Above, B. Smyth croons a new hook on Instagram
Who is B. Smyth, really?
There is something off target about B. Smyth’s current biography, as stated on Wikipedia and MTV. It makes him out to be a talented young man who went viral by performing cover songs. Any determination or pre-destiny to become a recording artist and songwriter seems like an afterthought. To make things a bit worse, there's a conspicuous lack of bio to be found from other sources. I feel this really detracts from his stature as an artist. It reduces him to a wannabe, but we know that’s not the case. At age 22, he has already been signed to two labels including Motown. He had an upbringing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Beyond the uniqueness of his singing voice, he moves beautifully in a way that feels mostly all his own. Gauging from his Facebook posts, he’s close to his family. And he considers his “greatest creation” his son. He’s a young man but he’s already had a lot happen to him, professionally and personally. By all social media indicators, he’s worked hard and made a tremendous sacrifice to be where he is today. He refers to himself as a "hip hop artist" and frequently tributes Tupac Shakur as his artistic idol. To me, that hints of someone who isn’t afraid to be vulnerable and searingly honest: a true poet, revolutionary and warrior in the world. But I don’t see that in his music or his imaging. I feel like he’s being groomed to be an Usher or a Chris Brown.
This same contraction exists in a different way on RCA’s website. There are only three singles listed to B. Smyth's name: “Gold Wrappers,” “Creep” and “Love Killa.” Obvious to RCA but perhaps not to new fans, he has a back catalogue of music that demonstrates much more artistic range than these three tracks do, combined.
My first activation for B. Smyth is to fix this clipped sense of creative output and biography by presenting fans with context. As guardians of his public image, RCA has to root him in a distinct identity and personal history. We have to establish his character and “beingness,” his substance.
When I watch “Gold Wrappers” and “Creep” and “Love Killa,” I pick up on these attributes only faintly. Mostly, I see a man who’s been made into a trope: a pretty boy with a buttery voice and an affected indifference, being asked to rely on video vixens as a crutch to extend his sex appeal. The sad part is, I’m convinced B. Smyth has his own innate power and sensuality, the way a Ginuwine or D’Angelo does; it’s evident in previous videos for The Florida Files EP. The jadedness toward women isn’t convincing on him. Gauging from this post, he actually seems like a humble, hungry, go-getting kind of man. And based on his Twitter feed, it's safe to say that nearly all his fans are women with crushes on him. He often retweets their responses to his Instagram posts, which speaks to a high level of engagement. So who’s the real B. Smyth? While it's natural and healthy that recording artists reinvent themselves over time, why are his three most recent videos fixed on a vibe set to alienate his female fanbase?
My first activation is a 3-5 minute video that lets Brandon, in his own words, establish who he is to new fans. I think the video should be shot in Fort Lauderdale where he grew up, and feature his family, extended community and any artistic crews he came up with. I think he should explain what matters to him, why he got into music, where he learned those moves. Maybe it would be a video of him driving around and stopping to get out at places or people’s homes of significance. He could disclose some things about his earlier life, influences and upbringing. And he can talk about going viral as well. Why did he cover Rihanna, Frank Ocean and Michael Jackson? What do they mean to him? We have to establish a lore about him that makes him believable, accessible and real to a millennial audience and beyond.