– that intersection of her pretty voice and his weird, resonant production. I remember where I was and what I was doing. It was a major situation. We're trying to continue that legacy." -- from Paul Lester's Guardian article "Beyond Timbaland: the future stars of experimental R&B"
So if the last thing Timbo did of even half-note was this -
and of actual full-note was this, from 2002,
Is that effectively an argument that R&B has been more or less static for a decade?
It wouldn't take a lot to convince me. Jaw-drop moments, prior to the big Euroclub whiteout of last three years (which has been jawdropping more for the early-90s-Ibiza-LoveParade flashback factor) would for me comprise "Umbrella", "Single Ladies" and... nah, not even The-Dream albums really, which struck me as a baroque-ification of already established production and vocal arrangement traits.
Well, there's been the dubstep-meets-R&B tunes... like that nasty but desolately weird Chris Br**n tune "Look At Me Now". Odious but undeniable jarring on the radio.
But back to that other 'orrible little man, Mr T....
So really what Kelela is talking about in terms of "restarting the future" is that period when T used Aaliyah as "a probe" (as he put it):
1998 and 1996
That's the high point that they are trying to be "post", to be build from. The late Nineties. Chiming again with Jaron Lanier's (in)famous challenge "find me some music from the late 2000s that's distinguishable from the music of the late 90s"
What does it sound like, though, this future-R&B, this R&B restarted, the pause button released?
"Enemy" by Kelela, is pretty good - a song draped over a grimestrumental from 2003-4 or an early track by Plasticman. Gets a bit more adventurous, like screwed-footwork, further in. But there doesn't seem to be much relation between the vocal and the beat. (Whereas with something overtly retro-nuevo, e.g. "Blurred Lines", the vocals weave through rhythm, form a funky warp 'n' weft that breathes. [Or perhaps pants is the operative word in this case]. As such an anachronism, yes).
Most of the other candidates are bit cloud-y for my tastes. Taking the name Kid A is a bit of a give away. I was about to write like "Shek'spere if he recorded for Morr Music" but then saw the Guardian's own description, "Ciara if she had been on the 4AD label in 1985"