If you open up your preferred music streaming service and browse its library of curated playlists, you’re bound to find a slew of them labeled “Smooth R&B,” “Chill R&B,” “90s Slow Jams,” or even “Bedroom Jams.” The artists within those playlists might range from recent R&B powerhouse singers like H.E.R and SZA to classic mainstays like Roberta Flack and Anita Baker.
These playlists have gained massive followings over the past few years, but they aren’t a new innovation. In fact, they owe their success and sound to a 40-year-old staple of Black radio: Quiet Storm.
In the video above, I’m joined by ethnomusicologist Fredara Hadley, along with former and current radio hosts Angela Stribling, Al Wood, and John Monds, to explore the roots of this iconic late-night radio format. I’ve also channeled my inner radio host and made a Quiet Storm-inspired playlist of my own. It covers a half-century of sultry R&B ballads. You can check it out below.