The ‘90s may be the last decade when R&B, not hip-hop, was the dominant force in black music. Innovation abounded, with New Jack Swing giving way to neo-soul as well as further experiments with studio technology’s fast-moving innovations. R&B crossover was a matter of course on the pop charts; there, ballads like Whitney Houston’s blockbuster “I Will Always Love You” and the stirring Boyz II Men-Mariah Carey team-up “One Sweet Day” had months-long reigns at No. 1, while upbeat tracks like Blackstreet’s swaggering “No Diggity” and Janet Jackson’s peppy “Together Again” also reached the summit.
6. Janet Jackson, “That’s the Way Love Goes” (1993)
The lead single from 1993’s janet. sampled James Brown and “Impeach the President”, but its funk was of a more laid-back variety; with her longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Janet Jackson created a stretched-out tableau of flinty guitars and laconic rhythms, over which she matter-of-factly murmured double-entendre come-ons. It existed in a place far from the rhythm nation she’d commandeered on her previous album, but it was no less exciting. – Maura Johnston