Contemporary R&B

Anita Baker kicks this dynamic collection off with her 1988 hit “Giving You the Best That I Got,” an apt intro considering that that’s exactly what Grammy Recordings and Shout! Factory are attempting to do with this compilation of contemporary rhythm & blues hits from the late ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s. The majority of the songs (10 of the 16) are from the ’90s, with three from the ’80s and three from the 2000s bookending the collection.

It’s a wild soulful 14-year ride from Anita Baker to Beyonce Knowles (featured here in the duet “Crazy In Love” with Jay-Z) and the transitions are not as evident as listeners might expect. The current musical style of what is classified as R&B is showcased early in the 1989 hit “Back to Life (However Do You Want Me),” though that song is worlds apart from Terence Trent D’Arby’s “Wishing Well,” which is only from a year earlier. And it’s not until 1997’s “No Diggity” that Blackstreet and Dr. Dre bring that hint of rap influence back in as Dre claims to be “giving up eargasms with my mellow accent.”

In the meantime, allstars like Luther Vandross, Ray Charles, Sade, and Toni Braxton make appearances with more traditional and gently rhythmic R&B hits; the kind of beats created for candlelit moments and whatnot. And of course the immensely popular Boys II Men throw their two cents in with that soft core hit from 1994 “I’ll Make Love to You,” making sure the sex aspect is explicitly advertised in the love picture.

Once listeners get to R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly,” they’re set to soar with him in his triple-Grammy winning hit. Brandy & Monica’s hit “The Boy is Mine” still seems slightly absurd, but if it’s got a Grammy with their names on it, then it deserves to be here. TLC’s “No Scrubs” is probably the catchiest song on the album – besides the timeless “No Diggity,” and serves to remind audiences of the quality of TLC. Whitney Houston’s “It’s Not Right But It’s OK” is probably the strongest song on the album, due mainly to Houston’s powerful vocals.

Overall, this is a solid album, though it’s tough to completely understand what deems some songs R&B and not Rap, but that’s why I’m not a Grammy voter.  Any lover of R&B shouldn’t hesitate in considering this album as a solid purchase, though chances are they’ve already got most of the songs here. If you’re missing more than half though, go for it; it’s definitely worth the money.

Zach’s Rating: B+
Perfect For: Hearing the slow transformation of R&B over the last 15 years
Stay Away if: You think the rhythm overtook the blues long ago

To purchase Ultimate Grammy Collection: Contemporary R&B, visit Amazon
For more information and a track lising, visit The Ultimate Grammy Collection’s homepage
For Zach’s review of Ultimate Grammy Collection: Contemporary Pop, visit BloggerNews

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