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R&B's Doo-Wop Revival

by Mosi Reeves

R&B's Doo-Wop Revival

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It was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment: The emergence of doo-wop in modern-day R&B. Actually, it wasn't all that brief. The pioneering Staten Island group Force M.D.'s used doo-wop harmonies on their 1984 hit "Tears," and New Edition nearly made it an official trend with their 1986 album Under the Blue Moon, a collection of doo-wop covers on which they generously invited Little Anthony of The Imperials to guest on "Tears on My Pillow." And when Christian vocal jazz quintet Take 6 landed a surprise hit with their 1988 self-titled debut and "Spread Love," it seemed like numerous groups absorbed their remarkable a cappella melodies, including Troop, who added a Take 6-like "Spread!" to "Spread My Wings." Bobby McFerrin was a vocal jazz artist, too, but his Grammy-winning Simple Pleasures captured the mood as well.

So it was those inspirations that persisted for several years, until around 1991 and the arrival of Jodeci, whose rough harmonies on Forever My Lady were decidedly more hip-hop than the angelic sounds of doo-wop. Those sounds were easy to miss amidst other trends like New Jack, gospel, hip-house and freestyle. But the evidence is there, including After 7's vocal interplay on "Can't Stop," Color Me Badd's "la-la-la-la" bridge near the end of "I Wanna Sex You Up," Boyz II Men's cover of The Five Satins' "In the Still of the Night," and finally, Shai's 1992 a cappella smash "If I Ever Fall in Love," which closed the chapter on this wonderfully underrated period in soul music.

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