After writing for the likes of After 7, Toni Braxton, Michael Jackson, Color Me Badd and more, it was time for this crooner to get his shine. The year was 1995 when we were formally introduced to one Jonathan David Buck aka Jon B. The singer from Providence, Rhode Island hailed from a musical family and naturally found his place in the music industry when he shopped his demo around and caught the attention of Tracey Edmonds, then President and CEO of Yab-Yum Records. Little did we know, he would catch our attention, too, and hold it for decades later. And just so we’re clear, yes, he’s white, caucasian, vanilla, whatever you want to call him. It was a value-add and not a hindrance, and when he sang, he was not copying or mocking anyone, Jon B. had his own smooth sound and had a lot to prove. In 1995, Jon B. released his debut album Bonafide, which was the first recording released on Tracey’s record label and managed to get himself a GRAMMY nomination with one of the album’s singles.
When you press play on the album, the first song and title track is perfect for a kickback, and a classic R&B single where we hear Jon B.’s smooth, unassuming vocals. With a large amount of suave, Jon B. even tried his hand at rapping on “Bonafide” and it worked for him because he’s Jon B. He later explored funk and percussion in “Simple Melody,” which takes things even smoother and funkier with strategically placed ad-libs from Bootsy Collins. With the addition of Bootsy, the track was infectious as Jon B. begs you to “Come and swing your love to me, honey.” With the first two tracks, Jon B. was just getting started with his plan to convince you he was the R&B crooner for you, white or not. In “Love Candi,” Jon B. explored harmonies and asked you to pick your favorite flavor since his love was sweet enough. If you didn’t have a sweet tooth before, you might have had one after listening to Jon B. croon all over this track.
Jon B. kept things sweet in “Mystery 4 Two,” where he stretched his vocals to woo the ladies. If you didn’t think he was efficient before, here came “Someone To Love.” While Bonafide was popular as an album, “Someone To Love” was a standout and earned a GRAMMY nomination. There’s no wonder why since the track featured the GRAMMY Award-winning artist Babyface. The duet was the cherry on top of what Jon B. was serving. The song was later featured in the 1995 Will Smith and Martin Lawrence movie Bad Boys and later solidified Jon B. a place among serious R&B singers who may have initially doubted his talent.
After wearing his heart on his sleeve, Jon B. finally learned his lesson in “Time After Time,” where he sings about being hip to the game. In “Overflow,” he tries to control his emotions and effortlessly controlled his vocals on the simple, traditional R&B track. Jon B. goes back to charming in “Pretty Girl” and used harmonies, including Babyface’s background vocals which you can hear throughout the album, to ask if he could “sleep with you tonight.” He later turns the heat up a notch or five on “Pants Off,” where he expressed his carnal desires, while a beautiful horn played in the background. Going back to sweet in “Isn’t It Scary,” Jon B. channeled his inner ’70s R&B crooner to get sentimental again, singing from the heart about falling in love. Getiting hot again with “Burning 4 You,” probably one of the more eclectic songs on the album, Jon B. lowered his octave to get his point across. With the album’s final tracks “Gone Before Light” and the jazz-inspired “Love Don’t Do,” Jon B. ended things on a sentimental note for the lovesick among us. Showcasing his smooth vocals on both tracks, Jon B. capped off his album perfect for lovers and now perfect today for a Netflix and chill playlist.
Bonafide even became Tupac Shakur‘s favorite album. The two later ended up working together for the 1997 single “Are U Still Down” from his following album Cool Relax, which also featured another popular track “They Don’t Know.” In total, Jon B. has released seven albums, three compilations and a mixtape in 2013. Bonafide was certified platinum, selling over 1 million copies and marked the debut of a series of hits to come into fruition for Jon B. We can confidently say that he ushered in the modern era of the white R&B singer and helped inspire the careers of some of the best in the industry including Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke and is quick to remind us — and them — that he’s still got it.