What’s Happened To R&B Music? The Real Men of R&B We Love
Let’s face it, gone are the days when R&B music would top the Billboard 100 without sounding like a mix of techno or house music. Sure, you have artists like Usher and Chris Brown throwing out a few dance-worthy tracks here and there, but that’s nothing compared to the overload of pop music on the radio everyday (some of it Brown and Usher contribute to). Don’t take this the wrong way, the whole dance-meets-pop music thing can be fun sometimes, but don’t you ever miss hearing that those classic R&B vocals and tracks from back in the day? The “Come and Talk to Me,” “Candy Rain,” “Groove Me” type of joints we used to act a fool to? And while these crooners did talk about sex from time to time, that’s not ALL they talked about every time you listened to them (C’mon Trey, it’s getting old). Sadly, it appears that none of today’s most popular artists are capable of providing the type of classic music we reminisce over, and would rather spend their time dancing in skinny jeans talking about how they’ll “beat it up.” *Sighs* Let’s have a look at some of our favorite male R&B artists that no one has been able to match in recent times. This is who we like to call the real men of R&B Music.
Despite his legal woes, many still refer to R. Kelly as the “King of R&B.” In May 2011, Billboard named R. Kelly the most successful R&B artist of the last 25 years. They were definitely right, as Kelly has sold over 54 million albums worldwide. For an R&B artist, that is a lot. In addition to this, he has written and produced for many top artists such as Michael Jackson and Luther Vandross. At this point, no pure R&B artist has since matched the success that R. Kelly had in the 1990s. In June 2012, R Kelly released his new album Write Me Back and is currently working on a third installment of Trapped In The Closet.
K-Ci & JoJo
Not only did K-Ci & JoJo have an incredibly successful career as a duo, the two also were a part of one the most memorable pure R&B groups of the 1990s–Jodeci, also known as the “Bad Boys of R&B.” After Jodeci disbanded in 1998, K-Ci & JoJo went on to make their own string of hits, and released the number one hit, “All My Life” ultimately surpassing the success of their former group. It would be refreshing to see one of today’s artists sing a similar song that just makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over. The two have been touring for the last two years and are currently signed to Babyface’s Soda Pop Records.
More known for his songwriting and producing abilities than his singing (although “When Can I See You Again” and “Whip Appeal” are that deal), Babyface was a key player in the success of many artists over the years. He started the careers of TLC, Usher, and Toni Braxton. He has written music for many other successful music artists, including Whitney Houston and Mary J Blige just to name a few (and his magic is all over the entire Waiting to Exhale soundtrack). He has written and produced over 26 #1 R&B hits in his career and won multiple Grammys as a producer. He is currently working on his 10th album.
We’ll never forget when Ginuwine rode his pony into the hearts of young women all over America. Ginuwine was one of the top R&B artists in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He was a multi-platinum-selling artist and his single “Differences” was on top of Billboard’s Hot R&B charts. He was one of the few R&B artists of that time to be both a strong vocalist and dancer, and though he doesn’t do as much moving and grooving anymore, Elgin Baylor Lumpkin (you read that right) is currently creating music under his own record label, Bag Entertainment.
Boyz II Men
When was the last time you heard a singing group that could harmonize like Boyz II Men? Probably not in the last 10 years…the quartet was known for incredibly strong vocal harmonies and lyrics so romantically powerful that they could woo almost any female. This past January the group was awarded a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. Boyz II Men still continue to record music (without Michael McCary–the dope bass singer) and their most recent album Twenty was released in October 2011.
After his recent performance at the 2012 BET Awards, it’s quite obvious that the fans still love them some D. After being one of the pioneers of “neo-soul” in the 1990s, D’Angelo can not only sing and produce, but he can also play multiple instruments, a quality that not many mainstream music artists have. With delays on his upcoming album entitled, James River, D’Angelo has instead decided to tour both the U.S. (he’s even going on tour with Mary J. Blige) and Europe this summer performing his classic hits.
Who can forget Tevin Campbell? The once adorable 13-year-old boy who had the vocal range beyond his years was discovered by Quincy Jones and had everyone floored with his strong vocals and beautiful tracks (“Can We Talk” is a classic!). Not only did Campbell have great vocal range, but he also had the positive image to match. Nowadays, most R&B artists are known for their sexually suggestive lyrics and enormous amounts of collaborations with sketchy rap artists. His most recent performances include The Monique Show in 2010 as well as the BET Awards’ tribute to the O’Jays (2009), on the TVOne show “Life After,” and he’s currently recording new music for his comeback.
If you don’t lose your mind the minute someone plays “Groove Me” or “I Like,” “Let’s Chill” or even “Goodbye Love,” then it’s safe to say that you don’t know real music. Guy, with a roster of the incomparable singer/songwriter/producer Teddy Riley, Aaron Hall and Timmy Gatlin, were the New Jack Swing kings with their lovable groove-worthy jams and dope production (Why “Teddy’s Jam” is so hot when it’s only an instrumental proves their greatness). Hall’s brother Damion was brought into the mix and the group went on to create a slew of hits that performed well on the R&B charts. Though they broke up, the group got back together in the late 90s only to break up again. Guy still tours with Aaron Hall and Damion Hall at the helm, but Teddy Riley is out doing his own thing.
A list like this wouldn’t be complete without Grammy award winning singer and songwriter, Maxwell. The sultry soul singer was also one of the pioneers of the neo-soul movement and is most known for his award-winning hits, “Fortunate,” “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” and “Somethin’ Somethin’.” He also received six Grammy Nominations in 2010 for his album BLACKsummer’snight. Maxwell was set to begin touring again, but had to back out due to a vocal swelling and hemorrhaging.
“Never make a Promise”? “In My Bed”? “Beauty”? Do any of these songs ring a bell? If not, then you definitely missed out on one of the most talented R&B groups in recent times. With the vocal ability of lead singer Sisqo, and the group’s writing talents, Dru Hill took the industry by storm in 1996 and continued to make an impact until 1999. Despite some member changes, the group has reunited a few times and still continues to tour the world.
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