Beverly Knight, Mica Paris, Jamelia, Alesha Dixon, Shola Ama, Sabrina Washington, Caron Wheeler and Miss Dynamite.
Just some of the black artists the BBC could have looked up to front its new 12-part podcast about R&B music.
Especially now, after the entire journey post-George Floyd and the supposed commitment from our public service broadcaster to cater for its entire audience.
Who did they pick instead? Cheryl Cole. A white, former X Factor judge and ex-member of Girls Aloud.
Think about the many individuals, over the last 18 months, who have summoned up the courage to lift the lid on the lack of opportunities or Black artists within the music industry. The Black British female artists in particular, denied the credit they deserve.
The anger around the BBC’s decision making is real and justified. Cole trended on social media on Tuesday night and all day Wednesday.
It has sparked anger but not surprise. Elements of our media industry have perfected the art of performative allyship. Being seen to do the right thing once the issue of race re-emerges but reverting back to their default position once the scrutiny dies down.
Full disclosure, the names of better-suited presenters for the BBC’s podcast at the top of this piece were off the top of my head. Others coming to mind include Lisa Maffia, Clara Amfo, Emeli Sande, Heather Small, Gabrielle and the legend that is Janet Kay.
The critics shouldn’t even have had to set out an argument, but they did so surgically and succinctly. It won’t make for comfortable reading but it absolutely is where the conversation has to go in order to make real progress.
Black artists have had their space invaded by white artists – who have gone on to profit – for decades. The story outlined last year by Alexandra Burke, who says she was asked to bleach her skin “to look whiter”, sums up the obstacles facing Black women within the industry.
Burke said she was told: ”Because you’re a black girl, you won’t make it that far in the industry… if you were white, you would be bigger than what you are now, you could sell more records, you’d be a Brit Award-winner.”
Little-Mix star Leigh-Anne Pinnock said last year: “My reality is constantly feeling like I have to work 10 times harder and longer to make my case in the group, because my talent alone isn’t enough.”
If Cole fronting the podcast feels to you like a storm in a teacup then you haven’t felt the frustration of a Pinnock or a Burke or a Keisha Buchanan from the Sugababes who has also spoken about similar isolation.
The BBC website gushed that 38-year-old Cole “dives into the world of R&B in this passionate love letter to the genre” during the 12-part podcast which features music from artists such as Mary J Blige, Blackstreet, TLC and more.
(Despite the backlash, they are probably delighted at the publicity for a series few people even knew existed before last week.)
“I’ve really been transported back re-listening to all these tracks,” tweeted Cole last Friday, “and I’m excited for you to relive those moments with me. Episode 1 is live now.”
But is: ‘I really like RnB music’ enough to take a gig from someone who really could embrace the themes behind the genre?
Go back one hundred years and more and you’ll find some of the precursors to Rhythm and Blues – when the great migration of Black Americans to cities like Chicago, Detroit and New York created a new market for jazz, blues, and related categories.
RnB is a complex story of a litany of strands and experiences. An African American genre which doesn’t just embrace a rich culture. It was developed during decades of legally sanctioned racial segregation and the struggle for civil rights.
It’s success at even establishing itself as a music category when black people were being marginalised tells it’s own story. Could Cole, who has barely made anything that could even be termed R&B, speak to that?
To be fair to her, it isn’t her fault if the BBC is throwing the work at her.
Nor is it about offensively insisting you shouldn’t ever front any black documentary if you are white. The uproar comes from handing yet another job connected to black culture to someone who isn’t black.
If the BBC were that desperate to have Cole, they could have paired her with a Jaki Graham, a Corinne Bailey Rae, Mel B, Kellie Bryan or a Sade – and have both speak to the way that R&B influenced a variety of other genres including rock and roll and pop.
Initially they called the genre ‘race music’. Then Jazz and Blues.
But Black songwriters Otis Blackwell, Luther Dixon and Lorraine Ellison from the eras of Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Janis Joplin enjoyed little of the riches, the radio airtime or the lasting impact of those individuals and others who would use their songs.
History continues to repeat itself in the 21st century. In hiring Cole, the BBC is maintaining the myth that for a mainstream music production to be successful it often has to be presented by a white artist.
The backlash on this occasion, however, is ferocious, instructive and isn’t going anywhere any time soon.