Why It’s Okay for Non-Black Artists to Be Successful in Soul Music





There is this myth spreading across the internet that this day and age— when white artists do soul music it goes on and does better than black soul artists. Hate to be a barrier, because that’s simply not true or factual. Specifically, there’s been some outrage that Adele’s single/album has done so well. The fact that majority of people (people with good hearing) categorize her music as soul, doesn’t sit well with some either. Before we go any further and deeper into this discussion; let’s revisit that 2006-2008 era when two non black artists (Adele and the late Amy Winehouse) became successful in soul music. These R&B/Soul charts were considered soul music at that time.


2006 Billboard R&B/Hip Hop Single Charts

Mary J. Blige – Be Without You

T.I. – What You Know

Yung Joc – It’s Going Down

Lil’ Jon, E-40, & Sean Paul – Snap Yo Fingers

Cassie – Me & U

Beyoncé feat. Jay – Z – Deja Vu

Chingy feat. Tyrese – Pullin’ Me Back

Janet & Nelly – Call On Me

Chris Brown – Say Goodbye

Beyoncé – Irreplaceable

2006 – The late Amy Winehouse made her debut with Back to Black. Emily King also made her debut with East Side Story. Gnarles Barkley released St. Elsewhere. Mary J. Blige releases Growing Pains. Robin Thicke released the Evolution of Robin Thicke. Prince released 3121. The only soul albums that came out that year.


2007 Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Single Charts

Ciara – Promise

Lloyd feat. Lil’ Wayne – You

Robin Thicke – Lost Without You

T-Pain feat. Young Joc – Buy U A Drank (Shawty Steppin’)

Fantasia – When I See You

Keyshia Cole – Let It Go

J. Holiday – Bed

Alicia Keys – No One

2007 – Tamia released Between Friends, Ledisi released Lost & Found, and Rahsaan Patterson released Wines & Spirits. The only soul albums that came out that year.

2008 Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums

Danity Kane – Welcome to the Dollhouse

Day 26 – Day 26

Mary J. Blige – Growing Pains

Janet Jackson – Discipline

Mariah Carey – E = MC²

Jazmine Sullivan – Fearless

Lyfe Jennings – Lyfe Change

Keith Sweat – Just Me

Bun B – II Trill

Usher – Here I Stand

Lloyd – Lessons In Love

Raheem DeVaughn – Love Behind the Melody

Ne-Yo / The Year of the Gentleman

John Legend – Evolver

Musiq Soulchild – onmyradio

2008 – Jazmine Sullivan debuted Fearless. Algebra Blessett released Purpose, Joss Stone released Introduction Joss Stone. The only soul albums that came out that year.


The point of showing the years between 2006-2008, because this was considered the re-emergence of soul music from the late Amy Winehouse, Jazmine Sullivan, and Adele. Because at the time, those popular songs/albums listed on the charts was considered “soul” music. There are people who will read this, and not get the connection. There’s a reason why Back to Black, and 19 did so well. Just look at the climate of what was considered soul music at that time. You can’t even put a top 10 list together of R&B/Soul albums in the years of 2003-2008, because that’s how scarce the industry was of good singers. Yes. There were black soul artists who released music in those years, but guess what? None of you supported it, because those were the years of the fad music. You were snappin’ your fingers, and doing your step with T-Pain, and ignoring artists like Rahsaan Patterson in the process. Those significant years, people were buying into singles, not albums. So, the soul black artists who released music at the time were (and continue to be) overlooked by their peers. It’s no coincidence why the artists stated above did well during that time. Because, just look at what their competition was.

There has never been a non-black artist who has done specifically soul music through 2000-2010, besides Adele and Amy Winehouse that have globally done well. That is exactly two whole people who have done soul music in the past decade, that were majorly successful. Let’s just get this out of the way; Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke etc. are not the ambassadors of “blue eyed soul”. First off, y’all have to stop using these manufactured, fictional, genre terms. Because you’re basically saying, “white artists that sound like and make black music”. Secondly, just like the term “Neo Soul” you are pigeon holing these artists. Who don’t even classify their music in that way, and making it hard for them to grow as artists. Thirdly, it’s just plain ridiculous. You can completely get rid of this theory of non black artists selling more than black artists by simply trying to name the two albums Robin Thicke released (without Google) after “Blurred Lines”.

