|Stylistic origins||Contemporary R&B, future garage, EDM, dream pop, art pop, UK bass, hip hop, rock|
|Cultural origins||Late 2000s|
|Typical instruments||Synthesizers, drum machines, bass, drums, guitar, vocals (singing, rapping)|
PBR&B, also referred to as R-Neg-B, hipster R&B, indie R&B and alternative R&B, is a term used by music journalists to describe an emerging, stylistic alternative to contemporary R&B.
PBR&B is a portmanteau of PBR (the abbreviation for Pabst Blue Ribbon, a beer most recently associated with the hipster subculture) and R&B. However, despite being the most widely used names for the genre, these terms are often criticized for "pigeonholing" artists into hipster subculture and are derisive. Slate suggests the name "R-Neg-B". Others suggest that it falls into a broad category of "alternative R&B" or "indie R&B".
The first use of the term "PBR&B" was on Twitter by Sound of the City writer Eric Harvey in March 2011. Three years later, amazed and distressed at how far the term—meant as a joke—had traveled, Harvey wrote an extensive essay about it for Pitchfork.
Recording artists associated with the term include The Weeknd, FKA twigs, Tinashe, Theophilus London, How to Dress Well, Miguel, PartyNextDoor, Jhené Aiko, Janelle Monáe, Kelela and Frank Ocean. Barry Walters of Spin characterizes their unconventional style as an "exchange between EDM, rock, hip hop and R&B's commercial avant-garde", and cites Ocean's Nostalgia, Ultra and Channel Orange, Miguel's Kaleidoscope Dream, How to Dress Well's Love Remains, Drake's Take Care and Usher's Looking 4 Myself as works associated with PBR&B. Brandon Neasman of The Grio observes a "changing of the guard in R&B, from the smooth, cool heartthrobs to these vulnerable, off-kilter personalities" amid the prevalence of social media in society. Neasman finds the subject matter of "these new-wave artists" to be more "relatable" and writes of its characteristics:
[A] lot of the production is echo-laden and lofty, often using a lot of synthesizers and filtered drums—sonically giving a nod to Prince's vintage '80s sound. Additionally, for the most part, it doesn't feel as if these artists are selling sex as their main entrée. Granted, they still sing about the topic, and in explicit detail, but it's in equal proportion to drugs, spirituality and personal philosophies. You don’t get that same diversity in subject matter from the majority of modern R&B singers.
Hermione Hoby of The Guardian writes that "the music is quietly radical" and observes "an ongoing, mutually enriching dialogue between indie and electronic musicians and R&B artists." Gerrick D. Kennedy of the Los Angeles Times feels that "the new movement feels like the most significant stylistic change in R&B since neo soul rolled around in the 1990s."
Frank Ocean states that he does not like being called an "R&B" musician and he does not like being confined to one genre. How to Dress Well was not offended by the term "PBR&B", but found it "tacky". Miguel has said that he is "comfortable" with the term "indie R&B" because it "insinuates a higher art. Or a deeper or somehow more artistic delivery of rhythm and blues music. It suggests there's more artistry within a genre that has become more of a cliche of itself."
Eric Harvey, the writer who coined the term, wrote a thorough response to its proliferation, at Pitchfork.
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- Gibsone, Harriet (12 December 2013). "The best albums of 2013: No 7 – Cut 4 Me by Kelela". Music Blog. The Guardian. Retrieved 28 June 2014.
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- Jonze, Tim (February 8, 2013). "Miguel: the slow-burn success of a new R&B superstar". The Guardian (London). The Guide section, p. 10. Archived from the original on February 9, 2013. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
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- Fennessey, Sean (March 23, 2011). "Love vs. Money: The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, and R&B's Future Shock". The Village Voice Blogs. Village Voice Media.