Black Music

Juice Soul’s “Made Her A Woman”: A Relationship Counternarrative for the Fellas

While male artists, especially those in R&B and Hip-Hop, often receive charges of employing sexist, patriarchal, misogynistic and divisive imagery and language, Juice Soul, Jason Williams of Augusta, Georgia, offers a mature, balanced and compelling counternarrative to those charges. Too many songs across musical genres present an oversimplified ultimate reason why numerous intimate heterosexual relationships fail: it’s the man’s fault. Yes, admittedly, men, more often than not, create the core challenges and problems that plague relationships and inevitably lead to their undoing. In many cases, however, women contribute significantly to these relationship challenges and problems. “Made Her A Woman,” one of the hit tracks from Juice Soul’s 2005 100% Concentration album, boldly, yet respectfully, ventures into this frequently slanted, deficient in nuance discourse.

Juice Soul’s dexterous melding of urban contemporary R&B and neo-soul lends itself useful to illuminating his characteristic deftness in relating an enchanting story through song. The powerful art of storytelling represented in “Made Her A Woman”—and most of his works—facilitates heartfelt emotions expressed. Although the title, “Made Her A Woman,” might give the impression of a standard patriarchal song, the artist deploys an ironic title, to surprise, challenge, unsettle. Early in the song, Mr. Williams disabuses the listener of any thoughts about this work being laced with misogynist or patriarchal words or themes.

Juice Soul Jason Williams

(Photo Courtesy of Juice Soul)

The artist longs for his former love to appreciate the substantial contributions he made in her life that helped her to evolve into a mature and productive woman. Her unwillingness to give him the gratitude he deserves results in a vexing loneliness; a loneliness that engenders a primarily dejected mood. Pain, however, seems to motivate the artist to rise above the limitations of his extant inauspicious circumstances, communicating a slight sense of optimism about his future love life.

Williams’ oeuvre appears intimately grounded in realism. The type of raw emotion and zeal he delivers suggests mostly biographical content rather than purely fictional content, which could explain why his songs connect so strongly with fans.

“Made Her A Woman” taps into the universal human condition by engaging common feelings experienced: loss, loneliness, heartbreak and disenchantment. As an adroit and shrewd lyricist, Juice Soul always releases a sincere, candid piece. This track conveys an important message: heterosexual men’s relationship narratives possess great value, and when artists proffer those narratives without fear, we behold poignant, beautiful art—the type of art represented by his Summer 2016 song featuring rapper L.T. Terror, one of the best songs produced this decade, “Tasteless.”

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Posing as a Great Singer: Examining Trey Songz’s Intriguing Success

After engaging in a close examination of Trey Songz’s discography, there has to be significant factors that have contributed to his success—other than being able to sing—because he cannot sing. Now, Trey Songz seems to be a nice young man, although I have never met him in person. He has never, from my knowledge, been arrogant and has not had any beef with other artists. Mr. Songz has encountered trouble with the legal system since he has been an artist. He just seems to be a really good guy. Unfortunately, all of those things have nothing to do with singing. Trey Songz was named the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Best Male R&B Artist at the 2010 BET Awards. Really? Trey Songz? Are we really ready to say that this man is one of the best male R&B singers? Is he really a good enough singer to be granted such a prestigious award? This article seeks to offer possible explanations about why Trey Songz has been a successful artist.

While many may assert that I’m attempting to mar the reputation of Trey Songz as a singer, this piece is purely an attempt to try to understand the factors that contribute to the success of Trey Songz.

Many women I’ve asked posit that Mr. Songz is a very attractive man with a very nice body. With many women driving his sells, one has to dedicate at least some serious thought to the idea that Songz’s success results largely from his looks. Every opportunity Songz gets he takes off his shirt or simply shows up shirtless. We are all now familiar with the reality that sex and sexy sells. Trey Songz and his marketing team comprehends this well. They recognize that his sex appeal, good looks, and nice body resonate well with the ladies. It would be imprudent not to think about how vital his physical appearance is to the way in which his singing is primarily received. One’s physical appearance is crucial to one’s popular reception in today’s music industry.

Moreover, Trey Songz has done a fascinating job of becoming an award-winning singer without proving his ability to sing. When you listen to any song by Trey Songz, you never have an opportunity to really hear him sing. On many of his songs, his voice is drowned out by the musical accompaniments and sound effects. To be frank, he basically talks instead of sings on all of his songs. He and his handlers have orchestrated a great strategy to always ensure that he has the right songs, the right musical accompaniments, and the right sound effects that prevent his inability to sing from being exposed. He gets exposed, however, when he has to sing live.

Listen to Trey Songz’s “Bottoms Up” and witness how the music operates as a masking agent to camouflage his inability to sing. “Neighbors Know My Name” is a classic example of how he principally just talks instead of sings.

The aforementioned factors that contribute to Trey Songz’s success are important for us to remember when we start endowing accolades like “Best Male R&B Artist.” The previously mentioned factors that have contributed to his success collectively divulge that his success has nothing to do with his singing. We denigrate the venerated prestige of an award like “Best Male R&B Artist” when we give it to someone like Trey Songz. There’s a conspicuous difference between talking and singing. Now, do you really think Mr. Songz measures up vocally to the likes of R. Kelly, Brian McKnight, Eric Benét, Jamie Foxx, Chris Brown, and Usher? As far as Trey Songz’s vocals go, I contend that he’s not even qualified enough to hold their jockstraps.

Critically listen to Trey Songz’s singing and don’t just look at the pretty face and nice body. If you love his pretty face and nice body, then say that but don’t anoint him to be “Best Male R&B Artist.”

I’m afraid that we are giving many contemporary artists who are posing as singers a pass on their vocals just because we love how they look. Trey Songz should thank God every day for blessing him with the good looks he has because he would not have experienced the success he has without his good looks. I guess Trey Songz offers us a new model for being a successful artist in today’s music industry: Have the right hue of Black skin, a nice body, and good looks and you can become a successful singer without being able to sing.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison