In the 21st century, we have a lot of societal issues that serves as a mold for us to grow into. One of the biggest issues we face are the existence of gender roles. Coming from a female, one of the roles I am expected to play is the mousy and supportive wife of the man. I am expected to cook, clean, and take care of the children everyday, ‘round the clock, 365 days a year. But besides my duty, I am to love my spouse unconditionally. Frankly, that is the only part I look forward to. I can’t wait to find the peanut butter to my jelly. My lifelong partner is somewhere out there waiting for me, and I can’t wait to meet him one day.
The era of 90’s R&B and Slow Jams is the epitome of what I look forward to. Deep, meaningful, and powerful love is what allowed this era of music to be so great. Musicians such as R. Kelly, Toni Braxton, and Xscape were powerhouses during this era and belted out tunes that could send shivers down your spine. You’d lay down and listen to their voices, or even dedicate their songs to your loved one. “I Said I Love You” by Babyface is about a man professing his love to his partner. He makes it clear that he loves her and he’ll do anything in his power to keep her in his life. In it he sings,
“Open up your heart
Don’t be afraid to love again
We can take it slow
You should know I understand
Baby take your time
And I don’t care how long it takes
‘Cause I promise you, I’m here for you
Right here, right now, forever girl.”
Babyface is pouring his heart out to this lover, promising his love will remain for her. He reassures her that everything will be okay and that they can take it slow in their relationship. As the “man” in their relationship, he assumes the masculine role devoting his love and loyalty to his lover. In this era, it was beautiful to see a big and tough man become subservient to his woman in the name of love. It was a symbol of true and long lasting love between the man and his woman. This era and category of music played a huge role in defining what love really was and how much it meant.
Men weren’t the only ones that were subservient in the relationship, it included women as well. In 1997, the singer Monica released the single, then added the song “For You I Will” to her album The Boy is Mine. The ballad is about devotion. Throughout the song, the theme of everlasting love and loyalty stood out like a sore thumb. Her message is heard clearly in the hook of the song when she sings,
“I will cross the ocean for you
I will go and bring you the moon
I will be your hero, your strength, anything you need
I will be the sun in your sky
I will light your way for all time
I promise you, for you I will.”
Here, she promises to stand beside her lover through thick and thin. She promises to go beyond her limits to please her partner and be there for him in any way possible. She even goes as far as assuming the role of a hero to her partner. Being there in times of need and offering her strength and her heart to rescue her partner. In addition, she almost represents herself as a figure with reverence by promising to light someone’s path for all time. As the woman, she goes above and beyond her capacity to love someone in this song. She willingly surpasses her limits and looks forward to being subservient to her man. One could only dream of obtaining a love so strong for someone that they would willingly give up their entire world to light up someone else’s.
Compared to music in the 90’s, today’s R&B is the complete opposite. The music of today promotes sex, money, and drugs to its listeners. Artists today have desensitized the meaning behind music. They are encouraging young men to not value a woman or her body. It is almost as if women are recyclable and they hold little to no value at all. Artists also promote the usage of the word “bitch” when referring to women. They glorify the women who are strippers and sells their bodies, whereas they scorn the women who are more conservative. Men have also become cold and distant when it comes to showing their emotions. It is like pulling teeth to get a man to tell a woman how he truly feels about her. The music of today is brainwashing its young ears into believing that disrespecting women is “cool”. Compared to older music, this generation of music is leaving a negative impact on those who listen to it.
Growing up, my mother always listened to throwback songs, which left a deep impact on me while young. At 18 years old, I can say the 90’s era of R&B heavily shapes my perception of love and all that it is supposed to be. I believe love is happiness. Love is when you’d melt into a puddle at the sound of your name, and then grab a knife when you fall into the toilet because your partner left the seat up. It is when you see the good, bad, and ugly in a person and still love them regardless of the monster they might be. In my eyes, I see love as a puzzle. Each encounter that you make with people is a piece that begins to solve your puzzle. You might get close to end, only to find that there is just one piece missing. There might be other pieces that could fit perfectly, but they just portray a different image. Finding your soulmate is when you find the perfect puzzle piece to complete your picture.
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