70. The Boys “Crazy” (1990)

Writers: The Boys | Producers: The Boys | #1 R&B (1 week)

With their second album, the mostly pre-teen Motown boy band The Boys got the opportunity to write and produce. The result is a remarkably durable album, titled The Boys, that showed their deep love of 70s funk and 60s Motown soul. It’s derivative, but good enough that you couldn’t deny that the Abdulsamad brothers had genuine talent.

And the one flat-out brilliant song on it is also one their biggest hit, “Crazy.” It’s got everything: a can’t-get-it-outta-your-head hook, a great melody, beautiful backgrounds, and great lead performances (particularly Tahj, who had easily the largest and most pure voice in the group). It’s probably the best boy band song of the 90s. And it was ably supported by a great video, memorable for Hakim’s outsized charisma and poor youngest brother Bilal dressed up as Janet Jackson in “Rhythm Nation,” George Michael in “Faith,” and Madonna in “Vogue.”  (Tyler)

69. New Edition “I’m Still in Love with You” (1996)

Writers: Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis | Producers: Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis | #7 R&B

When New Edition reunited in 1996, I was ecstatic. They had teased us in years prior with the remix to BBD’s “Word To The Mutha” which featured the entire group. They’d performed together at the MTV Music Awards together around the same time. The result of their reunion was Home Again a quality album that showed growth and also fit perfectly in the time frame. The first single was the more BBD-styled “Hit Me Off”, but the second single was the beautiful ballad “I’m Still In Love With You”. Outside of “Can You Stand The Rain”, it’s my favorite adult New Edition ballad.
Ralph T. and the underrated Ricky Bell are lead on vocals. (I really don’t know what DeVoe and Biv did for this song.) The entire time they sing, I’m thinking that they may think they’re still the man for their girl, but they’re going to lose. Why? Because there’s pain in their voices. It’s almost as if they know it’s a lost cause, and that’s why it hurts so badly. And it really don’t matter. “It don’t matter!” (GG)

68. Prince “Thieves in the Temple” (1990)

Writer: Prince | Producer: Prince | #1 R&B (1 week)

The funny thing about Prince’s body of work is that until recently, even the bad albums had diamonds in the rough. For example, 1990 yielded an awful Prince film (Graffiti Bridge) with a fairly bloated soundtrack. And yet, there were absolutely a few gems among the mess. One of the best was certainly “Thieves in the Temple,” a dark, funky pop number released in advance of both the album and the film (talk about leading people on!). At root the tale is a simple one: boy’s girl is taken from him by another boy. But of course, this heartbreak cliche is told much more artfully by Prince, with his penchant for metaphor and imagery (thieves, temples) and clever one liners fired off at his love interest (“Me and u could have been a work of art”). Musically, it’s also one of the more interesting moments from Graffiti Bridge. The sparse and delicate intro quickly gets sideswiped by a heavy electronic beat and a searing harmonica sample (courtesy The Chambers Brothers’ “I Can’t Stand It”), not to mention Prince’s increasingly intense vocal track, which ultimately erupts into a scream of desperation. There are other great moments on Graffiti Bridge, (“The Question of U,” “Joy in Repetition”), but none of the album’s dance tracks come close to “Thieves in the Temple.” (Dr. Gonzo)

67. Tevin Campbell “Tell Me What You Want Me To Do” (1991)

Writers: Narada Michael Walden, Sally Jo Dakota, Tevin Campbell | Producer: Narada Michael Walden | #1 R&B (1 week)

If any 15 year old was gonna sing a love song this adult, it was going to be Tevin Campbell. The kid was blessed with grown man pipes before he even hit puberty. For “Tell Me What You Want Me To Do,” it was very obvious he was vocally still caught between boy and man. He starts the song’s first verse in dusky loverman mode, but by the end of the bridge, he’s hit a high note that will make the hairs on your arm stand on end. The fact that the production was typical early ’90s R&B/pap means nothing when you’re confronted with a tour de force singing performance like Tevin’s. The man has taken a break for the past decade or so, but if he were to come back, he’d probably still be able to sing rings around today’s R&B men. (Big Money)

