11 Songs That Forever Cemented Tevin Campbell As The Prince Of 1990’s R&B

As critics debate on whether R. Kelly, Keith Sweat, Babyface or Brian McKnight should be crowned as the King of 1990’s R&B, the clear frontrunner as the leading voice among 1990’s R&B teen idols was Texas-born, Quincy Jones-protege Tevin Campbell.

In 1990 at age 13, Tevin Campbell made a big debut on the U.S. charts with an inspirational tune he recorded with legendary producer Quincy Jones titled “Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me)” for Jones’ Grammy Award-winning album Back On The Block. Campbell’s debut single climbed to #1 on the R&B music charts, and comparisons to Jones’ former protege Michael Jackson quickly followed Campbell’s success.

Signed to Jones’ Qwest record label under Warner Bros., Campbell’s debut album T.E.V.I.N. quickly took shape and was released in 1991 after the success of his single “Round and Round,” written and produced by Prince, became a big R&B and pop hit. Campbell’s debut featured heavy hitters in urban pop music including Michael Narada Walden and Al B. Sure. Sure produced a bulk of T.E.V.I.N. singles including “Alone” “Just Asked Me To” and “Goodbye.” Tevin’s string of hits, good looks and charismatic charm in TV appearances won him a legion of fans among Black American girls.

Campbell became a R&B teen idol after his predecessors Bobby Brown and New Edition became adults and recorded mature music that reflected their lifestyles and the same of their following.

Tevin scored his most successful album era with his sophomore album I’m Ready, an album of sophisticated and mature young love music with the help of R&B producers du jour Babyface and Prince. Babyface penned Campbell’s signature tune “Can We Talk” as well as other R&B radio smash hits “I’m Ready” and “Always In My Heart.” Prince’s racy, sexy jam “Shhh” became a single off Ready, and caught the attention of critics who felt that Campbell may be too young or inexperienced to sing such an adult-oriented tune. By the end of 1994, Campbell saw his success vying for music awards against R. Kelly and his production mentor Babyface, R&B crooners ten years his senior owning the R&B music charts along with Campbell.

With a new look and a new sound that was a clear contrast to the balladry of I’m Ready, Campbell release his 1996 album Back To The World, which featured the title track as its lead single that became a top 20 hit. World allowed Tevin to flex his songwriting skills in half the album and acquire his most diverse collaboration of songwriters and producers of any album era. The fate of his label’s longevity could have been blamed for Campbell’s commercial success not living up to his previous works, but he was the youngest sought-after talent to perform televised and recorded tributes to living music legends including Quincy Jones, Prince, Michael Jackson, Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder.  This era also saw the rise in popularity of R&B teen queens Brandy, Monica and Aaliyah.

After taking a small break from the music scene, a 22-year-old Campbell returned with his eponymous fourth album in February 1999. Lead single “Another Way” showcased Campbell’s growth in sound, lyrics and visual style. Though Tevin enlisted late 1990’s music production greats including Stevie J., David Foster, Faith Evans and Wyclef Jean, his album’s promotion, sharing a release date with TLC’s highly-anticipated Fanmail album and following newcoming R&B teen heartthrob Usher’s monstrous-selling My Way album halted his last proper album to become a commercial success.

Today, 17 years past his last studio album release, Campbell’s string of 1990’s R&B hits never go unnoticed by R&B enthusiasts when discussing the last great decade of great R&B music. Campbell will always be the Prince of 1990’s R&B because he was the uncontested R&B teen male idol from 1990 until 1998 and boasted tunes that outlive today’s R&B radio singles.

Check out the 11 songs that helped put Tevin Campbell on the music map as the Prince of 1990’s R&B.

“Can We Talk” (1993)
from the I’m Ready album

“I’m Ready” (1994)
from the I’m Ready album

“Always In My Heart” (1994)
from the I’m Ready album

“Shhh” (1994)
from the I’m Ready album

“Tell Me What You Want Me To Do” (1991)
from the T.E.V.I.N. album

“Round and Round” (1990)
from the T.E.V.I.N. album

“Goodbye” (1991)
from the T.E.V.I.N. album

“Alone with You” (1992)
from the T.E.V.I.N. album

“Back To The World” (1996)
from the Back To The World album

“Another Way” (1998)
from the Tevin Campbell album

“Tomorrow (A Better You, A Better Me)” (1990)
from Quincy Jones’ Back On The Block album

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