The 1990s was my all-time favorite period for music. And it was a great period for R&B. The best-selling female R&B group of all time, TLC, were at the height of their career in the ’90s, and the longest-running #1 Billboard hit was a R&B song released during the same period. ’90s R&B continues to be one of my favorite types of music.
This is my personal list of the top 10 best R&B singers and group of the ’90s. The list is based on vocals (range, rhythm, etc) as well as style and quality of music. As always, feel free to make any suggestions.
1. Brandy Norwood is an American singer, actress, and songwriter. She is best known as Moesha from the TV show of the same name, and for her hits “The Boy is Mine” and “Have You Ever?”
Brandy has one of the most unique voices and a wide range — she is irreplaceable. She isn’t a soprano like others, but she doesn’t need to be — her raspy voice has just as much power and feeling.
2. Mariah Carey is an American singer best known for her wide vocal range and series of hit singles, including “Hero” and “One Sweet Day”, a duet with Boyz II Men and the longest-running #1 single in American history.
Mariah’s “My All” is of my favorite songs ever and a classic, like so many of her ’90s ballads. Mariah was at her peak in the ’90s but hasn’t been the same since.
3. Boyz II Men is an American male group and best-selling R&B group ever. Their hits include “End of the Road”, “Four Seasons of Loneliness”, and “One Sweet Day” with Mariah Carey.
There will never be another Boyz II Men. The amazing combination of their voices, lyrics, and production contributed to making nearly every one of their songs historic. Favorite Boyz II Men song? All of them.
4. Whitney Houston is an American singer and actress and one of the best music artists of all time, based on sales and awards. She covered Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”.
Whitney has the classic “singer’s voice”; her songs will be listened to for generations. If you haven’t heard of her, you haven’t been alive for the past few decades.
5. Babyface, real name Kenneth Edmonds, is an American R&B entrepeneur: prolific singer, songwriter, and producer. In addition to his own hits (including “When Can I See You” and “Every Time I Close My Eyes”), he wrote “End of the Road” for Boyz II Men and “Let It Flow” for Toni Braxton.
It is not an overstatement to say that ’90s R&B would not have been without Babyface.
6. Mary J. Blige is an American singer and songwriter. Best known singles of the ’90s include “Real Love” and a cover of “I’m Going Down”.
You know Mary’s voice when you hear it — her voice defines passion and feeling. And who will forget her signature blonde hair?
7. En Vogue is an American female R&B group known for their strong voices and personal style. Their hits include “Hold On” and “My Lovin’ “. En Vogue embodies the spirit of early ’90s R&B, both in music and style. Rarely has there been a group where every member has a voice so powerful.
8. Toni Braxton is an American singer best known for her deep voice and hit single “Un-Break My Heart”.
Toni’s contralto adds a signature note to every song. Some of her songs are upbeat, others are mellow and sad, but all of her songs are enduring.
9. Monica Arnold is an American singer and songwriter. She is best known for the duet “The Boy is Mine” with Brandy and singles “Angel of Mine” and “Don’t Take It Personal”.
Monica’s voice carries any song, no matter the production.
10. TLC — T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chili, is an American girl group best known for singles like “Waterfalls” and the woman’s anthem “No Scrubs”.
Chili’s voice is original and magnetic, but more than their range, TLC knew how to combine social issues with great production and the eclectic mix of their personalities, style, and voices.
Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order by first name): 112, Aaliyah, After 7, Blackstreet, Destiny’s Child, Dru Hill, Faith Evans, Jon B., Janet Jackson, Jodeci, Keith Sweat, K-Ci & JoJo, Lauryn Hill, Maxwell, Montell Jordan, SWV, Tatyana Ali, Tevin Campbell, Tony! Toni! Toné!, Usher, Xscape, Zhané