DAR Retro: The 8 Pivotal Names Of The New Jack Swing Era

By @TrueGodImmortal

The New Jack Swing Era was a huge moment in time and we've discussed the artists and the albums, but we haven't really looked at the pivotal pioneers that made the era so special and why. Today, we look at the 8 most pivotal names of the era and why they were so pivotal and what they did for the culture and the movement. The New Jack Swing era had a lot of hitmakers and artists that were important, but today we will only cover the 8 most essential. You might be surprised that one major group was left off of the list, and that has more to do with them being a group that came of age well before the era instead of during the era like every name listed here. Let's get into this look at the 8 pivotal New Jack Swing artists and producers.

*Bobby Brown

-I mean, was there ever any question? Of course you have to talk about the greatest solo artist in New Jack Swing history. Bobby was on top of the world and he was an icon during the era and he is the true face of the era really from an artist standpoint. I mean, his first album King Of Stage hinted at some of his New Jack Swing dreams, but it would be the next two albums that solidified him as the king of New Jack Swing. Don't Be Cruel is his best album and was recently discussed on the site, so I won't go too much into that one, but the truth is, Bobby was a star. He was the first and only real New Jack Swing megastar, as his album and popularity took on a life of its own. Sure, his 1992 album Bobby wasn't as successful but it was still an album rooted very much so in the New Jack Swing sound and evolution. Bobby was the centerpiece of the era as an artist and easily the most pivotal piece in taking New Jack Swing to another level.


-The biggest reason why New Jack Swing existed in so many ways. Sure, Teddy Riley is the face of it in a lot of ways, but Babyface was the innovator and molded the sound as time went by. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis started the vibe, Babyface continued and perfected it, while Teddy Riley gave it a little more edge. There are no other names more important to the movement than those, but Babyface is in a league of his own period. He was an excellent songwriter, artist, and producer and cranked out hits for so many. He would be responsible for Bobby Brown and his breakthrough moment with Don't Be Cruel, write and produce songs for The Whispers, Pebbles, Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men, TLC, After 7, and more, all with the New Jack Swing style and sound. Babyface would release his own excellent New Jack Swing music, with the early 1986 album Lovers, his 1989 classic Tender Lover, and some elements of his 1993 album as well. Babyface is such a pioneer and a legend in this music game that locking him down to one era is impossible but his contributions to the New Jack Swing era cannot be denied. He was right there alongside Teddy Riley as well as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis as a true architect of the era.

*Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis

-This magical production and songwriting duo would easily be categorized as legends of New Jack Swing. They were huge in the grand scheme and represented so much in the music world from their work alongside Janet Jackson and New Edition to other various artists that represented the era. It is really interesting when you think of the origin of New Jack Swing because in reality, all the producers listed here have a claim to this title of the originator of the sound. They all brought their own distinct styles to this one era and of course, there are some monumental projects that Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have been a part of, namely the Janet Jackson albums Control and Rhythm Nation which were certified New Jack Swing sound and my personal favorite New Edition's classic Heartbreak. Simply put, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis embodied the New Jack Swing sound and style (I will say that a lot here).

*Teddy Riley

-Quite possibly the most important producer in the era and certainly top 2, Teddy Riley is often considered the face of New Jack Swing. He was one of the biggest embodiments of the sound and the style, and with his group Guy, who are also featured on this list, they would become immensely popular and move the New Jack Swing movement even further. Teddy would work with so many great artists during this time from Guy to Bobby Brown to Keith Sweat to Michael Jackson, and that is what makes so many people consider him the face of New Jack Swing. Any artist who wanted that New Jack Swing sound sought out Teddy. For me, I prefer Babyface and his work, but it is impossible to deny what Teddy Riley did in his prime as a producer.


-The group that Teddy Riley built was honestly one of the most pivotal pieces to the era for several reasons. One, the group gave us the legendary Aaron Hall, and they gave us legendary music for some years before a long hiatus. In the New Jack Swing prime however, there was no trio that could hold a candle to Guy. They had hits upon hits, with some of the best production of the era on songs like "Goodbye Love", "Round And Round", "Piece Of My Love", "Groove Me", "I Like", and many others. The group would crank out hit after hit in this era and their style was influential along with their sound and music, thus making them an impact player of the New Jack Swing Renaissance.

*Janet Jackson

-So, there had to be a woman on this list because it's only right and I honestly couldn't think of any other woman who was responsible for more hits and more changes in music than Janet, especially in the New Jack Swing era. While some might not  consider Rhythm Nation an album that is New Jack Swing, it has a number of songs rooted in the sound, however, Control is the album that set off a new wave in terms of sound. Janet and her attire, her style, and her sound was 100% New Jack Swing from a woman's perspective and it all sounded great and worked perfectly. Because of this, Janet became a huge star and one of the biggest women in the game, so this was easily a successful venture. Some might say the Control album was the project that jumpstarted the New Jack Swing era and for that alone, Janet deserves to be on this list. She was the New Jack Swing queen before she reinvented her image.

*Keith Sweat

-He was the embodiment of the New Jack Swing movement in many ways. Slightly smooth and suave with a bit of an edge to his music, and able to make hits. That's what made Keith Sweat so special to fans of New Jack Swing. He was never the most popular or the highest seller but he was never too far off at least. With the classic debut Make It Last Forever, he would earn success and become one of the leading voices in New Jack Swing and he would then give back by helping discover the legendary group Silk, who would have an album of their own that was filled with New Jack Swing sounds. For that alone, Keith Sweat is without a doubt a pivotal name in the era.

*Al B. Sure

-So, unless you really are in the know, you might not realize why Al B. Sure is such a pivotal piece to the New Jack Swing era. He was one of the most popular artists in the late 80's, but his work as a producer and songwriter as the era rolled on is what made me put this talented artist on the list over some other possible choices. His debut album In Effect Mode was a huge success and of course the big single "Nite And Day" is one of the most popular New Jack Swing singles ever. He would also be a pivotal player in introducing other artists who started in the New Jack Swing era like Tevin Campbell and Jodeci, both of whom would see multi platinum success during the era as well.



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