The Year In R&B: 1991

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal 
-Many years in music are vital to various genres, but for 90s R&B or just R&B in general, few years are as important as 1991. 1991 saw the arrival of two of the greatest groups in the history of the genre, Boyz II Men and Jodeci. In addition to that, we witnessed many quality projects during this year and as usual, the DAR family is back to discuss another great year in R&B. Let's get into it.

In 1991, R&B was still in that New Jack Swing era where you couldn't hear a R&B tune without dancing. This was the wave at the time, but you still had your ballads from artists like Mariah Carey, Luther Vandross, Barry White, Aaron Neville and Gerald Levert.

Some R&B jams that I rocked with were as follows:

Tevin Campbell-Tell Me What You Want Me To Do
Boyz ll Men - MotownPhilly
Jodeci - Stay
Mint Condition - Pretty Brown Eyes
Shanice- I Love Your Smile
Color Me Badd- I Wanna Sex You Up
Hi Five- I Like The Way
Keith Sweat- I'll Give All My Love To You

There are 2 great albums that I'd like to mention. The 1st being Michael Jackson's Dangerous album. This was his last release before a long hiatus and he definitely left on a high note with cuts like Jam, Heal The World, Black or White and Remember The Time. The videos he shot for this album would go on to become iconic. MJ recruited Teddy Riley for the New Jack Swing sound and it ended up being one of his best selling albums.

Next up is Jodeci's Forever My Lady. This album still had a bit of that New Jack Swing sound with cuts like It's Alright, Play Thang and Gotta Love, but the best part of this album is where they slowed it down on cuts like U & I, Come & Talk To Me and Forever My Lady.

If you were to ask me today what my favorite 91 album was, Forever My Lady would take that spot, but if you were to ask me back in 91 as a kid I'd tell you Another Bad Creation's Coolin At The Playground Ya Know. This album represented a lot of what I was going through in life at the time. Playground and Jealous Girl were my joints. When I heard "Iesha", I was an instant fan. Of course I had a crush on a couple Ieshas at that time and of course I used to rap it to them like a lil cornball (don't judge haha). This whole era had me doing dances like the Running Man, Side Kick, the Butterfly, the Alf and the Kid n Play moves from House Party. Looking back, 1991 was definitely a year full of classics and it gave me great nostalgia to reflect on it.

Ok, sorry I'm keeping this one short. But, 1991 was the year we got Jodeci. Do we really need to talk more about the year or should we just leave it at that? I mean, without Jodeci, the "bad boy" R&B group archetype probably wouldn't be a thing and we'd have a bunch of Boyz II Men clones. And that's not a bad thing...but it's slightly a boring thing.

Jodeci could do it all, from the Boyz II Men power ballad ("Forever My Lady") to the raunchier stuff we'd come to know them for. But Forever My Lady was the one that really made people pay attention. All four members showcased exceptional range and emotion. Additionally, each member could just as easily take lead if need be. Not too many groups could do that.

1991 also gave us "I Love Your Smile." An underrated, in some ways, R&B classic. Shanice had that range. She had a bit of playfulness in her voice. And she could, well, SAAANG!!! While I'll admit that I'm not the biggest fan of hers (the songwriting sometimes did her in for me), you can't deny this song when you talk early 90s R&B.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the R&B albums that were released back in 1991. As the years passed, I realized that there would really be no year comparable to this one in the genre and it would prove to be groundbreaking with the debuts that were released. I attribute a large part of my love for the genre to these albums, but of course it wasn't all perfect. One particular release was a damper on the year, but I'll get to that in a minute....

The essence of R&B was brought to us '90's kids when we first heard of this group and their debut album. That group would be Boyz II Men and that debut would be "CooleyHighHarmony" and as soon as it hit radio airwaves, they became an instant favorite. The group perfected a capella, they epitomized harmonization (the last verse from "End Of The Road") and captivated our hearts with their sweet, sensitive and heartfelt lyrics. They were able to give us a perfect balance from tracks like "Motownphilly" to "End Of The Road" and "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday". The track list was short, which worked in their favor because all the tracks were excellent. This would truly be a perfect debut release that truly changed the game. It's safe to say, Boyz II Men changed the game some as this would only start their run of consistently releasing albums that would top charts and break records.

Another group that would emerge with a debut would be Jodeci. This was the year they released "Forever My Lady" and unlike other R&B groups at the time, Jodeci came with New Jack Swing mixed with a whole lot of soul and a sprinkle of hip hop. They won our hearts with the title track and continued to please with songs like "Stay", "I'm Still Waiting" and "Gotta Love". They success of this album made Jodeci a powerhouse in the genre and created a perfect foundation for their next few releases. This album was definitely a gem of the year.

No matter how great you are at harmonization and a capella, no matter how versatile your music is with the incorporation of other genres, you will pale in comparison to Michael Jackson, who released "Dangerous" this Year. I remember the music channels letting us know it was available in stores and it was a definite must have. I copped it shortly after it came out, and I was very glad I did. Now this isn't my favorite in his catalog, not even close, but this album is to thank for some of my most favorite MJ songs and the tracks that carried the album. "Heal The World", "Black or White" and "Will You Be There", all of which subtly (or not so subtly) brought with them messages of positivity, awareness and hope. There are never enough words or ways to say how truly impactful this album (much like all of MJ's albums) was. The singles became instant multi platinum hits globally and took the entire world by storm upon its release. THIS is what made the year, it's hard not to endlessly praise a year that saw a release from the King Of Pop!

I haven't even mentioned the track or album or artist's name that I loathe and I'm annoyed already! Thank God for the 3 releases I just mentioned because they are the reason I was able to ignore this one. This was also the year P.M. Dawn released "Of the Heart, Of The Soul And Of The Cross: The Utopian Experience" which birthed the worldwide love and craze for their single "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss", which leaves me absolutely dumbfounded. I never understood (and still to this day I don't understand) the hype around this album and this group. This was a barely memorable debut and IMO, if it wasn't for that particular single, they wouldn't have been mentioned some years later. It's safe to say I very strongly dislike this and all the accolades and recognition its gotten. Maybe one day someone will explain to me what that's all about, but 1991 will forever be tainted because this is part of the lineup of releases (in my opinion of course).

There you have it, the albums I absolutely loved and the one R&B group and track I cannot stand. Like I said, 1991 will always have a love/hate component for me. Although I didn't mention some of the other releases this year they were also fantastic. R&B much like hip hop always delivers and truly gives the fans some timeless classics.....let's just pretend "Set Adrift..." doesn't exist!!

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal 
-Keith Sweat. Vanessa Williams. Even Prince if you want to include him in it. 1991 had some really dope releases that tend to go overlooked still to this day, but regardless, it is monumental for three major albums, all of which can be seen as classics. Any year we get Boyz II Men, Jodeci, and Michael Jackson albums have to be considered a seminal year in the genre. Period.



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