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What kind of music is color me badd?

Color Me Badd is best known for their R&B, pop and new jack swing music in the early 1990s. The group was formed in Oklahoma City and consisted of four vocalists – Bryan Abrams, Mark Calderon, Sam Watters and Kevin Thornton. They had a string of major hits like “I Wanna Sex You Up”, “I Adore Mi Amor” and “All 4 Love” which showcased their signature harmonies and romantic lyrics. Let’s take a deeper look into the musical style and history of this 90s boy band phenomenon.

The Origins of Color Me Badd

Color Me Badd was formed in 1985 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma when the four original members were in their teens. Bryan Abrams and Mark Calderon had gone to high school together and first started singing together in a local group called TLC. Later, they joined forces with Sam Watters and Kevin Thornton who had been in a rival high school group named ABC. The newly combined quartet named themselves Color Me Badd, a nod to the multi-ethnic backgrounds of the members. Their influences ranged from groups like Boyz II Men, The Gap Band and New Edition to singers like Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway.

Member Role
Bryan Abrams Lead vocals
Mark Calderon Vocals
Sam Watters Vocals
Kevin Thornton Vocals

The group started out singing in clubs in Oklahoma City, Dallas and Los Angeles. Their big break came when they met producers and songwriters Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy, who helped them get signed to Giant Records in 1990.

The New Jack Swing Sound

Color Me Badd arrived on the music scene just as new jack swing was emerging. New jack swing blended R&B vocals with hip hop beats and synthesizers to create a fresh, contemporary sound. Producers like Teddy Riley pioneered the new jack swing style working with artists like Bobby Brown, Keith Sweat, Guy and Bell Biv DeVoe. Color Me Badd’s producers, Foster and McElroy, were also instrumental in crafting the new jack swing sound.

The group’s debut single, “I Wanna Sex You Up”, exemplified the new jack swing style. It had a funky, rhythmic beat, synthesizer riffs and Color Me Badd’s smooth multi-part harmonies on the romantic chorus. The lyrics and vocals had an R&B vibe while the production gave it a modern, hip hop-laced edge. Released in 1991, “I Wanna Sex You Up” became a #1 hit and catapulted Color Me Badd into stardom.

Signature Hits

Following their smash debut single, Color Me Badd continued cranking out hits in that recognizable new jack swing style. Here are some of their signature songs from their heyday:

Song Year Chart Peak
“I Wanna Sex You Up” 1991 #1 Billboard Hot 100
“I Adore Mi Amor” 1991 #1 Billboard Hot 100
“All 4 Love” 1992 #1 Billboard Hot 100
“Thinkin’ Back” 1992 #16 Billboard Hot 100

Their debut album C.M.B. (1991) reached double platinum status and landed at #9 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. It was nominated for Best R&B Album at the Grammys.

Harmony-Driven Style

One of the key elements of Color Me Badd’s musical style was their vocal harmonies. Inspired by groups like Boyz II Men and The Gap Band, they focused on multi-part vocal arrangements often with a cappella-style singing. Bryan Abrams generally sang lead while Mark, Sam and Kevin wove tight, soulful harmonies around him. Their songs like “All 4 Love” and “The Earth, The Sun, The Rain” really highlighted their smooth, harmony-driven style.

In an era dominated by solo acts, Color Me Badd stood out for keeping the emphasis on group vocals. Abrams once said, “The harmony is what made it seem so fresh. The melodies and chords are pretty simple, so the harmony was one of the main things that gave us our sound.”

Romantic Lyrics

Color Me Badd’s lyrics almost always focused on romance, love and relationships. Their songs often told stories of attraction, heartbreak, reconciliation and devotion. The lyrics appealed to teenage listeners but cleverly walked the line so as not to alienate mainstream pop audiences. For example, “I Wanna Sex You Up” is overtly sexual but still vague enough lyrically to get away with heavy rotation on pop radio.

The group at times faced criticism for overly sexualized lyrics targeted at young fans. But songs like “All 4 Love” balanced out the more lustful tracks by emphasizing the tender, monogamous side of relationships. Bryan Abrams said their goal was to be “honest and real” in their songwriting when it came to love, sex and emotion.

Crossover Pop Success

While Color Me Badd was rooted in R&B and new jack swing, they enjoyed massive success on the pop charts as well. Their first three singles all reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making them only the second act in history to achieve that feat after The Jackson 5.

Their pop success could be attributed to their undeniable melodies and throwback doo-wop influence fused into a contemporary new jack swing sound. Bryan Abrams’ soft tenor voice was also very accessible for pop audiences. The group dominated both the R&B and pop charts in the early 90s, proving they had huge multi-genre appeal.

The Boy Band Prototype

Though they formed organically years before boy bands became a phenomenon, Color Me Badd is now recognized as pioneering the visual and musical template of the 90s/2000s boy band era. They were one of the first acts to utilize choreographed dance moves and fashionable clothes as part of their image. Sonically, they set the stage for bands like Backstreet Boys and NSYNC to follow with their a cappella harmonies and slick pop/R&B blend.

As an all-male, multi-ethnic vocal group with a romantic, teen-friendly look and sound, Color Me Badd unwittingly established the formula for the next generation of boy bands. They showed the massive commercial potential of that type of act, which inspired producers like Lou Pearlman to manufacture pop groups to follow in their footsteps.

Where Are They Now?

Color Me Badd continued recording together through the 1990s but did not achieve the same level of success as their early hits. They released their final album, Awakening, in 1998 before disbanding. Original member Kevin Thornton left the group in 1993 and was replaced by various other vocalists over the years.

The group briefly reunited with its original lineup in 2010, even appearing on a season of the TV show Celebrity Wife Swap. They have since continued reuniting periodically for one-off shows and tours, nostalgically performing their old hits for still-adoring fans around the world.

Legacy and Influence

Though their time in the spotlight was relatively brief, Color Me Badd left an indelible mark on the early 90s music scene. They helped popularize new jack swing and lent credibility to the boy band format. Groups like Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, 98 Degrees and more owe a debt to Color Me Badd for pioneering that melodic R&B/pop style and polished image.

Beyond their impact, songs like “I Wanna Sex You Up”, “I Adore Mi Amor” and “All 4 Love” remain pop classics decades later. They perfectly captured their era with new jack swing beats and colorful harmonies. For a generation, Color Me Badd’s music was the soundtrack to first crushes, school dances and falling in love. Though fads come and go, great pop songs last forever. And Color Me Badd delivered some truly timeless pop confections in their prime.


In summary, Color Me Badd created a signature sound in the early 90s blending R&B, pop and new jack swing. With Bryan Abrams’ soft lead vocals and the smooth harmonies of Mark, Sam and Kevin, they churned out hit after hit. Songs like “I Wanna Sex You Up” and “All 4 Love” dominated the Billboard charts and airwaves. Though their time on top was short, Color Me Badd helped usher in and influence the 90s boy band era with their choreography, image and vocal arrangements. Their early records remain pop classics that brought new jack swing into the mainstream and still resonate with nostalgic listeners today.