The Year In R&B: 1995

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal 
1995. Now, hip hop wise, this was a big year. There's classic releases and some of the greatest releases in the genre from Raekwon, The Pharcyde, Mobb Deep and a few others. How about R&B? Well, in essence, the year 1995 is probably one of the more slept on years for the genre in many ways. While album wise, it wasn't as groundbreaking as hip hop, a lot of the memories we have of 90s R&B seems to come from this year. Whether it be the hilarious yet melodic vibe of Mokenstef and their hit "He's Mine" off their album "Azz Izz" (what a title) or the jazzy and soulful sounds of Amel and Bryce via Groove Theory and their big hit "Tell Me", the year had something for everyone. Today, we will look back at the year 1995 in R&B and the strongest albums and singles on the year. Let's get into it.

As I think back to 1995, what immediately sticks out in my mind is the amazing, legendary rap albums that were released. Some fantastic debuts, some incredible sophomore projects and of course some outstanding singles. As great as a year hip hop had, R&B fell a little short to me. Don’t get me wrong, some very important and brilliant R&B albums were released that year, but the majority of my favorites came in the form of soundtracks, compilations and “greatest hits”, but let me take you through the studio releases that completed the greatness of the year musically.

I couldn’t even wait to talk about Michael Jackson’s “HIStory” album, which was easily the highlight of the year for me. MJ is a genius in every essence and although he was just compiling previously heard tracks with an album of new ones, he still managed to create a worldwide buzz. The commercial reception of this was monumental and topped R&B and pop charts in every country everywhere upon release. Conceptually I love the way this double album is organized as we have disc one which serves as a blast from the past with all of our favorites from Jackson’s early years and then disc 2 which gave us some brand new releases. Although the majority were released as singles, it was dope to have them all in one accessible album. I thank this album for giving us some of the most revolutionary tracks such as “Scream” with Janet Jackson, (my absolute favorite MJ track in his entire catalogue) “Earth Song” “Stranger In Moscow” and OF COURSE his collabo with BIG “This Time Around” any year that had a release from MJ was guaranteed to be a good one, not to mention this kicked off the “HIStory world tour”. This was a fantastic addition to the year and a true reflection of the legend, genius and icon MJ was...and still is in legacy and memory.

It’s tough to beat MJ and I feel bad for any artist that had to share a release year with him but another great release is Jodeci’s “The Show, The After Party, The Hotel”. What we love most about Jodeci is they give us an overall themed album with every release and they make it sound good. From the title we know this album is the vocal version of their lives as performers. Is there any song that sticks out? Not really but the singles “Freek’n You” “Love U 4 Life” and “Get On Up” kept it exciting. What I do like about this album was that it was recorded at an interesting time, just after a minor feud within the group and just before the group dissolved (K-Ci & JoJo would go off to be a powerhouse duo for some years after). I think it’s because of this that the album gets a bit of critique, but as a fan of the group, I want emotion, sweet lovey dovey lyrics with some silky smooth vocals and they give us exactly that. Regardless of the few negative points of this album I appreciated it and love their contributions to R&B before they took a 20 year hiatus.

Mariah Carey, one of my favorite female vocalists, released what is widely considered her best album this year, “Daydream” which gave us so many amazing songs. This is a very solid album, filled to the brim with emotion from love to loss and even a couple lighthearted fun bangers. She gave us “Open Arms” and "One Sweet Day”, which overtook every radio station and award show that year and of course “Fantasy”. This album really had everything and catered to such a wide demographic that it goes without saying, it was a critical release and a true classic.

As I said in a previous DAR R&B article, no list is ever complete without R.Kelly, and sure enough he had his self titled sophomore release in 1995. He is incredible at variation and that’s exactly what he did here, as we get fun in “You Remind Me Of Something”, we get over the top sappy in “I Can’t Sleep” and of course we have trifling masked in sultry smooth vocals with “Down Low”. R.Kelly is an R&B crowd pleaser, you can’t help but love his music (regardless of how weird he is in real life) and every track he puts out resonates with audiences. He is truly a master of the craft, he knows how to tap into your emotions, connect you to his lyrics and keep you there. This self-titled album is far from perfect but it’s definitely a “must have” in every library.

So there we have it, the albums that proved 1995 to be a pretty solid year. There was something for everybody and these releases contributed to the legendary status of our favorite artists. Each gave us great albums with classic tracks that would truly extend so far beyond just this year and remain favorites some 21 years later. There has never been a shortage of gems in R&B and 1995 is proof of that!

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal
1995 remains the year that Jodeci released a slept on album. To me. Now, for many, I'm sure the sounds of "The Show, The Afterparty, The Hotel" didn't seem to come close to sounds of the first two albums, but I absolutely love this album. Hit wise, Jodeci never really missed during the 90s and this album was no different. One of my favorite Jodeci songs ever "Love U 4 Life" is on here and I can't help but sing along every single time it comes on. I'm singing along as I write this to be honest. That, along with other classics like "Freek'n You", "Get On Up", "S-More" and a few others definitely set the tone. The album is my highlight of the year, but it's not the only highlight at all.

Funny enough, the group Immature was popular during this time, lead by Batman aka Marques Houston. Though I wasn't a fan, I'm aware they were pretty popular and their album "We Got It" was very successful along with the title track as a single. Monica came on the scene with her "Miss Thang" album as well and she would take the world by storm with her sound and ability to captivate with her strong vocal talent. She was only 14, but had such catchy and good songs like the big hit "Don't Take It Personal" and "Before You Walk Out My Life", which both seemed to be ahead of her time. The contrast between these two artists is interesting as Immature was strictly for kids mostly and Monica could appeal to most demographics with her mature centered music.

Xscape returned with their Off The Hook album, Mariah Carey dropped a monster of an album with Daydream, Faith Evans had her self titled project take the world by storm, and the sultry Adina Howard burst onto the scene with her album Do You Wanna Ride, which featured the classic song "Freak Like Me". 1995 saw the women of the genre liberating themselves in many ways and taking a different approach, which was nice to hear. Faith and Adina took two different approaches, but appealed to all women in some way, which is the balance R&B needed. Mariah and Xscape were also two different type of artists, but still managed to appeal to everyone in their own way, a testament to the power of the female artists in the genre and the quality of their music. For the men, there were a few noteworthy releases solo wise, but one could not forget the Heavy D backed group Soul 4 Real, who struck gold with their album Candy Rain featuring two of my favorite hits of the entire decade. That album might be the most slept on of them all this year and is one of my favorites.

D'Angelo would also arrive with his classic Brown Sugar, while Montell Jordan struck platinum success with This Is How We Do It, which has a title track that still gets any crowd hype regardless of age. Music like that is straight up and down timeless. Speaking of timeless, the legendary Michael Jackson released HIStory and though this album doesn't get the credit deserved completely, it showcases Michael at his most honest and in some ways, most vulnerable on songs like "They Don't Really Care About Us" and even on a song like the slightly cheesy R. Kelly penned "You Are Not Alone", which got criticized for the video for the song. Speaking of R. Kelly, his best album, the self titled project was also released this year. Yet another great moment for 1995. Who could deny such a year like this one that featured amazing music, moments, groups, and artists? Is 1995 the best year in R&B ever? No, but it is certainly one of the best at the very least, without all of the bigger names involved in releases. Instead, this saw debuts, come ups and returns of artists who may have been written off along with a few heavy hitters. The year 1995 in R&B was amazing.



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