Jhene Aiko

Great Music by Black Women Ignored

Slate's Alfred Soto writes that artists like Jhene Aiko, Marsha Ambrosius, and Ledisi created great albums this year that were overlooked because of the way Billboard charts music

by Slate, September 19, 2014

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Jhene Aiko

Jhene Aiko

In 2011, the only person stopping R&B singer Marsha Ambrosius from topping the Billboard album chart was Adele. Ambrosius, the songwriter behind Michael Jackson’s “Butterflies” and former lead singer of Floetry, would’ve gone No. 1 with her album Late Nights and Early Mornings if its release didn’t coincide with the sales peak of the Adele juggernaut 21. Four years later, her follow-up Friends and Lovers tells a different story: Released a couple months ago, the album debuted with less than a fifth of Late Nights’ sales, and didn’t crack the Top 10. What happened?

Don’t blame the sales downturn on the album—it’s wonderful. Instead, a subtle shift in the way Billboard counts its song charts has had a dramatic effect on Ambrosius and a whole swath of female R&B singers like her. Because of that shift, for the last two years, the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart has acted as a virtual mirror image of the Hot 100. These changes have made this R&B chart a safer, Whiter, and more boring place. And it’s making it hard to be a Black woman singing R&B.







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