The Year In R&B: 1992

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal 
-We've discussed a lot of great years so far in this series, but today we're talking a very special year in the genre. 1992 saw R&B entering what I felt was a new peak and showcased some huge arrivals in the music world. The debut album of TLC, the first project from SWV, the Keith Sweat endorsed debut of Silk, the official arrival of R. Kelly as a more solo artist, Mary J. Blige and her classic debut, Shai and their arrival, along with one of the greatest movie soundtracks ever, 1992 is miles ahead of many other years in the genre. When add in the projects of En Vogue, Sade, Bobby Brown, Prince and other artists that mean a lot to this genre, there's no denying that 1992 is a very solid year. Let's get a little bit more in depth, shall we?

1992 gave us some bangers. We got the first R. Kelly-helmed project, Mary burst onto the scene, and we got stuff from the likes of TLC. Suffice to say, 1992 is a classic year when it comes to music. Even some of the under-appreciated stuff still got its just due (hi Shai). It also gave us two of the most-cohesive soundtrack albums ever in The Bodyguard and Boomerang.

While I'm still a bigger fan of the Bodyguard soundtrack than the movie, it's impossible to deny that Whitney Houston helped make both. Sure, "I'll Always Love You" is a slightly cliched love song these days, but it became so because it's just that powerful. She made that song her own, taking a country ballad and turning it into one of the last super power ballads of the era.

Now, the Boomerang soundtrack was just as good as the movie and they kind of balanced each other out. But, the project gave us our first glimpse at folks such as Toni Braxton. Additionally, the album, while not fully R&B, still contained some tracks we can play to this day and still get the emotions flowing. "Love Shoulda Brought You Home" and "End of the Road", by Braxton and Boyz II Men respectively, are just two examples of this sort of phenomenon. Overall, if you haven't checked out the soundtrack in a while, go do so and then check out the Plight of Marcus Graham (both the movie and the True God song which pays homage to the movie).

While ’92 was an exciting year for rap albums and rapper turned actors, R&B was experiencing a whole different kind of exciting. DAR has covered some essential years already, but it’s this year that would kick start all of that because it was the year of critical debuts and some great follow up projects. Let's take a look at some of our favorites and those which happen to be essentials in all music libraries.

I’m going to start with Sade,  whose talent is unmatched. She’s smooth, sultry, soothing soul music at its finest. She would release her classic album “Love Deluxe” which would be the fourth release in her catalog and the last we would get before her eight-year hiatus. What she gave us was nine classic tracks which include “No Ordinary Love”, which would be the album’s lead single, while she continued to pull on heartstrings with “Feel No Pain”, “Kiss Of Life” and “Cherish The Day”. Sade has always had a way of connecting with her listeners on an emotional level and this album is a perfect example of that. This is short and a very sweet and soulful listen.

A sophomore release worth mentioning comes from En Vogue. They release “Funky Divas” which was a great addition to the year. While these ladies had debuted a couple years prior, ’92 would prove that they too could infuse R&B with aspects of other genres. They released a few singles that instantly topped charts starting with “My Lovin’ (Never Gonna Get It)” and shortly after we got “Give Him Something He Can Feel”, “Free Your Mind” and “Give It Up, Turn It Loose”. While many believe En Vogue was the first to incorporate elements of hip hop in their music, I didn’t hear it as much as I did the pop or rock aspect. They were pioneers in many ways, they focused on women’s empowerment and became a worldwide sensation with that thought process. Very few ladies were focusing on that in the early nineties which made En Vogue unique in topic choice and themes (they were inspired by Aretha Franklin though). Regardless, “Funky Divas” became a highlight of the year and it was almost impossible not to love their energy and music from the first listen.

The Queen of Soul Mary J. debuts with “What’s The 4-1-1?” and this is the album we must thank for all her fantastic additions to the industry. With this album, she helped usher in a new element of the sub genre of “hip hop soul”. She gave us everything from incredibly powerful vocals to a bit of rhyme spitting. “Real Love” would be the lead single that would leave the industry wanting more. Her collaboration with K-Ci from Jodeci would be another crowd pleaser and she even teams up with Busta Rhymes, which showed how well she complimented the rap scene. Mary J. has always put immense amount of emotion in each of her tracks and this is where it all started. While she proved she can hold her own, she simultaneously showed she could collaborate with any artist to bring an urban soul sound vocally to any track. This album has stood the test of time and is widely considered a classic.

Another fantastic debut and yet another reason to thank ’92 is for “Ooohhh…On The TLC Tip” by none other than the powerhouse R&B trio TLC. This isn’t my favorite album in their catalog, but I do give it a tremendous amount of credit for establishing TLC as a force in the industry. Left Eye, T-Boz and Chili were the perfect fusion of hip hop and R&B which made each one of their tracks enjoyable and appealing to all audiences. It wasn’t only their music that peaked interest, they came with a unique image (baggy bright clothing and a weird incorporation of condoms) and while some aspects were a bit “out there”, they had an appeal and charm that gained them a tremendous following. I loved “Baby Baby Baby” and “Das Da Way We Like ‘Em” along with several other tracks that were equally enjoyable. Babyface is credited in large part for their success, but personally I don’t think any other group could bring the sultry vocals, emotion and fun loving personalities to his songs like these three incredible ladies. TLC is legendary and they are truly an example of getting better with each release.

