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Review of the year - The State of Clubland...

Published by Warren Dell under on Wednesday, December 20, 2006
There was some hot debate in the clubhoppin section of Blues and Soul magazine recently where Mark Devlin brought up the subject of the state of club land and the increasing rise of pubs and clubs playing the same 20 tracks. It’s sad to read about it but the problem has been bubbling away for a while now.

Ultimately the real fans and DJ’s are losing out, as they have to contend with promoters and managers giving jobs to people who will happily play their Now That’s What I Call R’n’B CD and undercut the true DJ’s willing to play quality music. These scene follower DJ’s most likely were playing house music until black music became the choice of many of today’s youth. Anyone looking to get into the scene or are taking an outside look at it will think the black music world starts at 50 Cent and ends at the Pussycat Dolls.

The problem is more displayed in the regions outside the big cities where it’s harder for a dedicated R’n’B night to survive, although that doesn’t mean to say there aren’t any – but any flyer I see these days advertising R’n’B I immediately expect the depth to stretch as far as Destiny Child, with the Sugababes and Shakira thrown in. No lie. This attitude easily sways the casual punter who will not look outside of the same twenty artists.

The amount of times I’ve had to add a disclaimer to people when telling them I like R’n’B and Hip-Hop that my knowledge doesn’t stick at the commercial gloss you all know is untrue. The truth is that DJ’s need packed dance floors and clubbers want to hear what they know, which forces the DJ into admitting defeat and having to play those same tracks on the radio.

On a recent visit to an R’n’B club in Southampton straight after a recent Busta Rhymes hit the DJ played Wifey by Next, a guaranteed floor-filler yet the people next to me at the bar were heard saying that it was shit and wanted some Game played. This was a venue that is supposedly a haven for R’n’B, or it was when they launched it - in the last year they have played host to EZ, Trevor Nelson and Tim Westwood (ok scrub that last one). It seems the music knowledge only stretches the last three years since G-Unit music was everywhere but it just sums up that people aren’t willing to open to something they haven’t heard. If this is the sort of reaction to ‘Wifey’ then what hope is there for tunes like Omarion ‘Entourage’ to break through.

I like to think my music knowledge is up there with most and it was only a few years ago I would have had a choice of R’n’B clubs to go to - and it was a tough choice as all of them would play a great selection of records and even some cuts you were yet to hear. These would often make your night and be tomorrow’s hits. Time was you could hear a track go from start of the night warm-up to a peak time hit in the space of a few weeks, now if the tracks on the radio or MTV then just chuck it on and you know people will like. What chance does this give to the future ‘Wifey’ or ‘Peaches & Cream’?

One night in Southampton promotes itself as the best and longest running R’n’B night in the area yet on stepping through recently I heard nothing new or anything pre 2003 in the space of an hour as the club was going from busy to peak. Is this the clubbers reluctance to anything new, DJ’s not wanting to work for their money or pressure from promoters worried about people through the door and how many WKD’s are sold? On reading the comments from other DJ’s in Blues and Soul and from my own experience out clubbing it seems a combination of the three.

This year house music has come to the attentions of people again and there has been a shift in tendencies from a lot of people getting into the funky/soulful side of it, I myself have been popping to a few nights to broaden the mind - and because I’m actually tired of an R’n’B night. I’ll hear better R’n’B in my car than in a club at the minute which is something I thought I’d never say five/six years ago when all I wanted was for the dance prominent DJ to just throw a few cheeky R’n’B numbers in.

I’ve always felt like I have that music snobbery in me at times as I think a lot of passionate music fans have, but when you see the WKD/lager louts saying they love that new G-Unit or another recycled 2pac vocal it makes you laugh that you both love Hip-Hop – but are worlds apart. It’s going to take a lot to change the current trend, but I hope for the real music lovers sake that it does and ask that they keep supporting their local ‘quality’ music night before it turns into a happy hour drinks promo led R’n’B night.

On another note I saw DJ Greenpeace DJ last week at Orange Rooms, a local style bar hot on its retro vibe and host to plenty of quality music nights (Yungun, Numark and People Under The Stairs recently). Sadly after an excellent warm-up set of classic Hip-Hop and new UK stuff Greenpeace played mostly commercial hits like Justin Timberlake, Pussycat Dolls and that bloody Hips Don’t Lie Song. Yes it kept the girls on the floor but please know your clientele, you were booked for a place known for decent music and don’t need those Radio 1 hits to keep them there.


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