Groups in R&B are just a special thing. Whether its a duo, trio, group of 5 or more. There is just something special though about the quartet or four member group. The barbershop quartet is what a lot of people will thing of when it comes to a group of four. They have been featured in a multitude of ways in pop culture whether in a musical like The Music Man or in tv shows like Family Guy.
A barbershop quartet is characterized by four-part harmony without instrumental accompaniment. Generally the four voices are: the lead, the vocal which carries the melody, a bass, the part which provides the bass line to the melody; a tenor, the part which harmonises above the lead; and a baritone, the part the completes the chord. This can vary between all male and all female quartets.
Whether it's the visual balance represented when you see a group of four or their ability to achieve four-part harmony some of the biggest R&B groups of all time have been quartets. Let's take a look at 10 of the top ones.
Cherish was a quartet of sisters from Atlanta, Georgia. Twins Felisha and Fallon King along with their older sisters Farrah and Neosha King. They had a little blip of success in the late '00s with their hit "Do It To It" which peaked at #3 on the NZ Top 40. There are a variety of group that could have been in this #10 spot. What got Cherish here is honestly the lack of female quartets in R&B. It is certainly a space dominated by the male groups.
Notable Song Mentions: "Unappreciated," "Killa," "Amnesia"
Blackstreet is an interesting quarter because most groups find success with a consistent sound. Blackstreet is the opposite as the four members that made up Blackstreet were always changing so depending on who was in the group for a particular album and singing lead had an impact on the sound. Their debut album was more soulful featuring the likes of Dave Hollister as lead while some of their follow up albums like Another Level which had two NZ #1 singles with 2 new members had more of a commercial appeal. Even with the rotating members Blackstreet has certainly produced some jams across their span.
Notable Song Mentions: "Before I Let You Go," "No Diggity," "Joy"
Another quartet from Atlanta. They were apart of that last solid wave of groups that found success in the late '90s and early 2000s. They even won a Grammy Award in 1997 for Best Rap Performance by A Duo or Group. It's their run in the late '90s that helps put them in the conversation about some of the top groups and keeps them from being a one hit wonder. Many pit them directly against the group coming in at #7 and they could easily switch places with them. 112s' highest charting song here in NZ was 1998s' "Love Me" peaking at #33. Even with out some of the chart hits here in NZ their catalogue is certainly one you should check out.
Notable Song Mentions: "Anywhere," "Love You Like I Did," "Peaches & Cream"
#7: Jagged Edge
Identical twin lead singers Brian and Brandon Casey along with Richard Wingo and Kyle Norman make up this quartet out of Atlanta (the city was/is certainly a hot bed for music). They were signed to Jermaine Dupris' So So Def label and most of their hits were produced by him. A running joke with this group is that all their songs sound essentially the same.... we don't care to us they sound good. "Walked Outta Heaven" is their highest charting son in NZ peaking at #13. But you trust us right? The song we've selected here is one you should def have in your personal rotation from Jagged Edge.
Notable Song Mentions: "He Can't Love You," "Let's Get Married," "Where The Party At"
#6: Destiny's Child
Easily one of the best groups of all time, although most are familiar with their days as a trio which is what lands them here at #6. There just aren't as many girl quartets as there are male ones so we wanted to include them to help even out this ratio. Besides that their first two albums Destiny's Child and The Writing's on the Wall featured the group as four. Destiny's Child original lineup consisted of Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland, LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett, who would have her own solo career in the 2000s. LeTavia and LeToya were eventually replaced with Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin with Franklin quitting after five months leaving the group a trio.
Notable Song Mentions: "No No No," "Bills Bills Bills," "Jumpin Jumpin"
#5: Dru Hill
The original quartet that made up this group was Sisqo, Nokio, Jazz and Woody. Today you'll find them operating with five members but their peak success was experienced as a quartet. Their highest charting NZ single was "In My Bed" which peaked at #25. But we need to call your attention to their debut song "Tell Me" to truly get a sense of what makes this group special.
Notable Song Mentions: "Never Make A Promise," "We're Not Making Love No More," "In My Bed"
This group started off as five members but by the time their songs started releasing they were down to a foursome consisting of Kandi Burruss, Tameka "Tiny" Cottle, La Tocha and Tamika Scott. They have sold more than 7 million records worldwide. Their biggest NZ success came from their song "The Arms of the One Who Loves You" which peaked at #22 on the NZ Top 40. You certainly get a good sense of four part harmony at the end of this song.
Notable Song Mentions: "Understanding," "Who Can I Run To," "Just Kickin' It"
#3: En Vogue
Hailing from Oakland, California was the home for members Terry Ellis, Dawn Robinson, Cindy Herron, and Maxine Jones. They have sold more than 30 million records worldwide and are often considered one of the best female vocal groups of all time. Today this quartet is now a trio as Dawn Robinson is now longer with the group. Their remake of Aretha Franklin's "Something He Can Feel" is their highest charting single in New Zealand with a peak position of #2 on the chart.
Notable Song Mentions: "Hold On," "Whatta Man," "Don't Let Go"
It shouldn't be a surprise at who holds the #2 and #1 spots. And that's for any R&B group conversation especially in the 90s. It's either Jodeci or Boyz II Men, they just happen to both be quartets. Jodeci featured two pairs of brothers, Devante Swing and Mr Dalvin along with K-Ci and Jojo. Jodeci was more bad boy, incorporating hip hop, gospel an new jack swing into their music. As great as they are for us Boyz II Men was just on a different level but we can't blame anyone for having the positions reversed, trust we understand.
Notable Song Mentions: "Forever My Lady," "Freek'n You," "Feenin"
#1: Boyz II Men
It doesn't get more elite than this group as a whole, much less amongst other foursomes. While today they are a trio consisting of members Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman this groups biggest days were as a foursome with Michael McCary. He left the group in 2003 due to Multiple Sclerosis. Boyz II Men combined the elements of vocalism, an old school Motown feel with (at the time) contemporary new jack swing style. They were the perfect storm of R&B groups and set trends that were attempted to be replicated in pop via the likes of N'Sync, Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees just to name a few. They have had three #1 singles here in NZ which of course includes one of the greatest slow jams of all time "I'll Make Love To You."
Notable Song Mentions: "Water Runs Dry," "End of the Road," "A Song For Mama"
So there is our 10, what would be yours?
We def wanted to mentions some other quartets not necessarily worth going into detail right now (we'll save them for a later date) but def wanted to put their names on your radar.
Silk / Shai / All-4-One / B2K / Soul For Real / Pretty Ricky / Portrait / Ideal
You can get all the music from these quartets and all other R&B groups whether trio, or duo on our playlist dedicated to groups on Spotify. Stream and follow below!