66. Luther Vandross “Power of Love/Love Power” (1991)

Writers: Luther Vandross, Marcus Miller & Teddy Vann | Producers: Luther Vandross & Marcus Miller | #1 R&B (2 weeks)

Luther Vandross, R.I.P, was considered by many the greatest male vocalist of his time.  With no disrespect to the likes of Peabo Bryson and Freddie Jackson, Luther was the voice of his time.  Power of Love showcased this.  Coming from his 7th studio album, Power of Love, Power Of Love-Love Power finds Luther at his best belting out powerful lyrics the only way he knows how.  While many artists would have been put out to pasture long before a 7th album, Luther never lost a stride with this self-penned ballad (along with Marcus Miller behind the boards).  And to say thank you for another great song in music history, Luther was given a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance in 1992.  Luther’s voice will Always and Forever live on. (Peter)

65. Boyz II Men “On Bended Knee” (1994)

Writers: Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis | Producers: Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis | #2 R&B

How big were Boyz II Men in 1994? The fellas set a record for most weeks at #1 with “I’ll Make Love To You,” which reigned over the pop charts for 14 weeks. The song that replaced it? “On Bended Knee.” With a flourish, the Philly foursome achieved a feat that had only been achieved previously by The Beatles and Michael Jackson. They did it with a typically stately Jam/Lewis ballad. Applying their silken pipes, they begged for forgiveness. And begged. And begged. And then Wanya’s crying ass comes in and shit, how could you not forgive these dudes for whatever they did? The video, starring a quartet of the hottest sistas in the biz (including Kim “Tootie” Fields) was the icing on the R&B cake. (Big Money)

64. TLC “Baby-Baby-Baby” (1992)

Writers: L.A. Reid, Babyface & Daryl Simmons | Producers: L.A. Reid, Babyface & Daryl Simmons | #1 R&B

The ladies of TLC expertly proved their versatility with their second single. “Baby-Baby-Baby” turned the volume down, removed the kookiness (mostly courtesy of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes) and still turned out a winner. Featuring the LaFace crew at the height of their writing/producing powers, “Baby” features vocals that alternate between streetwise and edgy (courtesy of Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins) and girlish and cute (courtesy of Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas.) It’s a love song, but not a whipped girl song-Chilli warns her man “I can have any man I want to.” Still, it’s the one guy she wants to give her love to. Call it a feminist love song for the ’90s. (Big Money)

63. Dru Hill (featuring Redman) “How Deep is Your Love” (1998)

Writers: R. Cousins, W. Campbell, Nokio, Sisqo, Redman | Producers: Nokio & Dutch | #1 R&B (3 weeks)

Ok… sure… Sisqo was (is?) mad ridiculous and corny as hell, but I’ll rep for the first three Dru Hill albums all day long. “How Deep Is Your Love” – a bangin’ stop/start beat, with hot sing-song vox by Sisqo, Chico, Zeppo and Shemp about broads (I think) – is a musical masterclass in frustration and desire.

SideNote: Where in good heavens have all the singing/dancing RnB vocal groups gone, anyway? (Carlos Halston)

62. TLC “Red Light Special” (1994)

Writer: Babyface | Producer: Babyface | #1 R&B (3 weeks)

Baby-making. Do I need to say more? Oh I do? Look up the lyrics, and listen to the song… Now I don’t have to say anything. Boom pregnant, “If I move to fast, just let me know.” Feel that? It’s goosebumps when you hear that keyboard, and those dulcet voices lulling you into the mood. (Bridget)

61. Silk “Freak Me”(1992)

Writers: Keith Sweat & Roy Murray | Producer: Keith Sweat | #1 R&B (7 weeks)

You wanna do what to me? And where? If you repeat the lyrics to Silk’s biggest hit-speak them, don’t sing them-at best, you’ll get slapped. At worst, you’ll have to register as a sex offender. Sing them, though, and you’ll be swimmin’ in pannies. These Keith Sweat proteges made being slightly nasty sound so good on their 1993 breakout hit, and they even crossed over to top the pop charts, making the Billboard Hot 100 just a little bit safer for the slow jam. (Big Money)

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