Color Me Badd is an American contemporary R&B group that was formed in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The original members of the group were lead singer Bryan Abrams (born November 16, 1969), second tenor Mark Calderon (born September 27, 1970), second tenor Sam Watters (born July 23, 1970) and baritone Kevin Thornton (born June 17, 1969). They formed in 1985 and broke up in 1998 before reuniting in 2010, with various lineups since. As of 2016, they operate as a trio with Abrams, Calderon and Adam Emil.
Best known for their singles “I Wanna Sex You Up”, “I Adore Mi Amor” and “All 4 Love”, the group has sold over 12 million records worldwide, had three number 1 hit singles, nine Top 40 hits and a triple-platinum album. They were nominated for two Grammy Awards, won two Soul Train Music Awards and one American Music Award, and were nominated for five others. Their songs have been featured in movies and on television programs including New Jack City, Mo’ Money, No Strings Attached and Glee. They made a cameo appearance as themselves on a 1992 episode of Beverly Hills, 90210.
Thornton and Abrams became friends in junior high school, and Watters and Calderon became friends in grade school. The four met in the mid-1980s while attending Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City. They were all members of the school choir. The group originally formed in 1985 as Take One, but changed their name to Color Me Badd to avoid confusion with an a cappella band named Take 6. Watters selected the name, after a horse at the racetrack named Color Me Bad. They aimed to be a vocal group in the vein of New Edition and New Kids on the Block. They first performed together in a school talent show, influenced by doo-wop a cappella groups of the past, like Sam Cooke, The Temptations and the Four Tops.
The group came up with a plan to spontaneously audition for any big name acts playing in Oklahoma City. They met Robert Bell of Kool & the Gang on May 27, 1987, when they were in Oklahoma City for a performance. They auditioned for him and he introduced them to his then-road manager, Adil Bayyan, who would become Color Me Badd’s manager and convince them to move to New York City to pursue a record deal. They also sang for Huey Lewis and the News, Sheila E. and Ronnie Milsap, and opened for Tony! Toni! Toné! in Oklahoma City in 1988. One afternoon in 1989, Thornton saw Jon Bon Jovi in a movie theater and called the other band members to join him. They waited for him to leave the theater and then sung the 1961 doo-wop hit “Daddy’s Home” a cappella for him. Bon Jovi invited them to be his band’s opening act the following night, to perform in front of 20,000 audience members.
They moved to New York City on September 23, 1989. In 1990, they bumped into Tony! Toni! Toné!, who got them into the ASCAP Music Awards. There, Color Me Badd approached producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and started singing for them. The producers advised that, being a multicultural group, they write a half-English, half-Spanish song. They wrote “I Adore Mi Amor” back in Oklahoma City with their producer and friend Hamza Lee. Giant Records executive Cassandra Mills heard a tape of the band singing the song, and they signed with Giant on August 11, 1990.
After signing the group, Mills asked producer Dr. Freeze for a song for Color Me Badd to record for the New Jack City soundtrack, similar to “Do Me!” by Bell Biv DeVoe. Freeze offered “I Wanna Sex You Up”, which would become Color Me Badd’s debut single, released on March 2, 1991. The song wasn’t originally intended to be a single, and had been turned down by other acts including Bell Biv DeVoe, Keith Sweat and Christopher Williams. The biggest hit on the New Jack City soundtrack, it peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and hit number 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Due to the song’s popularity, Giant Records wanted Color Me Badd to quickly record an album. At the time, they only had four or five finished songs. They were flown out to Los Angeles to work in the studio, recording the album in two or three weeks.
Their debut album, C.M.B., was released on July 23, 1991. It would go on to sell over 6 million copies worldwide and become certified triple-platinum in the US, spending 77 weeks on the Billboard 200, peaking at number 3. “I Wanna Sex You Up” was included on the album. The follow up single “I Adore Mi Amor” hit number 1 on the Hot 100 and on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts, “All 4 Love” hit number 1 on the Hot 100, “Thinkin Back” reached number 16 on the Hot 100 and number 31 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, and “Slow Motion” reached number 18 on the Hot 100.
Color Me Badd performed at the 1991 Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Awards in the United Kingdom, winning the Best New Group trophy. They won the Best R&B/Soul Single and R&B/Soul Song of the Year in the Group, Band or Duo categories for “I Wanna Sex You Up” at the sixth annual Soul Train Music Awards. They were nominated for Best New Artist and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal (“I Wanna Sex You Up”) at the 1992 Grammy Awards. They won Favorite Soul/R&B Single at the 1992 American Music Awards for “I Wanna Sex You Up”, and were also nominated in that category for “I Adore Mi Amor”. They were also nominated for Favorite Pop/Rock Band/Duo/Group, Favorite Pop/Rock Single, Favorite Pop/Rock New Artist and Favorite Soul/R&B New Artist at the 1992 American Music Awards. Color Me Badd opened for Paula Abdul on her 1991 tour, singing some of their set a cappella. The New York Times described the group as “somewhere between George Michael’s pop-soul and the group dynamics of the Temptations.” At halftime of Super Bowl XXVI between the Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills on January 26, 1992, the group performed “I Wanna Sex You Up” on In Living Color as part of Fox’s counter-programming special live-from-Hollywood football-themed edition of the show.
The group made a cameo appearance on a 1992 episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 (season two, episode 26). The episode revolved around Color Me Badd, beginning with a clip from the “I Adore Mi Amor” music video. Later in the episode, the 90210 gang stakes out the Bel Age Hotel in hopes of meeting the group, and Kelly visits their penthouse suite. She invites them to join her at the Peach Pit, where they serenade the gang a cappella.
