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DAR Music: The 7 Greatest New Jack Swing Artists

By @TrueGodImmortal

The New Jack Swing era is one of the greatest in music history. From the mid 80's up until the very early 90's, the New Jack Swing sound was cultivated and perfected through Babyface, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and of course, Teddy Riley. Those were the top producers of the area that made the sound perfect, but what about the artists? Who would make the list for the greatest New Jack Swing artists and what is the criteria? Well, for one, names like Janet Jackson, Jodeci, TLC, En Vogue? and others miss the list because they don't necessarily represent the essence of New Jack Swing to the fullest and their careers extend far beyond just New Jack Swing (though Boyz II Men, Janet, and Jodeci both have classics in New Jack Swing history), which might confuse you, but keep reading. You'll see why the artists chosen for this list are ranked as such. Let's get into it.

7. Al B. Sure 

-I debated putting him higher on the list because the entire landscape of New Jack Swing worked perfectly for Al B. Sure. His singing voice wasn't anything special, but the unibrow toting singer would craft some gems that still resonate today. His run was short lived, but his debut album In Effect Mode is one of the most impactful albums of the late 80's and easily one of the most important albums of the New Jack Swing Era. What made me put Al B. on this list over some artists with better catalogs and careers is that he was the epitome of New Jack Swing. From the look to the singing style to the music itself, the late 80's represents the true pinnacle of New Jack Swing, and he was one of the biggest acts at the time. Plus, "Nite And Day" and "Off On Your Own" are still classics to this very day.

6. Bell Biv Devoe

-In many ways, I could have just included this group as a subcategory for the later ranked New Edition, but they deserve their own listing. As the 90's began, Bell Biv Devoe would emerge as the more aggressive members of the New Jack Swing era, a distinct difference from their other group members who took the smooth route. It worked for BBD, and there was no better evidence of that than their debut album Poison, which was hugely successful due to the title track, a New Jack Swing staple. From their fashion to their music, Bell Biv Devoe sort of ushered in a new element of New Jack Swing, and it worked perfectly for them in the long run.

5. Keith Sweat 

-When I look back at many of the artists that shaped New Jack Swing, perhaps the most underrated of them all is Keith Sweat. His name isn't mentioned in the same breath like some of the others here, but he definitely was a pioneer in his own right. With the attitude and bravado that made New Jack Swing artists stand out, Keith wasn't the greatest singer, but his music worked well. The production was smooth, his lyrics were suave in their own way, and he delivered on multiple albums, but his biggest album during the era was easily Make It Last Forever, and his most famous songs would be the title track and of course, the dance inspiring "I Want Her". Keith Sweat is definitely top 5 in the New Jack Swing era.

4. Babyface 

-Yes, the producer and songwriter that is Babyface makes the list as an artist because he was one of the biggest components of the sound and the style. Plus, his two albums in the 80's embodied the entire New Jack Swing sound and style. His first album was essentially an early New Jack Swing style project, as remnants of the sound that would become popular to the masses were very present here. However, the album that would put him over the top as one of the biggest voices in the New Jack Swing era was his second album, Tender Lover. With New Jack Swing classic singles like the title track, "Whip Appeal", "My Kinda Girl", as well as gems like "Soon As I Get Home" and "Sunshine",  Babyface etched his name in history through that project. Add that to the fact that he wrote a number of the hits during this era and there was no way to make this list without him listed.

3. New Edition 

-Of course, one of the greatest groups of all time has to be mentioned. If we discussed the greatest artists and their influence, New Edition would be no. 1 with a wide gap. With Johnny Gill, Bell Biv Devoe, Ralph Tresvant, and of course Bobby Brown all creating separate impacts in the genre, New Edition made sure the parts of the group were just as strong as the group in New Jack Swing, but together, they were just as unstoppable. There is no greater proof of that than their 1988 classic album Heartbreak, which is still one of the greatest New Jack Swing albums ever. With gems like "Can You Stand The Rain", "Boys To Men", "If It Isn't Love", and of course "You're Not My Kind Of Girl", Heartbreak is a moment in New Jack Swing time that won't ever be forgotten, even 30 years later.

2. Guy 

-Teddy Riley is seen as the man behind the music of the New Jack Swing era and that's very accurate. Teddy provided many of the artists on this list and in general during the era with production, but perhaps his greatest work is during his time with this trio. A pioneering group in the genre, Guy would release back to back classic albums that haven't always got the credit that they deserve. Their run was legendary and they have multiple hits under their belt, like "Teddy's Jam", "I Like", "Piece Of My Love", "Groove Me", and more. If you think New Jack Swing, you'll likely have this group come to mind instantly, that's how important they were to this era. I still can go back and revisit their first two albums regularly honestly, and that's a sign of true legends.

1. Bobby Brown 

-The man. The New Jack Swing King. Bobby Brown was New Jack Swing. From his haircut to his attire to his style to his image to his music to his bravado, when you think New Jack Swing, you think Bobby Brown. While his first solo album only flirted with the New Jack Swing sound and style, it would be his second album that changed everything. Don't Be Cruel is quite possibly the greatest album of the 80's, with only Purple Rain and Thriller in the running for being better, and even then, it's a tough debate. With assistance from Babyface, Bobby would make his magnum opus, as Don't Be Cruel featured so many anthems and gems, from "Every Little Step" to "Roni" to "Rock Witcha" to "My Prerogative", Bobby delivers time and time again. Simply put, there is no artist in New Jack Swing history as important as Bobby Brown, thus his ranking at no. 1.


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