The Blues and R&B

The Blues songs recorded by singers Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith revolutionized the idea of openly discussing love and sexuality within music. Instead of singing about the stereotypical heterosexual relationships and marriages, they explored other concepts such as infidelity, alcohol, homosexuality, and sex, to just name a few.

In “Prove It On Me Blues” by Ma Rainey, she very openly sings about going after women and not caring if anybody knows about her preferences. “Went out last night with a crowd of my friends, They must’ve been women, ’cause I don’t like no men.” Although Ma Rainey was living in an era where there was homophobia within the black community, this did not prevent her from challenging the norms of a woman’s sexuality. This song became a stepping stone for future musicians and singers to be able to establish their sexuality within the music without feeling shameful.

In Bessie Smith’s, “Kitchen Man”, she openly discusses sex through many sexual references and innuendos. This song is significant to the idea of women claiming their sexuality and not being afraid to actually show their interest in sex. Bessie Smith very obviously talks about sex in a dominant way, which is something people weren’t used to hearing. In many songs of the time and even today, men are the ones that talk about sex very openly and explicit since they are considered the “sexual beings”. These songs by Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith proved the idea that women are able to take part in sexual activities without feeling so submissive.

With these two songs in mind I was reminded of the song “First Position” by Kehlani. Kehlani is an R&B singer and songwriter who is making her way through mainstream music. In her song, “First Position”, she openly talks about wanting to have sex with another girl. Similar to Ma Rainey’s, “Prove It On Me Blues”, she shamelessly sings about her bisexuality. In this song, Kehlani exudes her sexuality and proves that it is okay for a woman to explicitly talk about enjoying sex. The music to “First Position” sounds very sensual with its mix of R&B and hip hop type beats. At first, many listeners assume this song would be about a guy since it is still rare for a woman to sing a sexual song about another woman, But, as you begin to listen to the lyrics, you will obviously recognize that this is not just another song about heterosexuality.

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