Dance Classics By Black Women That Changed The Game Forever
27 Apr 2023
90’s dance music was an era. From “Show me love” to “Gypsy Woman” to “Dreamer”, Black women created so many timeless classics that are still played today. When we think of house/dance music now, because it’s typically consumed and created by other communities, we forget how much of an impact Black Women have had on this genre. Black women brought the soul to dance music with their relatable lyrics & distinct vocals. They received awards, plaques, and more accolades as they were always at the top of the charts. Here’s a reminder of the OG’s of house music…
“Show me love“, released in 1990 is an absolute club banger that reached #1 on the dance club chart. This song has such a heavy influence on house & dance tracks as it’s been sampled over 40 times, more recently by Beyoncé in “Break My Soul”, “Show Me” by Kid Ink ft Chris Brown, “Used to know me” by Charli XCX & many more remixes all reached high positions in the charts – due to this timeless track. This song has an infectious beat, which means it’s impossible to stay still when it comes on, but it’s Robin’s vocals that bring the soul and relatable lyrics that makes this track one of the greats.
Crystal Waters’s name should always be mentioned when talking about the techno/dance music revolution of the 90s. “Gypsy Woman” reached #2, and she also went on to make more hits with “100% pure love”, “Destination Calabria” & more. In the 90s she spent a whooping 57 weeks in the top 75. Again, this song has been sampled over 90 times and even influenced the Hip-Hop genre with T.I (Why you wanna) and Styles P (Favourite drug) sampling it. Pinkpantheress, G Eazy & Trey Songz are also amongst popular artists that have sampled this track, but Crystal was the one to stamp this track into the hall of fame with her infamous, infectious ‘La da dee’ hook.
“Rhythm is a dancer” is a song by German Eurodance group Snap! This club banger features vocals by Thea Austin and this single peaked at #1 in Austria, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Zimbabwe and more. It was an international hit! It became the second biggest selling single of 1992 in the UK, and they continued to climb the charts with another single “The Power”, which done well in the charts too but Snap! made history with this single.
Hailing from Ohio, CeCe was the first foreign female entertainer to perform in post-apartheid South Africa. CeCe was also a beauty queen and was crowned Miss Black Arizona in 1989, so CeCe never let her race stop her from making history. CeCe’s authentic, deep, soulful voice won “Finally” song of the year, beating “Rhythm is a dancer” in 1992, and has sold over 3 million copies to date.
“Dreamer” is a song produced and recorded by Italian house group Livin’ Joy. It features vocals by American singer Janice Robinson, who also co-wrote the song. Janice also toured as a vocalist for Snap! who we mentioned earlier. “Dreamer” is a massive club banger til this day, with MTV dance ranking the song as #15 in the 100 biggest 90s dance anthems of all time in 2011. Janice never stopped pushing her craft and even appeared on the X Factor in 2018 where she made it to the live shows and finished 14th place. Today, you can find Janice working on a documentary about her life story, with new music in the works.
Despite the beautiful Congolese model in the music video, Felly, lip-syncing, it was actually Ya Kid K, a Congolese-Belgian recording artist behind the vocals. Ya Kid K was in a hip-hop group at the time while also juggling school so didn’t want to participate in the marketing and promo of the song, so Felly became the face of Technotronic, and brought a unique, authentic image. Most people think the lyric is ‘I want, a place to stay’, but she sings ‘Awa, a place to stay.’ Awa is Swahili, or Lingala for ‘a place to stay, a home’. “Pump up the Jam” was a worldwide hit, and quickly reached #2 in the UK & US charts, as well as peaking at #1 in Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Portugal and Spain. This was the first song to fuse hip hop and dance together and it has been considered the first house song to become a hit in the US. This song was a trailblazer for the techno-dance music era, as it influenced many dance songs that came out after in the 90s.
“The Rhythm of the Night” is a song by Italian Eurodance group, Corona. The infectious & clean vocals are performed by Jenny B, an Italian singer. However, it is Olga Souza in the music video and she also performed this song on tour due to Jenny B’s stage fright. Olga Souza, hails from Rio de Janiero and toured with Corona for years while also starting her solo career. “The Rhythm of the night” achieved huge success worldwide, reaching #1 in Italy where it stayed for 8 consecutive weeks. It’s still considered to be a classic in recent times, as this song was sampled by the Black Eyed Peas and J Balvin’s “Ritmo (Bad Boys for Life)”, which featured in the 2020 Bad Boys for life soundtrack.
“Be My Lover” was recorded by German Eurodance band, La Bouche whose main members were Melanie Thornton and Lane McCray. The 90s Eurodance scene wouldn’t be the same without La Bouche as they were responsible for a number of hits at the time as “Be My Lover” won many awards including the Best Dance Single, and the ASCAP award for most played song in America. They also had another hit “Sweet Dreams” so when talking about dance songs of the 90s, it’s a criminal offence to not include La Bouche. Thornton left the group in 2000 to embark on her solo career, but a year after she passed away in a plane crash in Switzerland, which become known as The Day Euro-Dance Music died as there were members from Passionfruit, a German Eurodance trio that also died in the crash. Mccray continues to tour the world as La bouche, keeping the brand alive.
Ultra Nate, hailing from Maryland, US discovered her talent for singing at church. She was inspired by “Losing my religion” by R.E.M and wanted to make a rock song that would also work in clubs. This song made history as it became a global hit, with the gay community seeing it as a song about empowerment and it became a huge anthem. Headie One sampled this song in “Both”, which was a big chart success as well as Ty Dolla Sign & Nas sampling this song showing this song had a big influence on all genres.
“Back to Life” was performed by Jazzie B & Caron Wheeler. Though both are British aritsts, they both come from Carribbean backgrounds with Wheeler having a Jamaican background while Jazzie‘s parents were from Antigua. Music has always been a big part of Jazzie B’s life as several of his siblings all ran sound systems and he owned a record shop. “Back to life” was a huge hit and peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart, and even won a Grammy for best R&B performance by a group or duo in 1990. The video was shot in Epping Forest with many critics have describing Wheeler’s vocals as being the icing on the cake, as it’s her soulful voice that really elevates this track. It should be of no surprise that this critically acclaimed song has been sampled many times as Little Mix (Bounce Back) and Lil Wayne (God Bless Amerika) have sampled this song, showing that after all these years “Back to life” still has relevance today.
Black Box was another Italian house music group that made a classic. “Ride on Time”, didn’t originally get the response everyone was hoping for. They tested the single in a club and said that when it was playing the dancefloor cleared but some of the bandmates ensured it was just the wrong club. It was the wrong club indeed because as of 2018, it had been streamed over 9 million times on Spotify. It is certified gold in Sweden, silver in France & platinum in Australia & the UK. It even remained top of the charts for 6 weeks in the UK and became the best selling single of 1989.
Sonia Clarke, better known as Sonique was born & raised in Crouch end with her parents being from Trinidad. “It Feels So Good” was a big accomplishment for Sonique, the song spent 14 weeks in the top 40 and rose to become the third-best-selling single in Britain for the year 2000. Sonique said this song was about this person that she once really liked but who didn’t reciprocate her feelings. At the time, he was highly successful and she wasn’t. He also believed that she had fallen in love with his achievements. This song was her method to say that she liked him for him.
“All for You” is a dance-pop song that samples “The Glow of Love” by Change. It’s the first single to be added to every pop, rhythmic, and urban radio format in its first week of release, so Jackson was dubbed the “Queen of Radio” by MTV. Janet Jackson received various accolades for this single including a nomination for Video of the Year at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards. Considered one of Janet Jackson’s classics, “All for You” also won the Grammy for Best Dance Recording.