The I Love the ’90s Tour kicked off Friday in South Carolina with a lineup boasting nostalgic acts like Vanilla Ice, Salt-n-Pepa, and Coolio. The bill also includes the R&B group Color Me Badd, who scored two No. 1 hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1991 with “I Adore Mi Amor” and “All 4 Love.” (Before those two songs dominated the charts, Color Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up” peaked at No. 2, denied the top spot by Paula Abdul’s summer smash “Rush Rush.”)
“People are just starving for some of that old sound,” singer Bryan Abrams tells EW in the days leading up to the tour’s kickoff. “I think they’re starving for some real, Auto-Tuneless music.”
EW connected with Abrams and his Color Me Badd cohort Mark Calderon to get the scoop about what fans can expect from the ’90s tour, impressing Janet Jackson’s producers, and why “I Wanna Sex You Up” isn’t as perfect a song as it sounds.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What do you think fans can expect from the tour?
BRYAN ABRAMS: It feels like a family reunion, because some of these artists we’ve toured with before in the past. So we have a blast when we’re out there — it’s just like we were in high school again. What we’re most excited about, is to show people that we still got it. If anything, I think we’re a little better now than when we were younger because we’re not caught up in all the fun and games that we used to have on the road. It’s one big party between the fans and us.
We’ve noticed ’90s nostalgia is so big right now. Could either of you speak to why that may be?
MARK CALDERON: We started as an a cappella group, bringing that R&B ’50s sound, that Motown feel with up-to-date sounds, with hip-hop — hip-hop doo-wop, as we coined the phrase. It started a trend [of] adding the old sound with the new. It was just that whole new sound, man, it was a sound of that decade. That’s what people loved.
BA: Now, our sound has been in the past and in the closet long enough that people are missing that. All those people that were kids, they’re grownups now. They have kids and they want to share that old music with their kids, just like my parents introduced me to Aerosmith and the Commodores and Michael Jackson.
Could you tell me a little bit about the recording of “I Wanna Sex You Up”?
MC: We got with Dr. Freeze and listened to his songs and he played the instrumental for “Sex You Up.” It blew our minds because it was exactly who we were, that old-school sound. I know Bryan wasn’t too happy with his lead vocals. He was hoping he could rerecord it. We finally finished recording [and when] we got back to the apartment, we were told that that was the final take.
BA: I cried. I punched the wall. I did! I threw a fit. We hear it’s coming out and I’m like, “I didn’t get to recut my vocals!” I was pissed.
MC: But he cried all the way to the bank, so…
BA: I got over it real fast!
How about “I Adore Mi Amor”?
MC: We were in New York City trying to get a record deal. We had heard that in the Village there was going to be these ASCAP Music Awards. We weren’t invited, but we went there hoping to run into somebody. Sure enough, we run into Tony! Toni! Toné!
BA: We opened up for them in Oklahoma City years before that [in 1988]. When we bumped into them they hooked us up and got us in.
MC: [At the ASCAP Music Awards] we saw our heroes, [Grammy-winning producers] Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. We just walked up to them and started singing. We knew if we could get them interested in us, it would be all over, our dreams would come true. They loved our sound, but they looked at us and said “Man, you guys should go back wherever you come from and write a song that’s half English and half Spanish.”
BA: Because we’re all from different races.
MC: So we went back to Oklahoma City and got with our producer and we just started writing. “I Adore Mi Amor” was the song that got us our record deal — but we had no idea that it was going to be the song that it was. It was No. 1 simultaneously on R&B and pop, so that was great. “Sex You Up” and then “I Adore Mi Amor” behind it, I mean, come on, we couldn’t ask for more.