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What is R&B from the 90s?

R&B, or rhythm and blues, has been a popular genre of music for decades. It has gone through several evolutions over the years, each one bringing something new to the genre. One of the most popular and memorable eras of R&B is undoubtedly the 90s, where artists like Boyz II Men, TLC, Mariah Carey, and many others dominated the charts. In this blog post, we’ll dive into what made R&B from the 90s so special and why it’s still relevant today.

The Birth of New Jack Swing

At the beginning of the 90s, R&B was heavily infused in the sub-genre of new jack swing. This was an amalgamation of 80s R&B and hip-hop production techniques, which resulted in a sound that was both smooth and funky. Examples of new jack swing songs from this time are Michael Jackson’s ‘Remember the Time’ and Whitney Houston’s ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight’. The genre was characterized by the use of drum machines, synths, and heavy basslines. The productions often featured samples from classic soul and funk records, which added an extra layer of nostalgia to the music.

New jack swing wasn’t just a sound; it was a cultural moment. The style was intertwined with fashion, dancing, and overall attitudes. Artists who embodied new jack swing were flashy, fun-loving, and unapologetically bold. Remember the music video for Bobby Brown’s ‘My Prerogative’? Or MC Hammer’s iconic pants? These were all staples of the new jack swing era.

The Rise of the Divas

Another defining characteristic of 90s R&B was the emergence of powerful female vocalists. Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and Celine Dion are just a few examples of artists who dominated the charts and airwaves in the 90s. These women were known for their impressive vocal ranges, emotional performances, and catchy pop hooks. They were, in a way, the successors of the Motown girl groups of the 60s, but with a modern twist.

One of the most significant contributions of the 90s R&B divas was the incorporation of elements from other genres. For instance, Mariah Carey’s ‘Fantasy’ featured a prominent sample from Tom Tom Club’s ‘Genius of Love,’ which added a playful, funky vibe to the track. Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ was a cover of a country song originally written by Dolly Parton. This infusion of different musical styles helped to expand the reach of R&B beyond its traditional boundaries.

Boy Bands and Love Songs

The 90s were also the era of the boy band. New Edition, Boyz II Men, and Jodeci were just a few examples of vocal harmony groups that rose to fame during this time. These guys were known for their smooth, heartfelt ballads that spoke to the romantic aspirations of millions of teenagers.

Both boy bands and love songs were staples of 90s R&B. The genre was all about capturing the essence of human emotion, which included everything from heartbreak to infatuation. The lyrics were often cheesy, but they were also honest and relatable. It’s hard not to get nostalgic when you hear Boyz II Men croon ‘I’ll Make Love To You’ or TLC sing ‘Waterfalls’.

The Legacy of 90s R&B

The influence of 90s R&B is still felt today. Many contemporary R&B artists draw inspiration from the sounds and styles of this era. The likes of Frank Ocean, Anderson .Paak, and HER are among artists that sound particularly indebted to the 90s. In some ways, R&B from the 90s was ahead of its time, as it anticipated the blending of different genres and the importance of personal expression in music.

The music of the 90s also had an impact on fashion and mainstream culture. The vibrant, colorful outfits worn by artists like TLC and Missy Elliott were iconic, and they still inspire looks today. The dance moves popularized by artists like Michael Jackson and MC Hammer were also influential and are still referenced by contemporary performers.

In conclusion, 90s R&B was a unique and exciting time for the genre. It was a period of innovation and experimentation that helped to lay the groundwork for the R&B we hear today. The new jack swing, divas, boy bands, and love songs are all cornerstones of the 90s R&B sound, and their influence can still be felt in the music, fashion, and culture of today.


What was the #1 R&B song in 1990?

In 1990, the music industry was dominated by R&B, with several artists releasing hit songs that topped the charts. According to Billboard’s year-end charts, there were 3 songs that were tied for the #1 R&B song in 1990. These were “Escapade” by Janet Jackson, “I’m Your Baby Tonight” by Whitney Houston, and “Black Cat” by Janet Jackson, all of whom had a significant impact on the music scene during that time.

“Escapade” by Janet Jackson was the follow-up to her smash hit “Miss You Much” and was the third single from her album “Rhythm Nation 1814”. The song was written and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and was released in January 1990. The song’s upbeat tempo, catchy lyrics, and Jackson’s impeccable vocal performance made it an instant hit. “Escapade” not only topped the R&B charts but also became a top 10 pop hit in the US and several other countries.

“I’m Your Baby Tonight” was another chart-topper that year. This song marked a significant departure from Whitney Houston’s earlier ballads, with a more upbeat and danceable tune. The song was the title track of her third studio album, which was also released in 1990. “I’m Your Baby Tonight” was written and produced by Babyface and L.A. Reid, who were behind many of the biggest hits by Houston and other R&B artists at the time. The song was a huge commercial success, topping the R&B and pop charts in the US and reaching the top 5 in several other countries.

