either completely disingenuous or completely inept and she is an example as to why the record industry has become an artistic wasteland. For a record executive to point the finger at artists for lack of creativity is laughable when it is the distribution company and/or the record labels who require many of head artist to work with predetermined producers, writers and image teams. In addition it is also those same entities that select and gravitate to artists who do not have the ability to write, produce, or create there own identity so those entities can control the full purse strings and control earning potential of the artists. Furthermore those same distribution companies and record labels understand that in today’s environment the only way for them to recoup earnings on the artists they employ is to saturate the marketplace with the material their artists put out. So with blatant payola to organizations like clear channel who have a radio monopoly with radio one and TV media conglomerates Viacom, there is only but so much room for creativity because in order for these companies to rake in large profits they must create artist like Ms Grande, Taylor Swift Rhianna etc. if Wendy was not so disingenuous with her comments she would have said that the problem is not that artists are not creative enough; but the problem is that artists like Dawn Richard, Azeilia Banks and Janelle Monae own too much of their creativity which is why labels and distribution will not invest because how do they make money? Instead of talking about the lack of creativity with artists Wendy needs to talk about her own lack of creativity because the three R&B ladies I just mentioned all would be very profitable with distribution push and investment. But why should we do your job for you Wendy

  23. Chillitsjustpizza August 22, 2015

    All we got now is k.michelle non singing ass and Tamar who can sing but is scared to sing live.. The issue is the label not wanting to sign real singers because people don’t buy cds anymore so their scared to invest. All it takes is one record exe to believe in a real singer and their craft budget them the same way taylor pays billboard lol

  24. justmeeeee August 22, 2015

    @ Isi

    EXACTLY !!!

  25. JL August 22, 2015

    This is funny. Been actively involved in the music business for 20 yrs. Have first hand knowledge of what happens with the music. Execs (including Wendy herself) pass on innovative acts every day. They choose to do the “dumb downed” signings as she mentioned instead of signing real talent. Wendy as well as many other so called experienced Execs passed on an innovative collective of artists that are enjoying success today. Witnessed that first hand for myself. And The Weekend is “her artist”. Give me a break! The Weekend was a huge success long before signing to Universal. Wow.

  26. Jake August 22, 2015

    See to me it is every type of issue , it’s racial , it’s the generation , it’s the internet , it’s the radios , it’s the looks of one , it’s. The labels , the blogs . It’s a lot of things just live with it cause at this point it ain’t gon change

  27. JuanDizz August 22, 2015

    Very well put. Sad but fact. Even though there seems to be an undiscovered mist of “feel good, real music” by talented artists making its rounds. Of course not exactly mainstream but at least the movement is starting somewhere; though at a very slow pace.

    PS, thank you for plugging in Dawn Richard. Acts like her need the recognition and credit of being bold enough to stay true as artists & people, and still delivering beautiful material.

  28. DaTroof88 August 23, 2015


    The CW announced that an animated web-series origin story centered on black female superhero Vixen would be debuting on CW Seed (cwseed dot com) or the @CWSeed app on Tuesday, August 25, 2015. It will be set in the same universe of sibling CW series Arrow and The Flash. The character is expected to make live-action appearance on The Flash and/or Arrow as well. The 6-part series will be set in Detroit, Michigan; and IF SUCCESSFUL COULD LEAD TO A LIVE-ACTION ADAPTION!.

    We always say we need more DIVERSITY, if we support this there’s no telling where this could lead. They got all these huge superhero movies they’re working on with barely any BLACK WOMEN in them, this could POSSIBLY lead to that.

    • CocoisChanel August 24, 2015


  29. Reyes Deutschendorf September 3, 2015

    Among the factors Rodriguez said that county officials must consider is “what potential damages the County could face” if it refuses to extend Kiryas Joel’s permit, given that the village already has spent $13 million in state loan funds on pipeline construction and did so with reliance on “the permit issued by the prior DPW Commissioner. In March, the state Department of Transportation extended its permit for Kiryas Joel to work on Route 32 until Aug.

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