If you're white like I am, you may have had multiple experiences where you hear an artist on the radio or whatever for the first time and you assume they're black because of the way they sound. If you're like me, you may get excited because you like the song and radio stations that don't exclusively play R&B, rap, pop, and/or hip hop music are finally featuring black artists. My shitty alternative rock station is playing something that sounds like a black woman singing soul music? Fantastic!
And then you find out that it's actually a white artist. It's a goofy looking dude called Macklemore. Or a white woman called Adele. Yes, I thought both of those artists were black the first time I heard them. Then I was disappointed and had to reflect on my own racism. Imagine how bad black people must feel seeing white people get super famous for performing the kind of music they can't seem to make money for or are ridiculed and looked down upon for enjoying.
Why Adele Outsells All Of Your Favorite Black Soul Singers
Adele just broke records for digital downloads with her new hit song "Hello." I can't help but enjoy her "Rolling in the Deep," the song that made me think she was a black woman (because it sounds exactly like soul music), and it made me wonder why the hell black women singing songs a lot like this and often better than this can't end up on the radio or at the top of those charts they're always talking about.
Of course, it's because of racism.
Stories of kidnapped voices branded with White names were common in the popular artists of the 60s, as chronicled in the Oscar-winning documentary, 20 Feet From Stardom. Darlene Love‘s voice was recorded and repurposed under Phil Spector’s direction as The Crystals.
Similarly, there are countless other stories of Black background singers who have been used to bolster the grit of popular music. David Bowie, Mick Jagger, and Joe Crocker all employ Black backup singers to bring edge and heart to rock music.
That this is happening with soul music is especially heartbreaking, considering its history. It came directly out of the horrors of U.S. chattel slavery. Now a white woman is making a shit load of money off of it. Gross.
Let's all commit ourselves to listening to more black artists, including Janelle Monae. She's better than Adele, trust me.