Did 90s R&B Ruin Marriage for an Entire Generation?

I recently had the occasion to take a 10 hour road trip with my four children. Let that sink in: 4 kids – all aged 10 and younger. Obviously it went well enough. I’m back at my computer and have lived to tell the tale.

My musical choices for road trips of this length usually vary between hip-life and heavy metal. I find that submerging my psyche in guitar riffs and subtle misogynist lyrics is a comforting alternative to road rage. But on this particular trip something peculiar happened: on a whim, I decided to shake up my playlist and added a new channel on Pandora. That channel was Boyz II Men. That’s when the trouble began.

If you’re age 34 and over, you will remember that Boyz II Men, Shai, Jodeci and Joe (and who could forget Silk!) defined 90s R&B – and romantic relationships by extension – for legions of impressionable teenagers who suddenly found a rise in hormone levels coincide with the introduction of this new style of music. We were spellbound and with our senses led astray; utterly powerless. “Let me lick you up and down?” Ebei. Okay…sure! Who could resist such an invitation, nasty as it may have seemed at first. You people reading know what manner of salivary bathing rituals you subjected yourselves to at Silk’s suggestion.

The first song that debuted on my playlist was Boyz II Men’s End of the Road. Spiritually, I was transported back to that era I spoke of earlier: that 16 year old crush-giddy-gnashingness that many a girl experienced in those days. Here were four men in various shapes and octave ranges promising to make your evening a long and unforgettable one. For those of us who lost our virginities to clumsy, inexperienced age mates who were eager to cross organism’s finish line, this was only something we could dream of. *Sigh*…

The 37 year old woman listening to these lyrics – the one who was now married with children – was horrified. Lies! So many lies! I suddenly understood why so many modern relationships that began with the promise of “forever” had crashed and burned and disintegrated into a million pieces. These musical groups were feeding us the Oxfam version of a romantic utopia, never taking into account that there are not enough men alive (then or now) who could deliver on the sort of sexual, financial or spiritual fulfilment they were promising hordes of young women and girls looking forward to eventual marriage. In just 4 short years, we were all deceived into thinking that the man of our eventual choice would do whatever it took to keep our relationship intact no matter what the transgression, perceived or real. We were that special.

Look at this:

Girl, I know you really love me,

You just don’t realize

You’ve never been there before

It’s only your first time

Maybe I’ll forgive you, hmm

Maybe you’ll try

We should be happy together

Forever, you and I


You know the story. The girl(s) in this story had cheated and were being implored to come back and work on making the relationship a success with promises of being made love to all through the night in later songs. Jodeci only made matters worse by declaring in Feenin’ that we could:

Take my money

My house and my cars

For one hit of you

You can have it all, baby

Cause makin’ love

Every time we do

Girls it’s worse than drugs

Cause I’m an addict over you

And you know that I (can’t leave you alone…etc)

Open your eyes and stop lying to me!!

Open your eyes and stop lying to me!!

So what did we do? Like fools, we traipsed into marriage and long term relationships built on clouds. Jodeci and co would have done us all a better service if they had told us the truth about unprotected sex, STDs, abortions, side chicks, and broke dudes who hole up in your house eating up the last of the gari and using all the hot water. Then of course there’s THIS line of thinking that is the final destination at the other end of the bridge of the “typical African marriage”.


You want your wife to treat you like a baby in the bedroom? What does that even mean? You want her to dress you in a bonnet, wipe your butt, dust your body with lavender scented powder and breastfeed you at 3 am? This is not what 90s R&B promised, but that’s exactly what this president/king/baby is expecting out of his wife.

What else is there to do but divorce? The blame lays at the feet of Jon B and Babyface, guys who promised to work, cook, draw bubble baths and pay bills for the object of their amorous feelings. We each imagined ourselves to be the quality of woman worthy of this level of attentiveness. But what did the 50% of people who decided to terminate their marriages in the last decade get instead? Some chap who wants to know why his underwear hasn’t been washed or why dinner wasn’t placed on the table as soon as he got home from. All this after his wife has usually put in 9 hours of work herself.

Oh ho.

These days, there is no R&B to cloud anyone’s judgment. Many young couples don’t even bother with the farce of aspiring for a fairy-tale marriage. It’s unattainable. They are wiser than we were. Nowadays, music is much more realistic. Men are honest. They want to make truffle butter and cheat on you and have no qualms about admitting it in song. In return, women are delaying or eliminating the prospect of marriage. More people are winning.

In the meantime, I’ve gone back to putting Van Halen and Timaya on blast for long road trips. Unlike K-Ci and Jojo, they are honest gentlemen.