If you were born in the 80s, you probably were raised on the slick stylings of 90s R&B. Musical acts like Babyface, Groove Theory, Dru Hill, En Vogue, Monica, SWV, Destiny's Child (what's up LeToya and LaTavia), Faith Evans, 112, D'Angelo, and Toni Braxton blessed our ears with their undeniable singing chops, clever songs, and a refreshing sense of cool. Traditional R&B of the 1990s (and the R&B of previous decades) was the truth.
Unfortunately, R&B has drastically changed -- or perhaps, disappeared -- over the past decade. While the musical genre's evolution through time is demonstrated by the diverse work of legends like Fats Domino, Johnny Otis, Donny Hathaway, Aretha Franklin, and Whitney Houston, the production of quality R&B music is a now relic of yesteryear.
Groove Theory "Tell Me"
Next "Too Close"
Monica "Angel of Mine"
Since the 90s, the creation of high quality "make up with ya boo" music has slowed down and it is very disappointing.
My ears long to hear smooth chocolatey runs, effortlessly sung over a well-orchestrated production of a lightly caressed piano and a perfectly timed bass drum. I miss hearing the tenor of a churchy vibrato that accentuates a sustained note at the end of a love song. I miss not having to strain my ears just to hear the (real) voice of a singer. I miss listening to an album straight through, in one sitting. I miss listening to the radio and not having to flip through stations for reasons other than static.
I miss 90s R&B music. I miss R&B music.
Admittedly, I can only speak of 90s R&B because that is what I grew up listening to the most. Of course, the music of the time isn't without its rightful critiques, but it can not be denied that 90s R&B made you want to walk right into a scene of "Love and Basketball" and whisper "double or nothing." Yes, music was that good.
90s R&B music really helped cultivate my sense of self and my taste. At every juncture of childhood and young adulthood, a song celebrated my growth and understandings of the world. There was always a song for happiness. There was a song for sadness. There was a song for feeling inadequate and unsure about life. There were, of course, countless songs for puberty. There was always a song or artist that permeated through my ears and traveled to my soul.
It's a lot different nowadays.
Still an avid music fan, I find it harder to relate to today's music, including R&B.
Some of today's "R&B" music is enjoyable and catchy, but a lot of it feels synthetic and unfitting. Surely there is more to music than an auto tuned "ayy" and "oh," right? Lauryn Hill told us that with her widely acclaimed "Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." Boyz II Men also made it clear in their "Cooleyhighharmony" release.
Lauryn Hill "Doo Wop- That Thing"
Boyz II Men "On Bended Knee"
Today, the flavor of 90s (and previously created) R&B is almost antiquated to the point, where a possible return of the genre as we once knew it seems far fetched. As the sound and style of R&B has became more mainstream and profitable, there is substantial evidence that the genre has hijacked, gentrified, and flipped by a new "revivalist" artistry that fails to carry the soul of R&B (check out Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines).
Like all things, music evolves and there's nothing wrong with that. However, it'd be nice to hear a few more soul-driven, traditionally R&B styled songs on the radio. It'd be great to instantly vibe with a song upon hearing it. It'd be dope to hear a strong voice.
Just a few sentiments from a 90s R&B fan.