Thanks to everyone who showed love to last week’s Best Male R&B Singers of the ’90s post. It brought back lots of memories of good music and started some good convos as well.
And, of course, everyone has been asking about the sequels. So over the next couple of weeks, I’ll look at the best male R&B groups of the 90s and the best female groups too. There’s a decade of hits waiting to be explored.
But today, let’s take a look back at the 10 best solo female performers of ’90s R&B. And before y’all start cluttering my inbox with foolishness, remember the ground rules – this isn’t a list of “best voices of 1993” or “my personal favorite artists” or “who had the best singles.” The list was determined by sales, impact and longevity and strength of solo material from 1990-1999.
So keep those “Where is Beyonce/Alicia Keys/Drake/girl with the mushroom haircut from MoKenStef?” complaints to yourself unless you want me to clown you in the comments. Cool? Cool.
Now, let’s look back at 10 women who changed the game in the ’90s.
Honorable mention: Faith Evans, Deborah Cox
10. Erykah Badu
Albums: Baduizm (1997, 3x platinum); Live (1997, 2x platinum)
No. 1 singles: “On and On” (1996, R&B); “Tyrone” (1997, R&B)
Edd said: During the second half of the decade, Badu strutted onto the scene with a style all her own, one that was quickly embraced by audiences. She soon became the most recognized star of the neo-soul movement.
Albums: Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number (1994, 2x platinum); One In A Million (1996, 2x platinum)
No. 1 singles: “Back & Forth” (1994, R&B); “If Your Girl Only Knew” (1996, R&B); “Are You That Somebody?” (1998, R&B)
Edd said: Aaliyah’s legacy is rooted in her innovation, a foundation she just started to build in the late ’90s. She’d reach greater heights in the following decade before leaving us much too soon.
Albums: Miss Thang (1995, 3x platinum); The Boy is Mine (1998, 3x platinum)
No. 1 singles: “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)” (1995, R&B); “Like This and Like That” (1995, R&B); “The Boy Is Mine” (1998, pop and R&B); “The First Night” (1998 pop and R&B); “Angel of Mine” (1999, pop)
Edd said: Monica’s early success seems to be overlooked these days. Stop sleeping. Her first two albums, both commercial and critical triumphs, were fueled by vocals that had the poise and maturity of an industry veteran.
Albums: Brandy (1994, 4x platinum); Never Say Never (1998, 5x platinum)
No. 1 singles: “I Wanna Be Down” (1994, R&B); “Baby” (1995, R&B); “The Boy Is Mine” (1998, pop and R&B); “Have You Ever?” (1998, pop)
Edd said: In the mid-90s, Brandy was more than just an R&B star. She became America’s sweetheart. Don’t overlook her musical contributions, though – the ’90s were the pinnacle of her recording career.
6. Janet Jackson
Albums: janet. (1993, 6x platinum); The Velvet Rope (1997, 3x platinum)
No. 1 singles: “Escapade” (1990, pop and R&B); “Black Cat” (1990, pop); “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” (1990, pop); “That’s The Way Love Goes” (1993, pop and R&B); “Again” (1993, pop); “Together Again” (1997, pop)
Edd said: Janet designed a decade where she finally emerged from her family’s massive shadow to come into her own, becoming an icon for fashion and feminist expression. Janet found most of her success in the pop arena though, knocking her down the list a bit.
5. Lauryn Hill
Albums: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998, 8x platinum)
No. 1 singles: “Doo Wop (That Thing)” (1998, pop)
Edd said: Ms. Lauryn Hill was always a superstar waiting to explode. As the century came to an end, she finally achieved her destiny, producing one of the best albums of the decade. Sadly, her solo career died down as quickly as it began.
4. Whitney Houston
Albums: I’m Your Baby Tonight (1990, 4x platinum); My Love Is Your Love (1998, 4x platinum)
No. 1 singles: “I’m Your Baby Tonight” (1990, pop and R&B); “All The Man I Need” (1990, pop, R&B and Urban A/C); “I Will Always Love You” (1992, pop, R&B and Urban A/C); “I Have Nothing” (1993, Urban A/C); “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” (1995, pop and R&B); “Heartbreak Hotel” (1999, R&B)
Edd said: Whitney was absolutely omnipresent for the first half of the decade, dominating the scene with both solo projects to soundtracks. Her momentum slowed just a tad as the decade wrapped up and hip hop began to fuel R&B sounds. But even that couldn’t stop her from remaining a major player.
3. Mary J. Blige
Albums: What’s The 411? (1992, 3x platinum); My Life (1994, 3x platinum); Share My World (1997, 3x platinum); Mary (1999, 2x platinum)
No. 1 singles: “You Remind Me” (1992, R&B); “Real Love” (1992, R&B); “Not Gon’ Cry” (1996, R&B);
Edd said: The ’90s was the decade of Mary and the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul became the measuring stick for success. MJB was the MVP of R&B, arguably the most consistent artist in the game.
2. Toni Braxton
Albums: Toni Braxton (1993, 8x platinum); Secrets (1996, 8x platinum)
No. 1 singles: “You’re Makin’ Me High” (1996, R&B and pop); “Let It Flow” (1996, R&B and pop); “Un-Break My Heart” (1996, pop)
Edd said: Toni only released two albums in 10 years, but those albums were absolutely massive. Toni personified R&B in the ’90s.
1. Mariah Carey
Albums: Mariah Carey (1990, 9x platinum); Emotions (1991, 4x platinum); Music Box (1993, diamond); Merry Christmas (1994, 5x platinum); Daydream (1995, diamond); Butterfly (1997, 5x platinum); Rainbow (1999, 3x platinum)
No. 1 singles: “Vision of Love” (1990, pop and R&B); “Love Takes Time” (pop and R&B); “Someday” (1991, pop) “I Don’t Wanna Cry” (1991, pop); “Emotions” (1991, pop and R&B); “I’ll Be There” (1992, pop); “Dreamlover” (1993, pop); “Hero” (1993, pop); “Fantasy” (1995, pop and R&B); “One Sweet Day” (1995, pop); “Always Be My Baby” (1996, pop and R&B); “Honey” (1997, pop) “My All” (1997, pop) “Heartbreaker” (1999, R&B and pop)
Edd said: Just look at that list of hits. They tell the story better than I can. Mariah WAS ’90s R&B, there’s no doubt about it. And for the R&B “purists” in the house who say MC was more pop than R&B, you’re overlooking her six No. 1 R&B records. Her crossover appeal became her biggest strength. Mariah was on fire all decade long.