’80s R&B That Deserves More Love Today

Let’s groove tonight.

Jeremy Helligar

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The 1984 hit movie Breakin’ was the Flashdance of mid-’80s R&B. (Photo: MGM/UA Entertainment Company)

New wave, ’80s pop, and hair metal get all the retro-music love, but the Ronald Reagan decade was just as good to R&B (barring Billboard magazine’s unfortunate rechristening of the R&B singles chart as “Hot Black Singles” from 1982 to 1990). A Facebook friend drove that point home when she posted several great ’80s Dazz Band singles that weren’t the group’s lone pop crossover hit, “Let It Whip” (number five, pop, number one, R&B, 1982).

I’d much rather reminisce about my early teen years to the dated-but-still-delicious dance-jazz strains of Dazz Band’s “Joystick” (number 61, pop, number nine, R&B, 1983), “Swoop (I’m Yours)” (number 12, R&B, 1984), and “Let It All Blow” (number 84, pop, number nine, R&B, 1984), the latter two of which I bought on 45 at the time.

Only the most diehard disciples of ’80s R&B (which, apparently, would include my Facebook friend) probably know them at all. Perhaps even more surprising than their lack of crossover success back then is how great they still sound nearly thirty years after the ’80s ended.

I’ve already paid tribute to some of Minneapolis’s finest ’80s gems that weren’t by Prince. Now, here are 14 other underrated grooves from back when cluttered, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink production ruled R&B, ones we all should still be jammin’ on today.

“Freak-A-Zoid” Midnight Star

In hindsight, the ’80s vision of the future seems utterly quaint and ridiculous, but it did give us some great R&B, like this co-ed band’s first significant hit. (Chart stats: number 66, pop, number two, R&B, 1983)

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Jeremy Helligar

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa” https://rb.gy/3mthoj