’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Bump N’ Grind”
The seventy-ninth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Bump N’ Grind” by R. Kelly. This bedroom slow jam was Kelly’s first No. 1 single, following four moderately popular entries in 1992-93 with the group Public Announcement, as well as his debut single, “Sex Me (Parts I & II),” which had peaked at No. 20 in late 1993. Following “Bump N’ Grind,” Kelly would land roughly 60 more songs on the Hot 100 (as of this writing), including his other chart-topper, “I’m Your Angel,” a duet with Celine Dion, and nine additional Top 5 songs as a lead or featured artist. And that’s just as a singer. He also has written and produced a barrage of hits for superstars like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Britney Spears. He is one of the most successful male R&B acts in history.
“Bump N’ Grind” is a plea for sex, putting it in line with a majority of R. Kelly’s catalog, which is chock-full of blandness masquerading as erotica.
Let’s take a listen to “Bump N’ Grind”:
“Bump N’ Grind” is a generic song with boring, unmemorable throwaway verses between replays of a somewhat hooky chorus. It’s over-sung in a manner typical of ’90s R&B, a regretful approach, popularized by Jodeci and Boyz II Men, whereby the vocals swell into painful improvisational screaming. Overall, “Bump N’ Grind” epitomizes R. Kelly’s essence, artistically and sexually — juvenile and on-the-nose, with nothing interesting happening musically. He will be remembered as influential, but whether he advanced the R&B genre or watered it down will be a subject of dispute.
We never much cared for this song, and neither did much of anyone outside the U.S. But when this song was released, this genre wasn’t yet played out, and thus the single didn’t seem quite as tired as it does today. A direct request for sex was still somewhat novel in 1994.
Does it hold up? No, for two reasons: First, the Quiet Storm genre is dead, as is most R&B in general. Second, given the longtime accusations of R. Kelly’s predatory/illegal sexual behaviors with underage girls, a track that begins with him screaming, “My mind is telling me no, but my body, my body’s telling me yes!” comes off as a wee bit distasteful. Pun intended.
Dopeness: 2 out of 5 Birkenstocks
’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?