Lastly, “Black Cat” was Janet Jackson’s fourth #1 R&B hit from her “Rhythm Nation 1814” album. This song marked another departure for Jackson, with a rock-inspired sound that was different from her earlier work. “Black Cat” is notable not only for its sound but for its lyrics, which talk about taking control of one’s life and standing up for oneself. The song was a massive success, topping the R&B charts, and becoming Jackson’s fourth consecutive top 10 pop hit from the album.

1990 was a great year for R&B music, with several high-profile hits that dominated the charts. “Escapade” by Janet Jackson, “I’m Your Baby Tonight” by Whitney Houston, and “Black Cat” by Janet Jackson were the top songs in the R&B genre that year, each having a unique sound and style that appealed to audiences across different demographics. These tracks remain popular to this day and continue to be played on R&B radio stations and playlists.

What counts as R&B?

R&B (which is short for Rhythm and Blues) is a genre of music that has its roots in African American musical traditions. The genre dates back to the 1940s when it emerged as a term used by the music industry to describe the upbeat, danceable music that was a fusion of blues, jazz, gospel, and swing. The term R&B was coined as a marketing tool to make black music more palatable to white audiences and to distinguish it from the slower, more traditional blues.

Over the years, R&B has gone through many transformations and evolved into many different subgenres. What counts as R&B today defines a style of African-American music, originating after the demise of disco in 1980, that combines elements of soul music, funk music, pop music, and (after 1986) hip hop in the form known as contemporary R&B.

Contemporary R&B is characterized by its use of electronic beats, synthesizers, and other digital production techniques. The lyrics of contemporary R&B songs are often about love and relationships, but can also include social and political issues. This subgenre of R&B developed in the 1980s and 1990s and became popular in the early 2000s. Artists such as Mary J. Blige, Aaliyah, and R. Kelly helped to popularize this style of R&B, which continues to be influential today.

Other subgenres of R&B include neo-soul, which came to prominence in the 1990s and is characterized by its use of live instrumentation and soulful vocals. Artists such as D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, and Jill Scott are associated with this style. There is also alternative R&B, which emerged in the 2010s, and incorporates elements of electronic music, rock, and hip-hop. Artists such as Frank Ocean, Anderson .Paak, and The Weeknd are associated with this style.

R&B is a genre of music that has evolved over time and encompasses a variety of subgenres. Its roots are in African American musical traditions, and it continues to be a popular genre today. Contemporary R&B is a fusion of soul, funk, pop, and hip-hop that originated in the 1980s, while other subgenres include neo-soul and alternative R&B.

What kind of music was big in the 90s?

The 1990s was a decade of diverse musical styles. One of the biggest genres of the time was undoubtedly rap, which dominated the mainstream with artists like Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., and Dr. Dre. Reggae also remained very popular throughout the decade with artists like Bob Marley, and UB40 continuing to draw large audiences.

In addition to rap and reggae, contemporary R&B and urban music in general remained extremely popular throughout the decade. Urban music in the late 1980s and 1990s often blended with styles such as soul, funk, and jazz, resulting in fusion genres such as new jack swing, neo-soul, hip hop soul, and g-funk which were popular.

The 1990s was also marked by the emergence of alternative rock, which challenged the dominance of hair metal and pop acts on the charts. Artists such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden exploded in popularity during the early 90s, while later in the decade, bands like Oasis and Radiohead achieved massive success in both Europe and North America.

The 1990s was also a period of growth and development for electronic dance music. Although house and techno had been around since the 1980s, the early 90s saw the emergence of genres like trance and jungle, which quickly gained a devoted following.

Finally, the 1990s are sometimes referred to as the golden age of pop music, as boy bands and teen pop acts like New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, and Britney Spears redefined the genre and sold millions of records worldwide.

The 1990s can be seen as a decade of diversity and change in music, as various genres emerged, collided, and evolved in new and exciting ways.

How did R&B change in the 90s?

During the 1990s, R&B music experienced several changes in both style and production. One of the most significant changes was the incorporation of hip-hop into R&B. With hip-hop’s increasing popularity, many established R&B artists began to blend the two styles, resulting in a new sound that was known as hip-hop soul. The infusion of hip-hop beats and textured sounds into R&B created a new style of music that was more rhythmic and showcased the beats and drum loops that were popular in hip-hop music.

Hip-hop-infused R&B also brought a new generation of R&B artists to the forefront of the music scene. Artists such as Mary J. Blige, R. Kelly, Aaliyah, and TLC, among others, brought a new style of R&B to the forefront. They incorporated the hip-hop styles into their productions, creating music that was not only popular but was also socially relevant and culturally significant.

In addition to the infusion of hip-hop, the 1990s witnessed the introduction of new music recording technology that further influenced R&B music. An example of this is the advent of compact discs (CDs), which allowed R&B artists to create more complex and layered soundscapes. Record producers could now use multi-track recording to create more complex harmonies, layer vocals, and incorporate electronic instruments to create more intricate and synthesized sounds.

