Look at this face.
You’d probably be surprised to hear that this rosy-cheeked young man is making a name for himself producing, performing and releasing soulful slow jams.
Although he’s certainly not the first scrawny Brit to surprise people with his atypical voice and choice of genre ( I had an ex who fell in love with then subsequently disowned Jamiroquai after finding out that lead singer Jay Kay was white. When I asked her why she simply said, “He tricked me.”) , he is certainly the freshest.
Buzzblogs and indie tastemakers everywhere have gone gaga over this young Londoner and his love music.
But something is amiss.
The writers, editors and assorted members of the hype machine in general absolutely REFUSE to admit that James Blake makes R&B. They have settled instead on the currently trendy label of ‘Dubstep’ or more precisely ‘post-Dubstep’ (adding “post-” to anything instantly makes it cooler. True story.)
For those of you unfamiliar with Dubstep, it sounds a little something like a sexy, malfunctioning baritone U.F.O. set over the laziest trip-hop drum beat you’ve ever heard.
Examples are great, aren’t they?
This, on the other hand, is a James Blake song.
“But,” you, the imagined reader response, ask yourself, “where are the ‘Whooom Whoom’ wobbly noises?”
I’m afraid there are none, fictitious reader. You see, young James is a pioneer of “post-Dubstep.” That means he took the ‘ tribal aliens having sex’ vibe of the first video and stripped it of its signature bass wobble leaving us with this, a half-step drum beat frequently used in…R&B and Soul music.
Here’s a half-step drum beat in action for all you non-believers.
That is Ray J (of sex tape fame) and what he is doing would never be classified as anything remotely resembling any form of electronic music. So why are all these critics so averse to labeling James Blake the soul singer that he truly is?
Are the denizens of Pitchfork‘s heads so far up the indie universes’ lily-white ass that they can’t see what’s clearly laid out in front of them? Are they worried that reviewing an R&B album is the first step on a road that ends with them podcasting live from a Tony! Toni! Tone! reunion concert?
Were the writers at Clash afraid that if they released word of another tortured UK crooner so soon on the heels of Adele’s surprise success, then her sudden fame (and quite possibly Adele herself) might swallow the poor Mr. Blake whole?
Or maybe all of these writers just came to an agreement in some sort of Hipster League Satellite HQ over a case of Pabst. They would all refer to Jimmy Blake as a practitioner of Dubstep in order to increase site traffic (Dubstep, although relatively popular in the UK, has just begun a stateside surge in popularity).
I’m not trying to say, via all this nonsense and bitching, that I don’t want artists to experiment within their respective genres. By all means, I would love to hear a genuine mix of Soul-like vocals with Dubstep beats. But let’s not cheapen the genuine arrival of Blue-Eyed Dub (totally calling “dibs” on that phrase) by wishing for it so hard for it that we force it into being when it doesn’t exist.