Motown -- and subsequently "R&B", "hip-hop" and what is often referred to as "smooth jazz" -- each of these genres is almost synonymous with X-rated content and overpowering sexuality. That's why they're more properly termed audio porn for the masses.
Following is just a very small snippet of our research on the music of "R&B", which has ostensibly encompassed the latter part of the 20th century and the beginnings of the 21st century. We investigate music that has been classified, at one point or another, as part of "Rhythm-and-Blues", "R&B", "Oldies" and "Smooth Jazz". (If you've ever been in the Southern California metropolitan area and listened to a radio station that dubs itself "94.7, The Wave, Smooth Jazz", then you've probably heard songs such as the ones we examine below. That particular station plays a lot of offensive audio porn. Um, yes, you read correctly: audio porn. Read on.)
One difficult aspect of the English language is that we have only one word for love, and we use it to describe everything from love for a person to love for some type of food group. With the arrival of Motown, "love" did not mean agape love, as in how God loves us. Instead, with Motown "love" took on sexual connotations. The examples are numerous, and extend from the early Motown days to the Disco days of the 70's, and further with many post-Disco pop and rock acts.
With all too much of Motown music -- which proliferated beginning in Detroit in the 1960's and continued throughout the 1970's and has given way to what might be called "modern "R&B" or "the Rhythm & Blues of today's pop music" -- we have what, to the sensitive ear, is not only audio assault, but indeed audio porn. Exactly how much of Motown music was intended as porn, (i.e. by the musicians, mixers, producers, and promoters) cannot precisely be measured -- but to the carefully discerning ear, it is nothing more and nothing less than auditory porn assaults. And quite obviously, auditory porn assaults have continued with the likes of the 70's and 80's act of Daryl Hall and John Oates ("Hall & Oates"), Stevie Wonder with "Superstitious" and several other songs, then "hip-hop" music, the "R&B" of such acts as Rihanna, Chris Brown, Beyonce, Mariah Carey (example: "Touch My Body"), and a whole storehouse of other acts. This reality is not solely an ethnic phenomenon. "The Righteous Brothers", as they were dubbed back in the 60's, were a caucasian (white) act including Bill Medley, that released such hypnotic music -- still revered today by many -- as "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" (popularized in the movie "Top Gun") and "Unchained Melody", another of their hits. We've seen and heard individuals of multiple ethnicities continue with what may be labeled on CD's with "Parental Advisory" labels. What actually exists in the sound, of course, is far more hideous and troubling than the letters that exist on a 1" x "1-1/2" warning label. Some of the characteristics of that which the sensitive, discerning listener hears in "R&B" -- in music ranging from the early Motown era (viz. Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, the Royallettes, Wilson Pickett, Diana Ross And The Supremes with "Where Did Our Love Go" and other hit songs, etc.) to today's "hip-hop"-- are a continuous, repetitive beat; strong sexual overtones; voices that are suggestive, sultry, however innocuous they might sound to some; and lyrics laced with all kinds of suggestions of sexual intercourse itself and situations involving sexual intercourse. An obvious example would be -- and is -- "Sexual Healing", a hit sung by Marvin Gaye in the 80's.
If there were a common object or a common threat throughout the whole "R&B" period, it would be lyrics and tone suggestive of sexual intercourse; voices hauntingly enraptured with the female body; and subjects of fantasy and sexually-based imagination rather than reality-based platonic or marital love. Indeed: how often is marriage explicitly -- or even implicitly -- indicated in the lyrics? Of course, one could say the same of the genres of Rock, Heavy Metal, New Wave, Synthetic Pop, Minimalist pop, and other genres. And to be sure, those same genres evoke sexual passions; anger and rage of various sundry sorts; malcontentedness with reality; and various degrees of pride, lust, and rebellion.
As to hypnotic qualities [sic] of such music, one writer has characterized the beat as "lacking in variety". But that doesn't really describe the angst, the anxiety, the troubled feelings, or the dark, impassioned mood of the singers.
Regarding vocals, Daryl Hall, lead vocalist of the "Hall & Oates" band, has a hauntingly dark tone whenever he sings. No matter when he's crooning a lesser-known tune "Sarah Smile", or whether he's in the fast-paced scenario of "Man-Eater", his vocals are strangely in-your-face. And in his case, it almost **is** subliminal. It might take you a long time to catch it -- but you eventually detect a mysterious rage within him. I've never seen them perform that one on stage; who knows what visuals/visualizations the group might display onstage.
The Royallettes - It's Gonna Take a Miracle
The loud and gritty consistent drum in the song's rhythm section -- a "straight-on" style without fills -- makes for a hypnotic, anxious overtone. Don't let the semi-waltz effect fool you. It's not a comfy, happy waltz. Instead, it leaves the listener gasping for air, as if you were stuck in some small, dank, dry, eerie, energy-sapping indoor cavity of space. It's utterly ironic that if you watch the original promotional video of the song by the Royallettes (you can access it via YouTube) that the singer is smiling at times. You know that something's very out-of-place there.
