In the 1990s, R&B reigned king over all other popular music genres. The decade saw the rise and takeover of some of the most infamous names in divahood, as well as the beginning of the next generation of boy bands. 90s R&B championed the slick stylings of many singers, highlighting difficult vocal runs, passionate songs of heartbreak, and intricate vocal harmonies. The genre also made great strides in production, utilizing the latest in technology to revitalize electronic instruments in the studio. Unlike the electronic instrumentation of the preceding decade, there was a focus on creating more realistic sounding digital instrument replication, while still incorporating acoustic elements.
Successful pop music in the 90s definitely had a heavy focus on African American women, with most number one singles being performed by black females in the R&B genre. Monica, Brandy and Toni Braxton all saw Billboard #1 hits in the decade, but certain other artists dominated the charts beyond their successes.
Whitney Houston and vocal trio TLC both ended the 90s with four #1 singles under their belts, including Houston’s legendary "I Will Always Love You" from the Bodyguard soundtrack. "I Will Always Love You" spent a whopping 14 weeks in the #1 position, and lives on in infamy today with a key change that will continue to fluster karaoke singers for decades to come. TLC’s #1 hits "Waterfalls" (1994) and "No Scrubs" (1999) taught young female music fans valuable life lessons while they learned to shake their teenage rumps provocatively.
Topping both Whitney Houston and TLC on the Billboard charts was Janet Jackson, who had six singles reach the #1 spot in those ten years. Jackson’s career thrived throughout the 90s, even over her brother’s. The #1 hit "That’s the Way Love Goes" off of 1993’s janet., was a smooth, contemporary pop song fit for many high school slow dances.
Despite the successes of other pop artists in the 90s, the leader of the pack was Mariah Carey — by a landslide. Her chart-destroying album Music Box was in every teenage girl’s cassette player in 1993. Music Box featured Mariah Carey’s unforgettable hit "Hero," the iconic power ballad that is virtually synonymous with her career’s success, even though it was her seventh #1 single of the 90s.
Carey also contributed to the year’s biggest song, a duet called "One Sweet Day" with R&B boy band Boys II Men. "One Sweet Day" was certainly a monster on the Billboard charts, but Boys II Men also saw incredible success without the help of Carey’s vocal acrobatics. The group’s 5-part harmonies charmed the hearts of every young girl in the decade, and they racked up five #1 singles to prove it. Boys II Men’s sophomore album II skyrocketed to #1 and was no doubt the soundtrack to thousands of lost virginities, featuring the sensitive and romantic single "I’ll Make Love to You."