While Black musicians have used their voices to inspire movements from We Shall Overcome in the 60s to Janelle Monae‘s modern day anthem The Hell You Talmbout, the success of White artists in the space cannot be ignored.
With the explosion of Adele‘s most recent record topping hit, Hello, we collectively root for her and are drawn to the singer because she reminds us of something raw, familiar, and native within us. Hello made history this week when it became the first song to reach 1 million digital downloads in just 7 days.
But what is it about Adele that allows her to break records that some of her talented Black counterparts could never even dream of?
To understand it, we must first, look at popular music’s history.
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.
None of this is to say that Adele isn’t individually talented, but we can’t neglect the history that has caused Black voices to be hidden beneath White pop stars.
The media adores Adele. She has graced the cover of notable publications such as Vogue and Billboard numerous times.The 25 vocalist has also won coveted industry recognition which includes her 10 Grammys, an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a glowing endorsement from Beyonce herself.
Not to say award season is everything, but her accolades exceed artists with similar vocal ability like Jill Scott, who has taken home 3 Grammys, but likely doesn’t get the same marketing budget from her label.
And the final part of it is commodification.
The Iggy effect sent many people through a musical tailspin once they discovered her accent was a farce hijacked from southern throats, and Macklemore received a lot of flack for winning a Grammy in a category in which Kendrick Lamar lyrically dominated.
The hard truth is that, for so much of America and the world, Black voices in White bodies are more profitable.
Regardless, there seems to be a monopoly on who profits from the soulful sound, and it often cannot be attributed to a Black artists.
What do you beauties think? Is the world more apt to accept a particular voice if it’s coming from a certain race?