Sound Smart: Contemporary R&B

Learnex, English Forever ¡Aprende Inglés para Siempre!

The Rhythm and blues has evolved over the decades of use,  generally it has been associated with music made predominately by black artists and musicians although it were right or wrong.

Originally R&B had been used since the 1940s as a substitution of the term «race music» to identify black artists.  At the time musicians were also mixing jazz styles and blues together.  One of the pronounced differences is in the synchrony together of the drums and bass into a tight rhythm feel as opposed to Jazz where the bass is often loose.

Allan Freed took the term Rock & Roll from many R&B songs (The Trieners, Louis Jordan, Roy Brown), and turned the term into a name for white youth playing black R&B music. R&B went on to be used in the eras of 60’s soul (Stax and Motown), 70’s Funk, Disco, and even at one time HipHop, before that became it’s own break out genre.  Today the Billboard Chart that used to be R&B is listed as R&B/Hip Hop.

The «60’s British Invasion» was largely a result of White English musicians playing covers of 40s-50s Black American R&B.

Some people have noted that R&B songs deal with emotions and themes of pain and suffering, the pursuit of freedom and happiness.   But this is the human condition described in all genres of music, and even Country Music includes these metaphors, just with the imagery of Pick-up trucks, dogs, and women in Cowboy Boots.

So in the end R&B describes a style of music, but it still somewhat a racial term.


  • Race: A group of people with similar physical characteristics.
  • Loose: Not firmly attached.
  • Metaphor: It’s an expression that describes a person or object by referring to something that is considered to have similar characteristics.
  • Freedom: The right to live in the way you want without being controlled by anyone else.


You should listen to different artists of this genre to improve your listening.


  • How much do you know about Contemporary R&B music?

Welcome to this activity created by Junior Advisor Mr. Hugo Enrique Sánchez from Polanco Branch. Take note of all the pink words, read the text, watch the video and answer the question in the comment section below.

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