Justin Timberlake and the disappearance of black R&B artists

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake is everywhere. Or at least he seems to be.

The actor and pop/R&B phenom recently hosted “Saturday Night Live” for the fifth time — a historic event that drew appearances from comedic heavyweights like Steve Martin, Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase — and followed that up by co-hosting “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” for a series of consecutive nights dubbed “Timberweek.”

In February, he was named the creative director of Bud Light Platinum, and a slick new commercial for the beer features the crooner performing his comeback single “Suit and Tie,” which he also performed at the Grammy Awards alongside rap mogul Jay-Z. This summer, JT and JZ will embark on a joint stadium tour that stops in 12 cities. 

And this week, Timberlake drops his much-hyped third album “The 20/20 Experience,” which follows up his 2006 multi-platinum masterpiece “FutureSex/LoveSounds.”

With the barrage of well-timed advertisements, performances and hosting duties, the superstar’s return to music after a seven-year hiatus feels like a pop culture tidal wave. And the excitement is — ahem — justified, because his genre-bending brand of R&B fills a massive void left by artists like Rihanna, Chris Brown, Ne-Yo and Usher. All of them launched their careers in R&B to one degree or another, and all of them have since switched to a dance-pop sound that inspires fist-pumping sessions and dominates club dance floors, but leaves little in the way of lasting impact.

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Concert Review: Bell Biv Devoe at Showcase Live

If time warps exist, that would explain the events at a sold-out Showcase Live last night.

JAM’N 94.5 DJ Hustle Simmons spun a series of classic disco, funk, r & b and hip-hop tracks to open the show.

Boston rap legend Edo G popped onstage for a live rendition of his old school hit “I Got To Have It.”

And Boston’s own Bell Biv DeVoe delivered a 70-minute set that transplanted the early ’90s into 2010.

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Bobby Brown doing it his ‘Way’

Call it a comeback. Or something. New Edition member-turned-solo-artist-turned-reality-TV-star Brown is back to claim his place in r&b, and he’s not taking no for an answer. It’s been almost 14 years since Brown released his last studio album, but time spent off the charts and in the tabloids apparently hasn’t bruised his ego. The lead single off his forthcoming album is an aggressive manifesto about falling out of favor and fighting back: “Whatcha gonna say when they move to the next best thing? Get-get-get get out the way!” Brown growls on the hook. Though this single suggests Brown still has some rust to shake off musically, he’s not short on confidence: “I’m everlasting, never fading, not trippin’ on what they’re saying,” Brown promises. Know why? “’Cause that (expletive) don’t apply to me!” Consider yourself warned. [Published in the Boston Herald on Feb. 3, 2011.]

Concert review: Maxwell good to last drop of sweat

[Originally published in the Boston Herald on September 3, 2009]

A lot of Maxwell fans went home disappointed on Wednesday night. Not because of anything the sexy r & b dynamo did.

A free Maxwell show at the House of Blues billed as part of the Samsung AT&T Summer Krush concert series resulted in a line stretching the length of Lansdowne Street by the afternoon. Eager fans – desperate may be closer to the truth – stood waiting in hope of gaining entrance.

Unfortunately, the entire mob couldn’t squeeze into the 2,425-capacity venue – and having a ticket didn’t guarantee access.

Those who did get inside found the three-level venue stuffed with women waiting for their personal serenade, watchful male chaperones, and other men who came on their own, possibly looking to glean some tips on how sexy is done with style.

Maxwell likely satisfied all of them.

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