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Soul Music's Influence

Soul music of the 60s and 70s led to many other genres, including funk and hip hop. Funk music began when singers like James Brown began using soul's rhythmic grooves to make dance music, and hip hop began when DJs started rapping over these rhythmic grooves. But soul music itself didn't die out. British singers like George Michael and Sade had some of the biggest soul hits of all time in the 80s, as did Michael Jackson and Prince with their exciting new styles of pop soul and funk. But by this time both soul and funk were being marketed under the new term "R&B".

In the late 80s singers like Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige were producing a style of smooth, soul called contemporary R&B. But many younger artists preferred the raw sounds of 60s and 70s soul and funk. They also loved the urban beats of hip hop, and by mixing these elements they created a new style in the 90s called neo soul. Best-selling neo-soul albums include Me'Shell NdegéOcello's Plantation Lullabies, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite, D'Angelo's Brown Sugar, and Lauryn Hill's 1998 masterpiece The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

New Styles of the 21st Century

Neo soul and the smoother sounds of R&B continued into the 21st century, but they were soon joined by two new styles; "retro soul" and "alternative R&B". Retro soul became popular after British jazz Amy Winehouse recreated the sounds of 60s soul on her Grammy-winning 2006 album Back to Black. Her success led to the rise of other retro-soul singers like Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, Leon Bridges and Michael Kiwanuka.

Alternative R&B, on the other hand, began around 2010 when young artists like Abel Tesfaye (a.k.a. The Weeknd) and Frank Ocean started using both electronic and acoustic instruments to create moody beats over which they sang haunting songs about depression, addiction, heartbreak and other difficult topics. Since then the label has been to many non-mainstream styles from the futuristic R&B of Kelela and Janelle Monáe to Sampha and Blood Orange's lyricism and Childish Gambino's retro-funk. At the same time more mainstream R&B artists such as Maxwell, SZA, Solange, Beyoncé and Miguel have also been keeping soul music's alive and well.


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