Male R&B Groups – The Thrill is Gone

By Melva N. Lloyd

Have you ever taken the time to glance over the artists that make up your music collection?  If you’re anything like me, you have well over six thousand songs in your iTUNES library ranging anywhere from Usher to Nickleback – a song for just about every mood you may be experiencing, and enough tracks to play for up to 18 days straight. 

While my musical taste buds are just about satisfied I can’t help but wonder what’s noticeably absent from my buffet of tunes.  Teeny-bopper boy bands?  Check.  Hair-raising songstresses?  Double check.  One-hit wonders, masters of autotune, neo-soul crooners, pop heart-throbs?  Absolutely.  But if it’s one thing that I feel deprived of it’s the presence of the male rhythm and blues group on rotation throughout my iPOD. 

What happened to the Motown era when Berry Gordy produced raw talent in the form of harmonizing, smooth-moving, clean-cut men who’s only goal was to sing; or let me rephrase that, SANG.  Motown reigned supreme well into the 90s when it came to groups of guys who could sing their hearts out.  The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Four Tops, The Commodores, Boyz II Men (just to name a few) laid the groundwork for groups like Jagged Edge and 112. 

However somewhere down the line the veteran groups of the 60s, 70s and 80s began to fall apart.  Michael Jackson left his brothers behind for a more successful solo career, Lionel Ritchie danced on the ceiling without The Commodores and the The Temptations went through more lead changes than a Broadway play.

Boyz II Men picked up the slack in the 90s but when baritone Michael McCary started missing shows on account of his scoliosis their spotlight started to dim.  Jagged Edge came across prosperity with hits like “Let’s Get Married” and 112 proved that R&B could survive during a time when The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z ruled the airwaves. 

The new millennium gave us imitators who tried and often failed to ressurect the male R&B group.  Do Ideal, Imajin, ATL, or Profyle ring a bell?  JE attempted to make a comback but it was evident that they hadn’t grown with the music; and 112, well they were signed to Bad Boy and I don’t think I need to explain any further – that probably explains Day26’s short-lived career.

Groups within the music industry have a bad track record for bailing on each other when times get tough.  Egos get in the way, money ruins friendships and there always seems to be that one member who shines brighter than the rest.  In a time where foolishness is clouding the younger generation’s musical judgement I yearn for the smooth sounds of a meaningful song set to a relaxing melody.  Maxwell is great but there’s something about a group of men that collectively tell a story through song.  Come back real music, we need you.

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3 Comments

  1. so true. where are they? great post.

  2. I think the oversaturation of boy bands in the late 1990s gave the classic look and sound of soul groups a bad name. It is too bad, its a great format for music.

  3. You hit the nail on the head with this one! I’ve been trying to figure out what in the world happened to the wonderful world of male R&B groups. It is truly a sad thing….


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