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Will Jones: I miss '90s R&B

Whitney Houston sings the National Anthem before a game with the New York Giants taking on the Buffalo Bills prior to Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium on January 27, 1991.
Whitney Houston sings the National Anthem before a game with the New York Giants taking on the Buffalo Bills prior to Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium on January 27, 1991. (George Rose / Stringer)

For many, rhythm and blues music is tied to so many memories -- from weddings, anniversaries to heartbreak.

Just put on a Marvin Gaye or Luther Vandross record at a party and people, especially in my parents' generation, often sink into a musical trance, reminiscing about their past hijinks and dalliances. Those smiles and twinkles in their eyes sometimes reveal much more than the younger folks want to know. 

I've witnessed older people who normally have trouble moving around become agile enough to sway to the beat of their favorite R&B tune. That's what good music does to you. It moves you.

As a music aficionado who grew up in R&B's heyday, the '90s, the current state of the genre saddens me. 

In the '90s Mary J. Blige was "searching for that real love," TLC was warning everybody "don't go chasing waterfalls," Keith Sweat was "twisted" and Tevin Campbell was "ready" for love.

The music was special, meaningful and most of all timeless.

I don't feel that connection to today's R&B. That's why I'm stuck in the '90s. 

Frankie Darcell's smooth voice can be heard in the afternoons on Mix 92.3 FM in Detroit. The radio station plays R&B and old school jams. 

Darcell says consumers had more options back in the '90s and the music was good.

"I would say the '80s and '90s were probably some of the best years for me musically," she said.

The popular radio personality has been on the airwaves for more than 25 years. She knows talent.

Darcell says R&B doesn't have a new generation of signature artists, the next Beyoncé or Usher.

She says most artists out now won't be around for much longer.

"In the '90s I think there was longevity. There are so many new artists today. You hear artists today and you never hear from them again," Darcell said.

For unsigned R&B artists looking for their big break, it can be a challenge to be heard in the industry. 

Byron Jamez, a R&B singer from Detroit, aspires to be signed to a major record label.

"If not, I'll create my own lane as I have been doing," said the 35-year-old, who released an EP last year titled, "Time Machine."

Jamez says the genre needs to go back to the basics. 

"We don't really have a lot of people that are really singing. It seems like there is a lot of synthetic music that they have going on right now. It's not nothing really with a lot of feeling, with a lot of soul or really to touch people," said Jamez, referencing the music of R. Kelly and Jodeci in the '90s as examples.

Jamez is confident R&B will return to its eminence by creating music again that will become part of the soundtrack of our lives.

If it does, please come find me. I will put my '90s R&B playlist on pause and take a listen. 

My Top 10 '90s R&B picks

  • Montell Jordan "This Is How We Do It"
  • Mary J. Blige "Real Love"
  • SWV "Right Here (Human Nature Radio Mix)"
  • Soul for Real "Candy Rain"
  • Monica "Why I Love You So Much"
  • Anita Baker "Body and Soul"
  • Tevin Campbell "Can We Talk"
  • Next "Too Close"
  • Jodeci "Come and Talk To Me"
  • Whitney Houston "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)"

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