New jack swing or swingbeat is a fusion genre spearheaded by Teddy Riley and Bernard Belle that became popular from the mid-1980s into the early-1990s. One can describe it as a modern-day upheaval of swing music, sophisticated bubblegum pop as characterized by quirky or ruddy samples/sound effects, a hip hop vibe in a church scenery or a minimal precursor or second-cousin to 90s dance and house music, the latter partly based on fashion. The genre's run-time spanned from 1986 ("Nasty" by Janet Jackson) to 1995 ("Scream" by Michael and Janet Jackson). Its influence, along with hip hop, seeped into pop culture and was the definitive sound of the inventive black New York club scene. It fuses the rhythms, samples, and production techniques of hip hop and dance-pop with the urban contemporary sound of R&B. The new jack swing style developed as many previous music styles did, by combining elements of older styles with newer sensibilities. It used R&B style vocals sung over hip hop and dance-pop style influenced instrumentation. The sound of new jack swing comes from the hip hop "swing" beats created by drum machine, and hardware samplers, which were popular during the Golden Age of Hip Hop, with contemporary R&B style singing.
Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines new jack swing as "pop music usually performed by black musicians that combines elements of traditional jazz, electronica, smooth jazz, funk, rap, and rhythm and blues".Encyclopædia Britannica calls it the "most pop-oriented rhythm-and-blues music since 1960s Motown", since its "performers were unabashed entertainers, free of artistic pretensions; its songwriters and producers were commercial professionals." New jack swing did not take up the trend of using sampled beats, and instead created beats using the then-new SP-1200 sampler and the Roland TR-808 drum machine to lay an "insistent beat under light melody lines and clearly enunciated vocals." The Roland TR-808 was sampled to create distinctive, syncopated, swung rhythms, with its snare sound being especially prominent. The key producers were Babyface & L.A. Reid, Bernard Belle, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Teddy Riley.
A collaboration between former members of Minneapolis music group The Time, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Janet Jackson originated the style that came to be known as new jack swing with Jackson's third studio album, Control (1986). Jam and Lewis used similar influences with hip-hop influenced drums with smoother R&B stylings in the production. Though Jackson had previously been popular in R&B music, Control established her crossover appeal in the popular music market. Musicologist Richard J. Ripani PhD, author of The New Blue Music: Changes in Rhythm & Blues, 1950-1999 (2006), observed that the album was one of the first successful records to influence the rise of new jack swing by creating a fusion of R&B, rap, funk, disco and synthesized percussion. The new jack swing sound is particularly evident in the second single, "Nasty". The success of Control, according to Ripani, bridged the gap between R&B and rap music. He asserts that "since Jackson's album was released in 1986 and was hugely successful, it is not unreasonable to assume that it had at least some impact on the new jack swing creations of Teddy Riley."Mantronix's early records in the mid-1980s also had new jack elements.
The term "new jack swing" was coined in an October 18, 1987, Village Voice profile of Teddy Riley by Barry Michael Cooper. "New Jack" was a slang term (meaning ~'Johnny-come-lately') used in a song by Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers, and "swing" was intended by Cooper to draw an "analogy between the music played at the speakeasies of F. Scott Fitzgerald's time to the crackhouses of Teddy Riley's time."Teddy Riley's original name for the music was 'sophisticated bubblegum music.'
The term "new jack swing" describes the sound produced and engineered by R&B/hip hop artist and producer Teddy Riley. Riley is an American R&B and hip hop singer-songwriter, musician and record producer. He led the band Guy in the late 1980s and Blackstreet in the 1990s. Riley said, "I define the term [new jack swing] as a new kid on the block who's swinging it." The defining feature of Riley's music was the introduction of swingbeats, "a rhythmic pattern using offbeat accented 16th note triplets." In an interview with Revolt TV in 2017, Andre Harrell called Riley the inventor of the sound, hailing him "the king of New Jack Swing, because he invented it."
