Opinion: How Reality TV Saved The R&B Star

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Raise your hand if you knew about K. Michelle back when she was dropping mixtapes with Mary J. Blige-inspired titles and sang about whooping her abusive man’s ass and smacking the shit out of a hater? Now, do me a favor and stop lying. There were only about 12 of us around back then and I remember every single one of their names.

As talented as K. Michelle is, if not for Mona Scott-Young and her most popular Negro telenovela, Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta, K. Michelle’s ascension as the millennial Millie Jackson likely would’ve never happened. Sure, a great voice coupled with pain-centered subject matter often is a golden ticket to success in R&B, but it’s by no means a guarantee.

Indeed, K. Michelle had trouble finding an audience and that was only further complicated by the problems she faced with her then record label, Atlantic Records, who didn’t appear to know exactly what to do with her. While K. Michelle may currently be banging on Keyshia Cole’s window with a “Girl, I’m coming for your spot!” without reality television, she may have ended up like Shareefa. (No shade, Shareefa. “I Need A Boss” and “Cry No More” remain staples on my iPod.)

Likewise, the same K. Michelle was aided by reality TV, numerous other R&B singers can currently thank the medium for their newfound relationship with relevance.

Take K. Michelle’s rival, Tamar Braxton, who spent more than a decade chasing her dreams of solo success only to find it after rolling her neck profusely to the amusement of WeTV viewers. For those of us who bought her debut album, Tamar, way back in 2000, we knew what a talent she was. Not many cared, though, and they had no inclination to, until they actually got to know her by way of a weekly television series.

Others, say, KeKe Wyatt, Lil’ Mo, or any other member past and present of TV One’s R&B Divas can say the same. Even when it comes to acts arguably past their prime, a la SWV, reality TV has allowed them to reconnect with their fan bases if not build all new ones.