1993: The Year Women in R&B Ran the Music Industry
There's no doubt that many music fans look back at the '90s as pivotal time for R&B.
It's the decade that introduced us to an array of groups and soloists that would provide the soundtrack for the times, and convey the emotions of multiple generations. But when looking at each year individually, one year that sticks out as one of the most memorable is 1993.
Why? Because 1993 is one of the definitive years in which women put the genre on their back and dominated not only R&B, but the music industry as a whole.
While women have always been at the forefront of R&B, dating back to the earliest incarnations of the genre, 1993 would prove to be a game-changer and help shape the direction of pop, R&B, and hip-hop for the next decade and beyond.
In contrast to 1992, when no album from a female R&B act made the Top 15 of Billboard 200 Albums Year-End List, three would achieve that feat in 1993, with two falling in the Top 5 (Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson).
And in terms of pure album sales, the ladies would also lead the charge, with Mariah Carey's Music Box (3.3 million) landing at the fifth slot. Janet Jackson's janet. (4.3 million) and Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard (5.5 million) also ended 1993 as the two best-selling albums in the U.S.
In comparison, the best-selling R&B album from a male act in 1993 would be Silk's Lose Control (1.5 million), coming in at the No. 33 slot, ahead of releases like Shai's If I Ever Fall In Love (1.4 million) and Michael Jackson's Dangerous (1.3 million). With those numbers, it's clear which gender was running the show for the '93.
Album sales may be the biggest indicator of success in the music industry, but hit singles are also valuable and a great way to measure a song's popularity and reach. In that regard, 1993 was a monstrous year, with a countless amount of classics vying for chart-position and radio airplay, including tracks from Silk ("Freak Me") and H-Town ("Knockin' da Boots")—the only songs from male R&B acts to end the year as one of the Top 25 singles on Billboard's Year-End Hot 100 chart.
However, women dominated the year-end list with veteran performers and newcomers like SWV ("Weak" and "I'm So Into You") and Jade ("Don't Walk Away") scoring some of the most popular jams of the year, infusing a bit of hip-hop soul into the mix.
Speaking of newcomers, 1993 was a year in which new talent flourished and made their presence known, most notably Toni Braxton, who made a strong case for being the new hottest diva in town with her eponymous debut album, which sold over ten million copies and produced multiple hits that helped her earn the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1994.
In addition to the sultry soloist, other acts that made an impact in 1993 were R&B groups Xscape and Zhane, both of which hit the scene with platinum-certified debuts and helped close out the year on a big note.
The year 1993 would also include a cast of hold-overs that had flourished in 1992 and managed to carry their momentum into the following year, including En Vogue, TLC, Sade and Mary J. Blige, who would go as far as rolling out What's the 411? Remix, an album of remixes of songs from her multi-platinum debut.
With highlights that included Mariah Carey's hostile takeover of the charts, Janet Jackson's record-breaking first sales week and record deal, and Whitney Houston's historic run, as well as the numerous classic albums, songs and music videos, 1993 was a year for the ages and one that put the female R&B artists in a state of triumph and empowerment.
The Boombox took a close look at the entire calendar year of 1993 and ranked the 12 most successful female R&B acts from that year.
Making their grand entrance with their multi-platinum 1990 debut Born to Sing, En Vogue returned in 1992 with Funky Divas, their highly-anticipated follow-up and their last album as a full unit. While the album attained much of its success in 1992, Funky Divas managed to carry over into the new year off the strength of "Give It Up, Turn It Loose," the fourth single released from the album. It peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned the group a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Performance Duo or Group with Vocal in 1994.
TLC made a big splash in 1992 with their debut album Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip, which produced a trio of Top-10 singles, including the uptempo New Jack Swing banger ""What About Your Friends." Produced by Dallas Austin, "What About Your Friends" peaked at No. 7 on the Hot 100, and its success trickled over into the new year, where it finished 1993 as the No. 62 song on Billboard's Hot 100 year-end chart.
Originally released as a single from the Flavor Unit compilation album, Roll Wit Tha Flava, "Hey Mr. D.J.," the debut single from R&B duo Zhane, would become one of the biggest hits of 1993, peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The popularity of the single earned the group a contract from Motown Records, where they would release their debut album, Pronounced Jah-Nay, in 1994. The album was eventually certified platinum.
So So Def Records made its first foray into R&B when Jermaine Dupri introduced Xscape to the public in 1993. The group's debut single, "Just Kickin' It," peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent four weeks atop the Hot R&B Singles chart, making Xscape one of the breakout R&B groups of the year.
Mary J. Blige extended her reign as R&B's hottest new female on the scene into 1993 with "Love No Limit," the fourth and final single from her debut album, What's the 411? Co-written by the late Kenny Greene (of Intro) and Dave "Jam" Hall, and produced by Hall, "Love No Limit" would peak at No. 5 on the Hot R&B Singles chart and add to MJB's early collection of hits.
In 1993, Jade, a trio of vocally talented beauties from Chicago, were riding high off the success of their smash hit "Don't Walk Away," the second single from their 1992 debut, Jade to the Max. An addictive ditty with a backdrop that married hip-hop with New Jack Swing, "Don't Walk Away" peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and pushed Jade to the Max to platinum status by year's end.
Having established herself as one of the premier voices in R&B during the '80s, Sade returned in 1992 with Love Deluxe, her first album since releasing Stronger Than Pride four years prior, in 1988. Peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, Love Deluxe didn't produce any crossover hits, but it kept Sade in constant rotation off the strength of songs like "Kiss of Life," which would peak in the Top 10 of the R&B charts, and remains one of her defining songs.
R&B trio SWV put on for New York City in grand fashion with their 1992 debut, It's About Time, which established Coko, Taj and LeLee as overnight superstars and hitmakers. "Weak," the third single released from It's About Time, would be the group's biggest hit, peaking at No 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for two weeks. It was also one of the more beloved R&B hits of the year.
Getting her big break via a pair of appearances on the soundtrack to the 1992 romantic comedy Boomerang, including the Top-5 R&B hit, "Love Shoulda Brought You Home," Toni Braxton would unveil her wildly anticipated self-titled debut in July 1993. "Another Sad Love Song," the first single released from the album, gave Braxton her first Billboard Hot 100 top ten hit, and set the stage for her dominant run as one of the most successful artists of the decade.
Released on August 31, 1993, Music Box, Mariah Carey's third studio album, was one of the most seismic drops of the year, and marked the beginning of the crossover superstar's foray into a more R&B-oriented sound, in addition to more pop-friendly fare. One example is "Dreamlover," the lead single from Music Box, which is powered by a sample of "Blind Alley" by The Emotions. The song spent six weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, making it her biggest hit to date.
In 1993, Janet Jackson unleashed janet., her fifth solo studio album and first with Virgin Records after signing a record-breaking contract. Released May 18, 1993, janet. housed the lead-single "That's the Way Love Goes," which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for eight consecutive weeks, and remains her biggest solo hit to date.
Whitney Houston made the leap into the world of Hollywood when she starred in the 1992 romantic drama, The Bodyguard alongside Kevin Costner. She was also tapped to record the bulk of the film's hit soundtrack. Houston rose to the occasion and exceed expectations, delivering a monstrous outing with hits including "I Will Always Love You," which set a record by spending 14 consecutive weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, helping make The Bodyguard soundtrack the top-selling album of 1993.