Music website VH1.com notes that while in the 2000s "hip-hop and R&B are kissing cousins," in the early 1980s, "the two genres were seldom mentioned in the same breath." However, in the late 1980s, "during the era of high-top fades, and parachute pants, producer Teddy Riley and label boss Andre Harrell successfully fused and marketed the two sounds in a sexy, exclamatory music that critics termed new jack swing. It sparked a revolution." Riley stated that before new jack swing, "Rappers and singers didn't want anything to do with one another," because "Singers were soft, rappers were street." Riley's new style blended "sweet melody and big beats." The sensibilities of Riley's fusion of the styles would forever change pop music/hip-hop music pairing and was further popularized with Bad Boy's dominance of the late '90s through much of the same techniques. Riley, a 19-year-old kid from Harlem, quickly became an A-list producer and commanded big fees to add his sound to major artist projects. The aesthetic of the culture also spread to mainstream white audiences through popular groups such as New Kids on the Block.
In October 2004, a variety of classic new jack swing tracks are used in the popular video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The songs appear on fictional radio station CSR 103.9 and the soundtrack (released in December 2004). Bell Biv DeVoe member Michael Bivins portrays a self-absorbed DJ named Phillip "P.M." Michaels, who is aspiring to become an actor. New jack swing staged a revival of sorts in the mid-2000s, fueled by the 2006 New Jack Reunion Tour. On October 8, 2007 VH1's 4th Annual Hip-Hop Honors paid tribute to new jack swing with their nationally televised ceremony.
The 1989 film Ghostbusters II helped spread new jack swing with its theme song, "On Our Own" by Bobby Brown (who was nicknamed "The King of New Jack Swing"). NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air also boosted the spread of this culture, as the star of the show, Will Smith, was known initially for his hip-hop duo with DJ Jazzy Jeff. During the first episode of the series, Will Smith dances to the Soul II Soul new jack swing single "Back To Life". A Different World and In Living Color are other television programs of the era which exhibit influences from the new jack swing style. Video Soul, Soul Train, Showtime at the Apollo as well as the late night talk show The Arsenio Hall Show also helped to promote these acts.
House Party with Kid 'n Play, Boyz n the Hood, Juice, New Jack City, Boomerang, Above the Rim, Poetic Justice, Blankman and Bebe's Kids used New Jack Swing songs in their soundtracks. Dance-oriented pop artists such as Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, Sheena Easton, Debbie Gibson, Laura Branigan, Jane Child, Joey Lawrence, Paula Abdul, Kylie Minogue and Bell Biv DeVoe also have new jack swing elements in their late 1980s and early 1990s output. To date the most successful new jack swing album is Dangerous, released in 1991 by Jackson, which has sold 30 million copies worldwide.
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Many songs with elements of new jack swing and similar R&B styles ranked in the top 10 of the US R&B Billboard charts or the top ten of the US "top 100" charts throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In 1987, Keith Sweat's song "I Want Her" was number 5 in the US charts and number 1 in the R&B charts. One of Sweat's singles, "(There You Go) Tellin' Me No Again" was on the soundtrack for the film New Jack City. The musician and record producer Teddy Riley's group Guy, a group which was one of the early pioneers of hip-hop and R&B had a hit with the song "Groove Me", which went to number 4 in the US R&B charts, and the 1988 song "Teddy's Jam", which ranked number 5 in the US R&B charts. Al B. Sure! had success with "Nite and Day", "Off on Your Own", and "Rescue Me", all three records went to the Top 5 of the R&B chart in 1988.
Northern California's Club Nouveau had a Billboard number one single with their cover of Bill Withers's song "Lean on Me" in 1987. The song won a Grammy award later that year. The song was included on the group's debut album Life, Love & Pain, which was released in 1986. The backing track uses a sequenced swing beat, characteristic of the "New Jack Swing" style. Club Nouveau was a later incarnation of the San Francisco Bay Area group Timex Social Club who helped to lay the foundation for new jack swing.
