With Justin Bieber’s R. Kelly-assisted “PYD” hitting iTunes a few days ago, it seems that “alternative R&B”–or rather the kaleidoscopic explorations of recent R&B that cast old sounds from the genre, electronic influences, and all sorts of other inspirations in intriguing, buzzworthy new light–has finally jumped out of the realm of the alternative (you could probably argue that happened when the Weeknd first hopped on a Drake record, but the Toronto native has managed to remain aggressively weird enough to be popular while living just beyond super-wide acceptance). In spite of this surprising moment in the sun, don’t expect the recent vitality of the genre and its offshoots to come to an end.
Somewhere out there/There is a love/For me, a love that’s true
R&B is a genre of vulnerability, comprising artists unafraid to bear their souls, their bodies, their pitfalls, and their relationships for both the entertainment and catharsis of their listeners. While it’s hard to say concretely why the last few years have seen a sort of R&B renaissance, one half-cocked theory is that, in a quest for music that embodies all manners of emotional openness (even the Weeknd’s lurid, cold bedroom tales fit the bill), an updated version of the time-honored genre speaks to a generation constanty seaking connection, constantly emoting, ever on uncertain ground in a world where chaos rules the news cycle.
I’ve got all this love to give
By way of this long-winded introduction, meet north London singer Tev’n. As you might have guessed, he’s an enigmatic R&B singer whose first two singles provide a sparse but surprisingly warm take on garage and post-dub, using stripped down beats as fitting canvases for confession. “Rose Petal,” in particular, seems to reveal the singers core, a pained missive from a lonesome messenger looking for love. Its lyrics, in another context, might sound bland or treacly; in proper relief, they sound like the potential outcry of an era. And if all that’s a bit much, Tev’n satisfies those simply looking for a fix.