R&B Music Groups of the 80s

After experiencing significant change during the 1970s, rhythm and blues underwent another revolution during the 1980s. Artists started exploring various genres to form unique r&b music groups.

Modern contemporary r&b evolved, fusing elements of soul and funk with disco, pop, hip hop and electronic music. Hip hop quickly gained in popularity among younger audiences, compelling some established R&B artists to incorporate rappers in their tracks.

New Edition

New Edition was one of the greatest R&B boy bands of the 1980s and remains influential today. Consisting of Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown and Ronnie DeVoe – as well as non-original member Johnny Gill – they captured teens’ hearts with their 1983 debut Candy Girl and follow-up All for Love albums as pioneers of New Jack Swing genre of hip-hop/R&B music with sweet harmonies, funky beats and seductive choreography.

After the success of their sophomore effort, it was inevitable that they would begin diversifying. Inspired by producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis — who had worked with Janet Jackson on her Control album — the sextet released their 1988 double platinum breakthrough Heart Break album which included hit singles such as “Cool It Now” and “If It Isn’t Love.”

Though New Jack Swing enjoyed much success in its early days, as time progressed it faced increasing difficulties to maintain its momentum into the ’90s due to an evolving music industry and its more organic blends of soul and hip-hop music. But its members persevered through, eventually releasing Home Again which debuted at number one.

New Edition has long forged strong ties with their fans, regularly hosting reunion and revival concerts to bring longtime listeners back together with younger listeners who may not yet know of them. Checking out a New Edition concert should definitely be on your to-do list; whether longtime fans or curious newcomers, don’t miss it!

As New Edition tours around the globe, their popularity and legacy continue to expand. Fans are sure to find plenty of merchandise – from albums and T-shirts to more unique trinkets that will add something extra special to their New Edition collection. You can even take their music with you with digital offerings available!

The Stylistics

After two popular Philadelphia soul groups, The Monarchs and The Percussions, disbanded in 1968, their members joined together to form The Stylistics. Russell Thompkins Jr. and Airrion Love from The Monarchs; James Dunn and Herb Murrell from The Percussions joined together. Sebring Records released their debut single, You’re a Big Girl Now, as a regional hit in 1970 before signing with Avco Records for their self-titled album to become a Top 10 R&B hit in 1971 and after this initial success began to fade in 1974. Their producer, Thom Bell, had left them and they struggled to find new material without his guidance – even partnerships with respected producers like Van McCoy and Hugo & Luigi were ineffective. By 1978, they had switched labels from Avco Records to H&L Records before settling on Mercury in 1979, but still could not reach their previous heights of success. According to Thompkins’ reissue notes of their 1976 album Fabulous, the group began feeling that their music had become outdated with respect to disco music of late 1970s and no longer fit with current trends in disco music.

Even during their tough times, The Stylistics kept touring and recording new music. In 2000, Thompkins Jr. and Murrell parted ways with the group and Raymond Johnson was brought in to replace them; shortly thereafter they recruited Jason Sharp from Heatwave as their lead singer.

The Stylistics’ smooth and sweet sound was due primarily to Thompkins’s smooth falsetto. Bell had an outsized influence on their style; many believe he singlehandedly created classic Philly soul music. Such was his influence that even Thompkins later acknowledged Bell for changing how he sang!

The Stylistics’ current lineup features founding members Herb Murrell and Airrion Love as well as Barrington “Bo” Henderson (formerly with The Dramatics and Lakeside). They recently celebrated 50 years together while still touring globally.

Alexander O’Neal

Alexander O’Neal is one of the greatest R&B singers ever. With 35 years of experience and still going strong, O’Neal recently performed at BHCP Live: Concert for Community in Los Angeles with Cherrelle as part of their collaborative act showcasing classic tracks like “Criticize” and “Fake”. O’Neal boasts a deep voice which filled up the space throughout his performance while appearing joyful and delighted when taking his final bows at BHCP Live!

Born in Natchez, Mississippi and originally part of Minneapolis band The Time during the 80s, O’Neal found fame as a solo artist thanks to producer Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. His voice has the same powerful tone as Otis Redding himself and can switch between dancefloor burners and romantic ballads without losing impact or energy.

“Hearsay”, his second R&B hit from 1987, became a number two hit and is still touring today. Additionally, in 2017 he collaborated with Manchester-based funk band Mamma Freedom to rerecord Hearsay30; an album released as an update of Hearsay from 1987.

O’Neal has not only released original material, but has also collaborated on recordings with other artists including Cherrelle and Jesse Johnson. Furthermore, O’Neal released several deluxe albums of his greatest hits including This Thing Called Love which reached number five on the U.S. charts in 1996.

At BHCP Live, O’Neal demonstrated that he remains at the peak of his powers and has plenty of energy left to sustain a lengthy career. The crowd was enthusiastic in response to him onstage. Between songs, he would laugh and joke with them while inviting one young child onto stage to perform with him! All told, it was an impressive show featuring an outstanding lineup.

Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson became one of the most acclaimed artists of the 1980s due to her sensual records, elaborate stage shows, and acting career. She maintained a steady presence on R&B charts for much of the latter half of this decade; although she never reached cross-over pop success like Luther Vandross had achieved, she nevertheless was an effective chart-topper.

As well as her musical endeavors, she also appeared in several television shows. She made notable roles such as Penny Gordon Woods in Good Times and as a recurring character on Diffrent Strokes from seasons three to six; additionally she played Cleo Hewitt in Fame musical series.

Her debut album, Control, was an enormous success and propelled her into stardom. Following this with Rhythm Nation 1814 (a top-ten seller and receiving numerous positive reviews), two singles “That’s the Way Love Goes” and “Again” both peaked at number one on Billboard Hot 100 while “If,” “Any Time, Any Place,” and “Because of Love” reached top ten status.

The Velvet Rope was released by Jackson in 1997 and represented her shift away from sensuality toward social consciousness. Although commercial and critical success, some critics took issue with its lack of originality and use of trend-following sounds; one contentious moment included an appearance by spoken-word track championing coffee enemas as beneficial.

Following the success of The Velvet Rope, Jackson released her eighth studio album Damita Jo in 2004. This album combined smooth ’70s soul music and more experimental R&B sounds from the ’80s into an album that quickly reached top five sales charts and garnered critical acclaim, particularly its innovative songs as well as Jackson’s impressive vocal harmonies. Critics lauded its innovation.