In 1988, Bobby Brown began his string of Top 10 Billboard hits from his second album, Don't Be Cruel, which ranked number 1 in the US top 100 and number 1 in the US R&B charts. In that same year, former NBA cheerleader Paula Abdul had a number 10 US R&B hit with "(It's Just) the Way That You Love Me" and Ready for the World, a danceable, funk-infused Michigan group founded by Melvin Riley and Gordon Strozier, had a number 6 R&B hit with "My Girly". Tony! Toni! Toné! had three songs in the top ten of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks, including "Little Walter" which made it to number 1. Johnny Kemp's "Just Got Paid" also cracked the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1988 and went to number 1 on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play. New Edition after being in a transition due to the departure of Bobby Brown recruited Johnny Gill as his placement, leading to the release of the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis produced album Heart Break, which spun off 5 hit singles "If It Isn't Love", "You're Not My Kind of Girl", "Can You Stand the Rain", "Crucial", and "N.E. Heartbreak".
In 1989, Wreckx-n-Effect, a Teddy Riley-produced group which garnered press attention regarding their use of bikini-clad women in their videos, released "New Jack Swing", helping to popularize the new name for the emerging style. That same year, Fenderella garnered a hit with "Mr. DJ", a song with featured Doug E. Fresh, who was known as the "human beatbox" for his realistic imitations of drum machines and other hip-hop sounds. Also, Janet Jackson released her fourth studio album, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814. The album included a number of very successful new jack swing tracks, such as the number one Billboard Hot 100 hits "Miss You Much" and "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" as well as Alright and Rhythm Nation, both of which made the top five of the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. Also in 1989, Neneh Cherry's "Buffalo Stance" peaked at number 3 on the US top 100, and key new jack swing producer Babyface had a hit with his song "It's No Crime", which ranked number 7 in the US charts and number 1 on the US R&B charts. Another Teddy Riley-produced group, Today, had a hit with "Girl I Got My Eyes on You", which garnered a number 1 spot on the US R&B charts.
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis had their share of contributions to new jack swing. Janet Jackson had seven top 5 singles off her 1989 Rhythm Nation album, which merged the Minneapolis sound with new jack swing. Karyn White, also produced by the Flyte Time team also had hits in the late 1980s and early '90s. Sheena Easton also had a few hits from her 1991 album What Comes Naturally produced by hitmakers Vassel Benford, Wolf and Epic, and Nick Mundy. The single "What Comes Naturally" went to US number 19 on the Billboard 100 singles chart and a top five hit on the Australian singles chart.
After the band New Edition broke up, its former members formed several splinter groups or acts, including Bell Biv DeVoe, Johnny Gill, Ralph Tresvant, and Bobby Brown. In 1990, several ex-New Edition members had hit songs. Bell Biv DeVoe's songs "Poison" and "Do Me!", as well as Johnny Gill's single "Rub You the Right Way", all made it to number 3 in the US top 100. Ralph Tresvant had a number 4 hit (US top 100 charts) and number 1 hit (US R&B) with his song "Sensitivity", with another on the House Party 2 soundtrack "Yo Baby Yo". Also in 1990 pop singer Whitney Houston recorded "I'm Your Baby Tonight", produced by Babyface and his new jack swing producing partner Antonio "L.A." Reid (later become record executive). The single topped the US Hot 100, giving Babyface his first produced number 1 song while further helping to bring the genre to the mainstream.
That same year, Samuelle, a former member of the disco-infused dance-urban group Club Nouveau had a number 1 R&B hit with "So You Like What You See". Troop also had a number 1 hit with a single from their second album, Attitude, entitled "Spread My Wings". "Feels Good" by the Oakland, California group Tony! Toni! Toné! reached number 1 on the R&B charts in 1990, and it also placed on the US top 100 (number 9) and on the dance charts (number 3). Today charted again in 1990 with "Why You Gettin' Funky on Me?", which reached number 2 on the R&B charts. "Let's Chill" by Guy garnered a number 3 spot on the US R&B charts.