The 1990s also saw the emergence of new sub-genres of R&B music. One such sub-genre was neo-soul, which was a fusion of R&B, jazz, hip hop, and funk. Artists such as Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, and Maxwell popularized this sub-genre, which had a sound that was more organic and often featured live instrumentation.

The 1990s was a transformative period for R&B music. The infusion of hip-hop into R&B music, along with advances in recording technology, created a new music landscape that was more sophisticated and complex. The emergence of new sub-genres such as neo-soul also brought new sounds and artists to the forefront, making the 1990s a pivotal decade for R&B music.

What were the elements of 90s R&B music?

The 90s were a defining era for R&B music with distinctive production styles and vocal techniques that set it apart from other genres. There were several key elements that defined 90s R&B, and it’s hard to imagine the genre without them.

Drum machine rhythms were an essential part of the 90s R&B sound, featuring hard-hitting, syncopated beats paired with smooth, often lush vocal harmonies. The drum machine gave producers the ability to create complex drum patterns that could not be replicated with live instruments.

Live instruments were also used, but drum machines often led the rhythm section, with bass guitar and keyboards adding a soulful backdrop to the mix. On occasion, 90s R&B music experimented with incorporating rap verses over these stripped-back instrumental lines.

The vocal style in 90s R&B was characterized by smooth, breathy vocals. Contemporary 90s R&B vocalists made creative use of melismas, often called riffs or runs, to add an extra level of complexity to their singing. Mariah Carey was known for her virtuosic use of melismas in songs like “Vision of Love” and “Emotions,” which helped establish her as one of the premier R&B vocalists of the 90s.

Finally, lush styled background harmonies further defined the 90s R&B sound, adding depth and a sense of soulful urgency to the music. The harmonies were often arranged as multi-layered stacks of vocals, adding texture and richness to the overall sound.

The elements of 90s R&B music included a distinctive production style employing drum machines rhythms combined with live instruments, smooth breathy vocal styles with creative use of melismas, and lush styled background harmonies adding depth and texture to the sound. These elements combined to create a genre that is still celebrated and beloved today.

What year was R&B most popular?

Rhythm and blues, commonly referred to as R&B, has a rich history that dates back to the end of World War II. This genre of music is characterized by soulful singing and a strong backbeat and was created by and for African Americans. R&B emerged during a period of immense societal change and upheaval, particularly in the United States, and played a significant role in shaping the cultural landscape of the time.

The most popular years for R&B were undoubtedly in the 1950s and early 1960s. During this time, the genre exploded in popularity, becoming the preferred music of not only African Americans but also many other communities around the world. Artists such as Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Etta James, and Aretha Franklin created hits that would later be considered classics and paved the way for future generations of R&B singers.

Many factors contributed to the popularity of R&B during this era. One of the most significant was the migration of African Americans from the rural South to urban areas in the North and West. This migration brought with it a rich cultural heritage that was expressed through music, and R&B became a way to connect with and celebrate this cultural identity.

Moreover, R&B was the perfect vehicle for expressing the emotions and experiences of African Americans during a time of racial tension and social upheaval. The civil rights movement was in full swing, and R&B served as a form of protest and a call for change. Many songs from this era had strong political messages and spoke to the need for equality and justice for all.

While R&B has continued to evolve and influence popular music to this day, it was during the 1950s and early 1960s that the genre was at the height of its popularity. R&B remains an important cultural touchstone, and its legacy can still be heard in the music of artists today.

What decade was the best for R&B?

The history of R&B (Rhythm and Blues) dates back to the early 20th century, and it has undergone various transformations throughout the years. However, when it comes to determining the best era for R&B, most music enthusiasts would agree that the 1950s was the pinnacle.

In the 1950s, the United States was experiencing a significant cultural upheaval as African Americans became increasingly visible in various aspects of society, including the music industry. It was during this time that R&B started to be discovered on a mainstream level and began to form its identity as a separate genre.

One of the defining characteristics of R&B in the 1950s was the incorporation of heavy elements of blues and rock, which makes it uniquely distinct from other genres. Vocalists during this era infused their songs with a raw and soulful sound that created a whole new listening experience for music lovers. Some of the most iconic artists of this genre emerged during this time, including Ray Charles, James Brown, Sam Cooke, and Etta James, among others.

The 1950s was also a pivotal era when it comes to the commercial success of R&B. Artists began to release albums in the genre through record labels, which helped to popularize this type of music. R&B stations emerged throughout the United States, playing this exciting new music and launching careers of many of the R&B legends that we still admire today.

The 1950s was the best decade for R&B due to its historical significance and the emergence of some of the most seminal artists in the genre. The period marked a turning point in the music industry and popular culture, and the influence of R&B continues to be felt today. The era presented a unique sound in music that tapped on the emotions of listeners. Its rawness and soulfulness continue to inspire present-day artists, and the impact of the 1950s on music history cannot be underestimated.