Another one I have to mention this year was the single “End Of The Road”, as this was, and still is one of my favorite R&B tracks of all time. The reason I mention this is because I think the commercial success and reception of this track left the group shocked and surprised. The story is kind of interesting to me, as “CooleyHighHarmony” was originally released in 1991 and this track was nowhere to be found. It SHOULD have been on that album, but it was released as a b-side track in 1992. This was truly an instant favorite, it took the R&B world by storm and forced Boyz II Men to re-release the album with this track the following year. They did everything right with this, as the subject matter was relatable to everyone. In addition, their harmonization and adlibs were incredible and the a capella towards the end was phenomenal. “End Of The Road” was my favorite part of 1992, so much so that it made the re-release the following year an instant favorite.

There’s no way to mention all the releases that happened this year, but we also saw “It’s About Time”, which was SWV’s debut and gave us another fantastic emerging female group to add to the list. Each one of these albums would shape our expectations and quality standards moving forward. It would be these artists that would go on to influence so many future ones and the reason we have a genre so rich in variation.

1992 R&B was a year full of nice releases. We were still very much in the New Jack Swing era. Almost every album had a touch of it on there. We had releases from En Vogue, Bobby Brown, Morris Day and Christopher Williams just to name a few. Lets take a look at some of what caught my ear this year.

Some of my favorite singles:
Sade- No Ordinary Love
Silk- Freak Me
Silk- Lose Control
SWV- Weak
SWV- Right Here(Human Nature)
Shai- If I Ever Fall In Love
Boyz ll Men- End Of The Road
Vanessa Williams- Save The Best For Last
Prince- Diamonds and Pearls
R Kelly- Honey Love
Whitney Houston- I Will Always Love You
Whitney Houston- I Have Nothing
Troop- Sweet November

There are 2 albums that stood out to me on the year however and both came from great female artists.

TLC "Ooooohhh On The TLC Tip" is the debut album from the infamous girl group. They were New Jack Swing with a funky style mixed in. They dressed wild, said and did what they wanted with no apologies. "Aint To Proud To Beg" is a song about knowing what you want and not being ashamed of asking for it. "What About Your Friends" is all about whether your real friends will be there for you when things change or get rough. "His Story" is about being judged, double standards in society and disrespect. My favorite song has to be "Baby Baby Baby", as it's a sweet love song all about them being able to have any man they want but chose you. This album had a clear message about friendship, womanhood, being yourself and advocating safe sex.

"What's The 411" is the debut album by Mary J. Blige. She was the breath of fresh air of her time. It wasn't your usual New Jack Swing, as she brought together the sounds of hip hop with her soulful voice which earned her the title "Queen of Hip Hop Soul". I remember seeing the "Real Love" video for the 1st time and thinking this woman has a certain rawness about her. With tracks like "You Remind Me", "Reminisce", "Love No Limit", "Dont Want To Do Anything" and "Sweet Thing", this was an album you could play all the way through. My favorite song on here had to be "What's The 411" as Mary and Grand Puba played off of each other very well. She sound like a natural when she was rhyming. This album is definitely a classic in my eyes.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal
-1992 is one of my favorite years and for the most part, it's rooted in the music that came from the groups. Shai and their debut really goes under appreciated in the genre, and though "If I Ever Fall In Love" is regarded as one of the greatest 90s R&B songs ever, to me, it is the song "Comforter" that really sticks out as a highlight from the album. The smooth harmony and the layered vocals throughout the hook make the song extremely infectious and a laid back listen. It's also the best song from Shai that not only captures the full essence of 90s R&B, but had a bit of that 80s flavor within it as well. I personally loved Silk's debut "Lose Control", and the title track is one of my favorite songs of all time from the genre. The harmony, the vocals, and the content in that song is amazing, and of course Silk came with a bedroom anthem in the slightly brash, but smooth "Freak Me", which I'm sure everyone knows very well. Anytime that the group Silk is even mentioned, this is the go to song for most people. Their first album was a true classic.

As for my favorite projects on the year besides those two? It's hands down the Boomerang soundtrack. First off, Boomerang is one of my favorite movies and the soundtrack did it perfect justice. From the Babyface and Toni Braxton upbeat jam "Give U My Heart" to the Toni Braxton ballad "Love Shoulda Brought You Home" to the mega hit "End Of The Road" from Boyz II Men all the way to my favorite song off the soundtrack from Johnny Gill, "There U Go", this would be my favorite project on the year overall. R. Kelly would also have a solid project, which spawned one of my favorite songs from him "Honey Love". 1992 had so many highlights on the year and it's one of the most vital years in the genre.



Popular Posts