"Feels Like Another One" is a 1991 single co-written and recorded by singer Patti LaBelle off her album, Burnin. The new jack swing-styled track was the leading track for LaBelle's eleventh solo album and featured a rap from rapper Big Daddy Kane. The track became successful on the R&B chart as it ended up peaking at number three on the Hot R&B Singles chart. The video for the song was shot at the Apollo Theater and also featured Kane, who appeared at LaBelle's show wearing a tux. The song would help LaBelle's album go gold. Color Me Badd had a number 1 hit with "I Wanna Sex You Up". That same year, Christopher Williams released a single "I'm Dreamin'" from the New Jack City soundtrack, which became a number 1 single on Billboard?s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Boyz II Men's debut single "Motownphilly" was a number 1 R&B and top 5 U.S. pop hit. "I Like the Way (The Kissing Game)" by Hi-Five garnered the US number 1 and R&B number 1 spots. Jodeci's debut album Forever My Lady garnered three number 1 R&B Hits in the fall of 1991 ("Forever My Lady", "Stay", and "Come and Talk To Me"). "Exclusivity" by Damian Dame charted as number-one R&B single, spending two weeks at the top position, a position also achieved by The Rude Boys with their song "Are You Lonely For Me".
In 1992, Michael Jackson's single "Remember The Time" placed at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 2 on the Hot Dance Music/Club, and number 1 in the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop category. Joe Public's single "Live and Learn" hit number 4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, number 3 on Billboard?s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart and becoming the group's most successful single. Chuckii Booker scored a number 1 R&B hit with his song "Games". That same year, "She's Got That Vibe" by R. Kelly and Public Announcement reached the number 7 position on the R&B charts. "Weak" by SWV (Sisters With Voices) hit the number one spot on both the US top 100 and the R&B charts. In 1993: "Don't Walk Away" by Jade made it to number 4 and number 3 in the US top 100 and R&B charts, respectively. The New Jack R&B group II D Extreme scored a hit in 1993 with their New Jack ballad "Cry No More". TLC's debut album, "Ooooooohhh.... On the TLC Tip" (1992) had several hits, including "What About Your Friends" , "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg" and "Baby-Baby-Baby". In 1995, Montell Jordan had a number one new jack swing hit, in "This is How We Do It", which after its release saw the popularity decline of the genre. The last hit single to use the classic new jack swing sound was Michael Jackson's song "Blood on The Dance Floor", released in 1997.
Young artists were given the spotlight during this era. They included Tracie Spencer with her hit album Make the Difference (1990) and groups like The Boys with The Boys (Motown, 1990), Redhead Kingpin and the F.B.I., whose Teddy Riley-produced debut album A Shade of Red contained the hit single "Pump It Hottie", which reached number 2 on the US Hot Rap Singles Chart in 1990, and Another Bad Creation with Coolin' at the Playground Ya Know! in (1991).
Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue incorporated a strong new jack swing sound into her 1991 album Let's Get to It, most notably the lead single "Word Is Out". Although the album and single releases did not chart in the US, they did achieve success in the UK, Australia and throughout Europe. This exemplified the growing international popularity of the new jack swing genre.
Mexican pop singer Paulina Rubio also incorporated a strong new jack swing system into her debut 1992 album La Chica Dorada and second album 24 Kilates and most notably her hit lead single "Mío", one of the best songs in the '90s in Spain, third single "Amor de Mujer" which also entered the Billboard Hot Latin Tracks, peaking at number 8.
In 2018 the new jack swing sound made a comeback with the release of the remix of "Finesse", a song by American singer and songwriter Bruno Mars from his third studio album, 24K Magic, which features Cardi B. The original version was released in November 2016 with little buzz, but the remix of "Finesse" launched at number 35 on the US Billboard Hot 100 for the issue dated January 13, 2018, entered the Billboard Hot Digital Songs chart at number 13 with just one day sales of 30,000 according to Nielsen Music, drew in 8.7 million streams from the time of its release, and also received early radio support allowing it to enter Billboards Radio Songs chart at number 49 with 26 million audience impressions. After its first complete tracking week, "Finesse" soared to number three on the Hot 100 marking Bruno Mars' fifteenth and Cardi B's fourth top 10 single on the Hot 100. The song climbed 13-2 on the Digital Songs chart selling 87,000 copies in its second week. The song also debuted at number one on the Streaming Songs chart with 38.3 million US streams, a 342% incline from the previous week, and climbed 49-12 on Radio Songs with an overall 52 million audience impressions. Mars also made history as becoming the second male artist in Hot 100 history, the first being Lionel Richie, and sixth overall, to achieve three top-10s from each of his first three studio albums.