ESSENTIAL ALBUMS OF THE NEW JACK SWING ERA: “DIARY OF A MAD BAND”

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In my opinion, the single, greatest group of the New Jack Swing Era was Jodeci. With their two headed monster as lead singers, K-Ci and JoJo, combined with their band mate DeVante Swing’s incredible songwriting and producing, Jodeci continued their prolific run with the release of their second album. Released on December 21, 1993, “Diary of a Mad Band” is considered by many experts to be the group’s singular, greatest album. While I prefer their debut album, “Diary of a Mad Band” does contain my two favorite songs ever recorded by Jodeci. I covered their rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Lately” in my article about “Uptown MV Unplugged.” I will begin this article talking about what I feel is the greatest song they ever recorded: “Cry for You.”

“Cry for You,” is one of the greatest heartbreak ballads of not only the New Jack Swing Era, but of 90’s R&B music period. The song is a narration of a man who just an hour after he’s lost his woman, is yearning to get her back. The angst in K-Ci and JoJo’s voice is very reminiscent of classic soul singers like Donny Hathaway, Teddy Pendergrass and Marvin Gaye as you feel their pain in their voices. Listen as K-Ci begins the song: “It’s been an hour since you’ve been gone. And that’s too long, so come back home. I can’t live without you. So I’ll cry for you. Do anything that I can. To feel that touch from your hand. Sorry that I want you. Lady what do I do?” K-Ci then leads the bridge with an emphatic plea to his lost love: “You know you’re everything I do. Ooh yeah. Do what you want me to. I would do anything. Get on my knees for you. Ooooh, baby. What else is there to do. I don’t know, I don’t know. But I’ll cry!” This song resonated towards me because I had the first of many breakups with a woman who I’d be in a relationship on and off for seven years. When we first broke up in February of 1994, I played this song over and over again. The entire song reflected my feelings. For example, when JoJo takes over on his verse: “You spoil me girl like a child. When you’re not here I can’t even smile. I can’t think without you. My mind is always with you. It’s amazing what you do. To keep me falling in love with you. Girl you all that I know. Where else can I go?” I mean, my mind was consumed with images of her beauty all day and night. This song perfectly captures what we feel when we think the love of our life is no longer around. A feeling of despair and heartache. The song reaches a dynamic ending as all four members in harmony sing in intense desperation: “Baby I’m beggin, baby I’m beggin, beggin baby!!!!!” “Cry for You” would be Jodeci’s fifth number one song on the Billboard R&B charts and would also go as high as number 15 on the Pop charts.

The second single off the album, “Feenin” is a much more explicit song than the 1989 song by Babyface, “Whip Appeal” about a man being obsessed and consumed with having sex with his woman. “Feenin” is one erotic song that equates a woman’s vagina with the most hardened drugs a man can be addicted to, as K-Ci poignantly points out in his verse: “Take my money, my house and my cars. For one hit of you, you can have it all. Cause makin’ love, ev’rytime we do, girl, it’s worse than drugs, ’cause I’m an addict of you.” Most men have been there, and this raw, unadulterated view of addiction to women’s private parts hasn’t been equalled since. “Feenin” went to number two on the R&B charts.

The final single off the album, “What About Us,” is JoJo entirely singing lead. A great ballad about a single man who is friends with a single woman and suggests that they become a couple, and the group’s harmonizing was never better. The song begins with them harmonizing the words “I wanna love you” over and over again, followed by JoJo’s verse: “Girl I’m reaching out my hand, trying to make you understand. That you don’t have to be alone, cause I wanna be your man. Girl I need you in my life, just wanna live right by your side. So girl I won’t be satisfied, until you give this love a try.” The rest of the song is an incredible mix of JoJo’s lead intertwined with the group’s harmonizing. Without a doubt, the greatest Jodeci song with JoJo as the sole lead singer.

Jodeci would release one more album before the group took an almost 20 year sabbatical. K-Ci and JoJo would continue recording as a two man group, but problems with alcohol and drug addiction would interfere with them being as great as they should’ve been. The Hailey brothers were, in my opinion, the second greatest one-two punch in R&B music history, trailing only the legendary O’Jays one-two punch of Walt Williams and Eddie Levert. DeVante never achieved the same songwriting success with the several acts he worked with after Jodeci’s ascent. Despite all of their issues that plagued the group, Jodeci was, in my opinion, the greatest group of the New Jack Swing Era.

DIARY OF A MAD BAND-TRACKLIST
1 My Heart Belongs To U 5:03
2 Cry For You 5:01
3 Feenin’ 5:10
4 What About Us 5:20
5 Ride & Slide 4:57
6 Alone 4:44
7 You Got It
Featuring – Redman 5:56
8 Won’t Waste You
Featuring – Missy Elliott 4:55
9 In The Meanwhile
Featuring – Timbaland 4:22
10 Gimmie All You Got 3:42
11 Sweaty
Featuring – Missy Elliott 5:54
12 Jodecidal Hotline

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