Truth be told, I wanted to write an article about the eye-roll inducing, writer-created “subgenre” of PBR&B (Pabst Blue Ribbon + R&B) the moment New York Mag gave it some credibility with this list last year. Thankfully, it seemed like folks had stopped throwing it around so easily and didn’t have a problem labeling the likes of the Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Miguel, How to Dress Well, etc… as true R&B.
Much to my disappointment, I happened upon a Spin article earlier this week—it ran Aug. 22—that decided to give the confusing buzzword a second go. To be fair, it didn’t really receive much love by way of comments or social media shares, but it’s been referenced enough by writers on the mag’s site and other buzzword-loving writers that I felt it was finally my time to step in. Because let’s be real: when a big publication like Spin decides to rehash a term that pigeonholes new R&B acts like this, other sites will inevitably follow.
I’m all for trying to better explain music through the written language in the easiest way possible. I went to journalism school like plenty of other writers and learned that brevity is one of three essential elements of reporting. One of my favorite subgenre names ever is shoegaze because it’s devastatingly accurate for certain bands; i.e. My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Slowdive and the like. And relying on presumably antiquated terms like R&B to create “new” terms can be OK. When it works.
PBR&B doesn’t. At its core, it is simply a troll-esque new “subgenre” that does nothing more than marginalize the efforts of the aforementioned artists like the Weeknd and Frank ocean. It also tries way, way too hard to become a means of comparison to other acts. Sorry, Spin, but “Thinking ‘Bout You” sounds similar to Washed Out? That’s one hell of a stretch. Also, just because a decent amount of an artist’s fanbase happens to enjoy PBR and just might be heavy on the hipster mindset does not mean you need to generalize an artist’s entire body of work.
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