Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Video Soul

I make no apologies for getting my education in music from Video Soul, Midnight Love, Video LP and Video Vibrations.

Sure, I picked up some things from Friday Night Videos, The Box and Yo! MTV Raps. But BET was a virtual classroom for a kid interested in learning something, anything, about R&B music. Donnie Simpson? Sherry Carter? Rachel Stuart? These were some of my teachers.

The sun truly didn't set on my week until I had seen Video Soul's Top 20 Countdown on Friday nights - even though the No. 1 video would inevitably be cut off about 45 seconds short.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I found myself watching BETJ late the other night. The channel has become something of a gold mine for long-forgotten music acts and, I suppose, blogging ideas. I guess this is where Viacom has buried all its music for grown folks, a virtual soundtrack from my teenage years. Which, of course, got me to thinking.

As far as quality and quantity, how do the R&B groups from the 1990s stack up with other decades? The "oughts" certainly don't measure up - unless you're a fan of Pretty Ricky. But I have a hard time believing there was a more diverse pool of R&B male vocal groups in another decade.

To make things easy, I've broken the groups into three distinct categories: Platinum, for groups whose music still stands the test of time and who were the clear breakout stars of their era; Gold, for groups who sustained success through more than one album and still make the regular rotation on radio stations and video shows; and Plastic, which includes everyone from one-hit wonders to groups that never had more than a brief moment in stardom. I've included a link to their most popular video, according to the helpful robots at YouTube.

On another note, I had to leave off groups like Force MDs, Surface and Ready for the World because most of their success came in the 80s. Sorry about that. Anyway, let's do this:

Boyz II Men - End of the Road.
Jodeci - Freek'N You. Pretty much, Boyz II Men and Jodeci was the R&B version of Biggie and Tupac. Your preference for the group said a lot more about you than your musical tastes. Basically, did you like a nice house salad or a pot of collard greens? It's all good food.
Blackstreet - No Diggity.
Tony! Toni! Tone! - Whatever You Want.

112 - Cupid. Their self-titled debut album was one of the most underrated of the decade.
BBD - Poison. They did really well in spite of having no real lead vocalist. No, Ricky Bell doesn't count.
Dru Hill - How Deep is Your Love?
Guy - Let's Chill. I'm still not sure they should be on this list. Their first album, released in 1988, was their only real splash into the game.
Jagged Edge - I Gotta Be. Really, how many people got married to this song in the late '90s?
Mint Condition - Breakin' My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes). In some ways, I've always thought of them as The Roots of R&B. It's hard not to love a true band.
Next - Too Close. Seriously. This is THAT song from every college party I ever went to. Wow.
Silk - Freak Me. The remix was better.

II D Extreme - Cry No More.
3T - Anything. Tito's boys did good for a hot minute.
After 7 - Ready or Not.
Another Bad Creation - Iesha. I actually had a crush on a girl in middle school whose name rhymed with Iesha. It goes without saying that I annoyed the hell out of her.
AZ Yet - Last Night.
Color Me Badd - I Wanna Sex You Up. I simply can't find the original video. Sorry.
H-Town - Knockin The Boots. There's no way to describe how proud I was when they made it big. Finally, someone from Houston made it onto "Video Soul."
Hi-Five - I Like the Way (Kissing Game).
Immature - Please Don't Go. Think Marques Houston is a better actor today? No, really?
Intro - Let Me Be the One. For whatever reason, I just can't find "Come Inside," quite possibly one of the smoothest yet raunchiest songs of the '90s. (What a cruelly ironic song title for a group whose lead singer died of AIDS-related complications, no?)
Lo-Key - I Got A Thang For Ya. Back in the day when we were just friends, I played this song in the car for the First Lady to subliminally let her know the deal. Of course, she missed my "lo-key" signal.
Men at Large - So Alone.
Men of Vizion - House Keeper.
Ol' Skool - Am I Dreaming. With a little help from Keith Sweat and Xscape, anyone can make it, uh, big.
PM Dawn - I'd Die Without You.
Portrait - Honey Dip.
Rude Boys - Written All Over Your Face.
Shai - If I Ever Fall in Love Again. Has there ever been another a cappella top 10 hit?
Soul IV Real - Candy Rain. This song still holds up today. For real.
Subway - This Little Game We Play. Damn. What happened to 702?
The Boys - Crazy.
Troop - Spread My Wings. Actually made the Gumby look cool. These were my dudes in middle school.

So, did I leave anyone out?

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go digging for a silk shirt, a pair of overalls, my Nefertiti medallion and some Air Jordans. I need to feel fresh.


Jack T. said...

This list is like the soundtrack to my middle school dance experience. Boys II Men & Jodeci were crucial. The first time I ever slow danced with a girl was to "Forever My Lady."

The first time I kissed a girl was to "The First Time" by Surface. Feel free to make jokes at my expense, some of my peoples still won't let me live it down.

It took me 2 months to get a copy of Lo-Key's "I Got A Thang For Ya!" It has taken me 18 months to be able to admit it. One step at a time, player. One step at a time.

No love for Shai's "Comforter" eh?
What about "Baby I'm Yours"?

Can I make an argument for Tony! Toni! Tone! as the most underrated R&B group of their time? People still don't get how good they were, and the fact that Raphael still has a career, both recording and producing, says an awful lot. He's done more in the last year than most of this list combined. One of the few R&B bands to make it big.

P.S. "Breakin' My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)" still gets the ladies all sweet like, as does the Boys II Men cover of New Edition's "Can You Stand the Rain." Perhaps you should give some clueless brothas a push and compose an "Ultimate Mix Tape/CD" with this list.

blackink said...

Jack, feel no shame about trying to track down "I Got a Thang for Ya!" That's a classic, brother. Even the video makes me smile to this day.

As for Shai, I mostly went with "If I Ever Fall in Love Again" because it's so unique to see an a cappella song make it so big. I can't imagine that's happened too often in the days since, right?

But we're on the same page about Tony! Toni! Tone! They're still one of my favorite groups. It'd be nice if those brothers could get back together.

As for the mixtape idea, Jack, you might be on to something. Sounds like I need to go through the collection. I might even enlist the First Lady for this task.

Anonymous said...

PM Dawn and Shai!!! I love it! Those were my SONGS. I liked that song "Hard To Get" by hi-five, too. To me, it's better than 'Kissing Game."

blackink said...

@Cami: Yeah, the "Kissing Game" wasn't their best song, by a long shot. My favorite Hi-Five song was "I Can't Wait Another Minute."

And you should know that PM Dawn recently made a swing through Pasco County. Recent, meaning about a year or two ago. Who knows when they'll be that close again?