Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Truth About The 90s

My use of the term "the 90s" in this particular post is a double entendre: it is in reference to the actual decade, and any song that has a BPM in the 90s. BPM stands for Beats Per Minute and it is the "pace of music measured by the number of beats occurring in 60 seconds" (web definition).   The majority of house, techno and current hip-hop songs have high BPMs ranging from 120-140.  The majority of hip-hop from the 1990s however, have an average of about 90 BPM, which is obviously much slower than today's 'dance' music.  It almost seems that at some point over the past 10-15 years, mainstream (hip-hop/club music) producers started to believe that music with low BPMs were not dance-able, so they started to crank up the speed. Well, some of the strongest and most respected club records of my generation have BPMs in the 90s, and this music is VERY dance-able.

Most top selling R&B artists today (Rihanna, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown and Beyonce) have released several techno "dance" records.  Before the 2000s however, the very thought of SWV, D'Angelo, Montell Jordan or Mary J. Blige releasing a techno song, would have been crazy.

"Crazy in love" and "single ladies" are two of Beyonce's biggest club anthems and both songs have BPMs in the 90s. These songs are significantly slower than some of her other singles including "sweet dreams" and "Girls rule the world" but "crazy in love" and "single ladies" were significantly more popular on the dance floor (and on the charts). Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" is his strongest solo club anthem from the past decade, and the BPM is actually below 90, it's at about 87. "Tom Ford" on the other hand has a BPM of 145, and even though it is still (kind of) a club anthem, 'Empire State of Mind' has outsold and 'outcharted' 'Tom Ford' by a landslide.

The biggest and most popular club anthems of my youth include songs by Biggie Smalls, A Tribe Called Quest, Pete Rock, Mary J. Blige, Pharcyde etc. Just about every club song from this particular style and era has a BPM in the mid to low 90s and people have never stopped dancing to these songs. If anything, people credit 90s hip-hop as the "golden era" and maybe, just MAYBE a slower, smoother BPM has something to do with what's missing in today's "club music".  People LOVE 90s hip-hop and people CAN dance to a BPM in the 90s, there is a lot more to "dance music" than those hyped up techno records. The 90s are awesome and I think it's just a matter of time before the style of 90s hip-hop and R&B go retro-chic in pop music, and will make its way back into the clubs again.


  1. I also feel that music (specifically hip-hop and r&b) of the 90s had more substance and lyrical content to it. Rap songs told stories. R&B songs were positive anecdotes about love and relationships. Most tracks tastefully embraced sexuality and rarely crossed lines into being overly graphic and inappropriate. Today it seems that most pop songs, as you mentioned, are driven by high BPMs and electronic and synthesized buildups to raise energy levels in dance clubs while the music of the 90s relied on actual content to lift one's spirits and put them in an even better mood than when they came into the club with. On the other end of the spectrum, much of today's Hip-Hop technically are at the sub-80 BPM ranges, warranting more bouncing and much less actual dancing. It is what it is and makes me appreciate more the nights and DJs that still play the good 90s (BPM and era) music. Hopefully great producers like Pharrell and Timbaland can lead the charge of bringing it back as they have started to do with disco and nu-dance.

    1. To whoever wrote this comment, I just want to thank you for your very strong comment:)