Wilson Pickett - "Midnight Hour"
The rhythm in this song is continuous, without fills. The rhythm lacks any resolution; it's steady and continuous in a hypnotic way. Pickett croons, with voice trills, in an energetic if not hyper-sexually angst-ridden mood. The rhythm is a major force: it's a gritty, angry sound. The lyrics make it clear that the singer's wait "for the midnight hour" is not to get a glass of milk or walk the dog or have a sip of tea: the song obviously has sexual intentions and conveys them in a manner that is not subliminal, but indeed capsizing and hypnotic.
Sam And Dave: "Soul Man", 1972 (duo has also referred to as Sam & Dave)
We tested several filtering/equalizer settings with RealTek's Sound Manager. With any setting we tried -- rock, pop, low bass, high bass, and even Noise Suppression, the rhythm beat was absolutely overpowering. Combine that with a beat of 112 beats per minute, and you've got quite an over-the-top, hypnotic, overpowering sound. The song was written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, and was produced by Isaac Hayes. There's no indication that marriage is in the picture.
In the video above, of "Soul Man", we see what is apparently one of the original promo videos. If you'll notice, not only the singers are gyrating their limbs and bodies, but also are the women shown on the left and on the right-hand sides of the picture. That's no surprise, considering the fast pace (112 beats per minute) and the gritty nature of the beat. How should we characterize such pelvic gyrations? Immature? Spiritual? Fun-loving? Excitated? Crazed?
Well, staunch defenders of all of this sort of thing are crying out, "They're gettin' loose! They're dancin' up a storm! They're free-wheelin', good-lovin', energetic, happy people there!" No problem with the pelvic gyrations, they say. No signs of immaturity; no signs of over-emotive behavior. "It's all good", they might say; "It's all good."
Remember again that caucasian people (white people) have perpetuated this sort of behavior. Darryl Hall and John Oates of "Hall & Oates". Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. And even before they were doing it, there was Elvis. (In one of his Ed Sullivan appearances, Elvis was only shown from the waist-up. But in the other, he is shown waist-down, also. And that was, shall we say, a beginning of an era that continues to be characterized with mayhem. Various musicians and performers, such as Gordon Sumner, better known as "Sting", have said in interviews that seeing Elvis crooning and dancing was what turned them onto the pop scene and got them eager to perform pop music. "Sting" has said that "Rock 'N Roll would become my religion --- and I had just received my first Sacrament." That's just like saying, "Rock 'N Roll had become my God, whom I worshiped there for the first time.")
Again: Motown , and subsequently "R&B", "hip-hop" and what is often referred to as "smooth jazz" , -- each of these genres is almost synonymous with X-rated content and overpowering sexuality. That's why they're more properly termed audio porn for the masses.
OK, so here is the point where staunch defenders of all of these elements tries to stop me and yell and scream. But know this: is it just some out-of-touch, out-of-style, derelict sop of an elite music critic saying all these things? No. It's Billy Joel himself. In other words: the same Billy Joel who gained popularity as an opening act for Elton John in the 70's, when his career took off with hits such as "You May Be Wrong But You May Be Right", "Piano Man", "Still Rock N Roll To Me", "You Had To Be A Big Shot", and "I'm Movin' Out." Listen to what the same Billy Joel -- the same Billy Joel who in concert is often known to shout to the audience, "Don't Take Any Sh** From Anyone!" -- says about the Rock N Roll / Pop era:
Billy Joel -- "They were right!"
But what does Billy Joel mean when he says that? Let's get the whole quote here.
"Music is essentially the manipulation of sound. It has the power to arouse, it has the power to frighten [and has] the power to make people profane. You know, all those things they were saying about rock n' roll in the early days -- 'ooooohh, it's gonna subvert our youth, it's gonna make 'em all wanna have s-x, it's gonna make 'em all go crazy' -- they were right!!"
- Billy Joel, from an interview. Source: Music of the Soul: Composing Life Out of Loss (2006), written by Joy S. Berger and published by the Taylor And Francis Group; video of the interview with Billy Joel has been obtained by Pastor Joe Schimmel, pastor of Blessed Hope Chapel in California.
Here are some quotes. I didn't say these things. I've obtained them from various sources.
'[Baby, Baby] Where Did Our Love Go' established a sound and a group in one giant step, with Diana Ross's bright, insinuating lead, and hypnotic repeating counterpoint from Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard.
-- Supremes, Classic Motown
Motown is also very inspired by Rhythm and blues as it is much rehearsed and creates a hypnotic texture which does not make any instrument stand out as a solo instrument.
-- Pop Music in Practice by Matthew Gleason
['I Heard It Through The Grapevine'] retains a hypnotic power unmatched by any of [Motown's] other classics. . .
Review of 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine by AllMusic dot com
Where Did Our Love Go is a song with a thumping beat and a hypnotic baby, baby in the background.
-- Diana Ross And The Supremes, by Afgen