It Was Great While It Lasted: 6 Memorable R&B Musical Divorces
As an artist, finding a producer who can bring out the best in your voice and arrange hit records is hard. And for those lucky few who do, staying together can be even harder. For the artists on this list, we loved the music they made with their producers, but just like divorces in real life—some we hated to see separate, while others were clearly for the best.
Brandy and Rodney Jerkins
Although Rodney Jerkins didn’t begin working with Brandy until her second album “Never Say Never,” the musical match helped boost her into super-stardom. Together they made a unique sound and we all loved it. With hits like “The Boy is Mine,” “What About Us?” and “Almost Doesn’t Count,” the duo was on a roll. So, we were all surprised when the two went their separate ways after the success of the “Full Moon” album.
On Brandy’s fourth studio album, “Aphrodisiac,” Jerkins did not produce one song; instead she turned to producer Timberland to create the majority of the CD. The album had little success, and she returned to Jerkins and the Darkchild crew to produce her fifth studio album “Human,” but it was too late, the musical magic was long gone between the two. The reason they parted ways in the first place is still a bit unclear, but tension remains high between the two judging by the brief run of Brandy’s family reality show when they had dinner together.
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Janet Jackson and Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis
A match made in musical heaven is what we can call this pairing. When Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis came onboard to produce Janet’s 1986 album “Control,” one thing was clear— Ms. Jackson was grown and had found her sound. The hits these three created over more than 20 years are endless from “Pleasure Principle” to “Someone to Call My Lover.” For the most part, the three were the only producers and writers on most of her CD’s until 2004’s “Damita Jo” and 2006’s “20 Y.O.” albums, when Jam and Lewis begin sharing producer credits with Kanye West, Jermaine Dupri and others. Both albums failed to crack the million selling mark. With the release of Janet’s last studio album “Discipline,” Jam and Lewis did not produce one song on the CD; instead she turned to then boyfriend and producer, Jermaine Dupri and Rodney Jerkins. It has become one her least selling albums to date.
Toni Braxton and Babyface, L.A. Reid
When Babyface and L.A. Reid discovered Toni Braxton in a girl group consisting of her and her sisters, they had found the first lady of a newly formed LaFace Records. Their hit list includes “Another Sad Love Song,” “Seven Whole Days,” and “You’re Makin’ Me High.”
It’s no secret that many artists signed to LaFace had money woes when they later realized they weren’t making much, but selling millions of records worldwide. A “slave contact” is what it was called in the singer’s VH1 “Behind the Music” special by her manager. After declaring bankruptcy, Toni took LaFace to court, and a judge awarded her her fair share of the record deal. After the issue was settled in court, the three went back into the studio to produce Toni’s “The Heat” album, but the bitterness and money issues proved to be too much for this trio to work pass, and Toni left LaFace records.
Mary J. Blige and P. Diddy
When a young Mary J. Blige signed with Uptown Records, she was quickly paired with an up and coming producer known at the time as Puffy. And, the album “What’s The 411?” was born and quickly shot to the top of the R&B charts due to the hit single “Real Love.” Little did we know the two would go on the create one of the most beloved R&B albums of the ‘90s, “My Life,” which eventually claim platinum status. Shortly after the release of the CD, P.Diddy was fired from Uptown and decided to start Bad Boy Records— tension and jealously formed between the duo, as Diddy put the majority of his energy into his newly formed label and artists. The two parted ways and animosity remained between them for nearly a decade. They reconciled years later and came together to create the “Love & Life” album, but after years apart, the magic was gone.
The Delfonics and Thom Bell
Songwriter and arranger, Thom Bell made magic when he produced hits and albums, such as “La-La (Means I Love You)” and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” on a small budget for an upcoming group called The Delfonics. They quickly became a huge success in the 1960s; however, it didn’t last long as Thom Bell resigned from producing for the group and went on to produce music for rivals such as The Stylistics and The Spinners. Former member Randy Crain left The Delfonics, and had a hand in forming the group Blue Magic. With the lost, The Delfonics eventually split into two different groups, who toured separately, as their success began to decline in the late 70s.
Alexander O’Neal and Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis
Originally set to be the lead singer of The Time, O’Neal left the band after disputes with Prince. So, when Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis left The Time to begin producing on their own, it was only right the trio would work together on his self-titled debut album. During that time, the single “Saturday Love” with label mate Cherrelle (also produced by Jam and Lewis) reached number 2 on the charts, and his second album “Hearsay,” did even better than the first, reaching platinum status in the UK, and giving him his first gold album in the U.S. But the rise to fame quickly took its toll on O’Neal as he turned to drugs and alcohol. Jam and Lewis told the singer they would no longer be able to continue to work with him if he did not enter rehab and seek help, the producers later said on his TV One special “Unsung,” but O’Neal was never able to stay off drugs. The trio never worked together again after O’Neal’s “All True Man” album, and his music hasn’t been the same since.