Because he does “black music”, and it sells right?

Majority of people do not support soul music entirely, it’s evident in numbers. If you really examine the lack of mainstream support of black soul artists; there’s no reason why networks like BET/Centric/TVOne get millions and millions of viewers, and high rated award shows televised. Invite artists like Lalah Hathaway, Ledisi, Avery Sunshine, and Anthony Hamilton etc. to perform, and they do not have major mainstream success. An example of when award shows assist in album sales; when Lady Antebellum first hit the scene in 2008. Majority of people didn’t have a clue who they were when they won “Best Duo/Group”. That same year they sold more albums just from being televised at the awards show. The Grammy’s promote popular artists like Katy Perry, Miranda Lambert, and Rihanna. They might have some soul singers perform with the veteran artists during the show, and the BET Awards does the same exact thing. They promote artists like Trey Songz, Fetty Wap etc.; who have hit songs on the radio. That will bring in their fans that will increase the viewing/ratings to draw in advertising/sponsors. Then, later on in the show have artists like Faith Evans do a tribute performance for 30 seconds. Thinking, somehow that’s some form of promotion and people are going to know they have a new album out. How do you expect fans to buy soul music, if you only promote the popular artists at the time? Why do you only allow them to be the main performers instead of soul artists sharing the main stage and getting the same treatment? Black soul artists deserve equal and due respect at these shows to have a chance to promote their albums too.

This whole argument is backwards, and very one dimensional type of thinking. Ever since these viral videos of blatant institutionalized racism, police brutality have become the main topic of discussion. Which are real concerns that need to be addressed majorly. Some people are just trying to find racism in everything. Even competing to see who’s most “woke” in every popular news story. You can simply end this argument by just looking at today’s Billboard charts. Just like the previous charts above, and see the black artists who are mainly supported. It’s plenty of people that think Tory LanezBryson Tiller, August Alsina, etc. are the only people that have “soul” or the only thing that comes close to R&B music out, but have no idea that Teedra Moses dropped an album last year. It’s backwards. When actual soul artists release soul music, you don’t support it. Don’t get mad at Adele for doing millions in a matter of weeks, when soul black artists like Syleena Johnson release an album—and you are not supporting it. Artists like Michael Bolton, Simply RedMichael McDonaldPhil Collins, Vince Gill, and Tom Jones etc. were not successful because “they sounded black”. It’s because their influences shined through in their music in an authentic way, and it was true to the craft. It is okay for these artists to be successful in soul music.


 Soul music is not a genre, it doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, Asian, etc. Soul music is just that, soul music. Just like Anthony Hamilton is successful because he came along in 2003, and reminded people of their favorite era. (Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Bobby WomackAlbert King, Al Green, etc.) It is the very same reason why Adele’s 21 was highly successful. Because people love nostalgia, and it reminds them of one of their favorite golden eras in soul music. That album set her apart from the artists in popular music, and proved that soul music is still sell-able in mainstream music. It has nothing to do with a plight to keep black soul artists from being successful. The reason why Adele will always sell albums, is the same reason why Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Rihanna will also have high selling albums. Why? Because they have fans that will support and purchase their music. Because that’s what you do when you’re a fan of artists’ music, you actually buy it. Whether or not, you think it’s their best album or even if you think it’s a completely bad album/single. They have fans who are loyal and will purchase it regardless. To anyone who gets mad at artists like Adele who are successful in soul music. Really think about the soul black artists you don’t support on a mainstream level. If Ledisi had a great number of people buying her music, she can easily sell an equal amount as much as Adele; whether or not they are on a major or independent label.


This is not a post advocating for best selling albums or comparing hit singles/albums. It also is not wise for artists to just make music to try to make the top 100 Billboard list, or try to win a Grammy etc. Because that’s not what sticks with people, or make them love your music. Be consistent with your support of black soul artists. Mainstream cannot show, or promote what you are not supporting. The soul artists who make music true to the craft; will always have a core fan base. Because there are music lovers out there who support quality no matter the amount of mainstream love it gets.


Tom Jones and D’Angelo performing James Brown “Sex Machine” together in 2000.