On November 24, 1992, Color Me Badd released a remix album entitled Young, Gifted & Badd: The Remixes. It contained the single “Forever Love”, which reached number 15 on the Hot 100 and was also featured on the Mo’ Money soundtrack. The remix album peaked at number 189 on the Billboard 200.
Color Me Badd’s second studio album, Time and Chance, was released in November 1993. An ambitious project, with 19 new tracks, the album represented a shift in musical style for the group. Working with producers including David Foster, DJ Pooh, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, it was more soulful and funky than their previous work, but lacked a cohesive sound. With the music industry at the time embracing grunge music and West Coast hip hop, it was difficult for Color Me Badd to deliver the same success on the singles charts as they had done before, and the group started to lose momentum.
The album peaked at number 56 on the Billboard 200, spending 17 weeks on the chart. Ice Cube directed the music video for the lead single, the title track “Time and Chance”, which peaked at number 23 on the Hot 100 and number 9 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts. The follow-up single, “Choose”, also peaked at number 23 on the Hot 100.
The group re-emerged in 1996 with their third studio album, Now & Forever. Producers included Narada Michael Walden, Babyface, Jon B. and Boyz II Men’s Nathan Morris. Now & Forever reached number 113 on the Billboard 200, spending 4 weeks on the chart. It went to number 1 in Japan. The album produced one hit single, “The Earth, The Sun, The Rain”, which peaked at number 21 on the Hot 100, remaining on the chart for 22 weeks, and reached number 69 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The second single, “Sexual Capacity”, did not chart, but it did appear on the soundtrack to the Demi Moore film Striptease. This song was produced and co-written by Robin Thicke under the name Rob Thicke. Album sales for Now & Forever weren’t as strong as their previous albums, and the group was released from their contract with Giant to sign with Epic Records.
After moving to Epic (under Sony Music Entertainment), Color Me Badd’s fourth studio album, Awakening, was released on July 28, 1998. Behind Sony head Tommy Mottola, the label chose “Remember When” as the next single. Abrams and Calderon disliked the choice. The song peaked at number 48 on the Hot 100. Around this time, Abrams had developed an alcohol problem, and the group was beginning to fall apart. The newly married Thornton decided to leave the band to pursue the ministry, and Watters wanted to go off on his own to write and produce. With Abrams and Calderon the only remaining members, the group split up.
Kevin Thornton left the group in October 1998 to pursue ministry. He became a licensed minister, and has since served as an evangelist, youth pastor and worship leader at his home church, Without Walls Church, in Fort Worth, Texas. He operates Kevin Thornton Ministries in Texas. In 2008, he released a solo album, Conversions, blending contemporary hip-hop/rap with gospel and soul music.
Sam Watters pursued a career as a record producer, achieving success producing for Jessica Simpson, Celine Dion, Fantasia, Anastacia, Natasha Bedingfield, Kelly Clarkson, 98 Degrees, Blake Lewis, and others. Watters is a member of the production/songwriting team The Runaways, which also includes Rico Love, Wayne Wilkins, Ryan Tedder, and Louis Biancaniello. He married R&B singer and former American Idol contestant Tamyra Gray in 2006.
Mark Calderon worked with artists such as Stevie Brock, whose 2002 remake of “All 4 Love” reached number 1 on the Disney charts; and with IPV, who is signed with Wright Entertainment and had songs played on the television series House and Knight Rider. In 1992, Calderon married Lisa Smedley-Calderon, who was formerly Color Me Badd’s fashion stylist.
In 2001, Bryan Abrams released a solo album entitled Welcome to Me. In 2007, he co-starred on the VH1 reality TV series Mission: Man Band, which also included former boy band members Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees, Chris Kirkpatrick of *NSYNC and Rich Cronin of Lyte Funkie Ones, seeing if they could make it as a new group. The show was canceled after seven episodes. In 2007, after being approached by Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, Abrams co-wrote and recorded an appearance on the Insane Clown Posse song “Truth Dare”, which was released on the compilations Psychopathics from Outer Space 3 (2007) and Featuring Freshness (2011). In 2010, Abrams wrote three songs for Kool & the Gang, singing lead on all three tracks.
On August 22, 2000, Giant Records released the compilation album The Best of Color Me Badd.
In July 2010, Color Me Badd re-emerged as a duo consisting of Bryan Abrams and Mark Calderon. They headlined a concert in Hawaii, which also featured All-4-One and Shai. Later that year, Kevin Thornton rejoined Color Me Badd. In early 2012, Calderon and Abrams collaborated with the Insane Clown Posse on the song “Ghetto Rainbows (Soft Ass R-N-B Remix)” on The Mighty Death Pop! bonus CD called Mike E. Clark’s Extra Pop Emporium. Credited to Insane Clown Posse and Color Me Badd, the song features Abrams and Calderon, and was also co-written by the duo. In June 2013, the group released “Skywalkin'”, their first new song in nearly 15 years. On August 16, 2013, Abrams announced his departure from Color Me Badd through a post on his website. The group continued on, with Calderon and Thornton. Abrams was replaced by Martin Kember, who was previously a member of AZ-1. Color Me Badd performed with the lineup of Calderon, Thornton and Kember at the 2014 BET Awards.
In 2015, Abrams and Calderon reunited as Color Me Badd, less Thornton and Kember, and began a tour in Singapore. Thornton was briefly back in Color Me Badd in 2015, before leaving the group that same year. In the winter of 2015, Adam Emil joined the group, and they went on a US tour with Bell Biv DeVoe. By 2016, the group was officially a trio, with Calderon, Abrams and Emil. That year, they recorded a new song, “In Case You Didn’t Know”. On April 30, 2016, Color Me Badd played a concert for U.S. Armed Forces at Okuma Beach, Okinawa, Japan. In the fall and winter of 2016, Color Me Badd was on the inaugural I Love the ‘90s Tour, a year-long tour across the US that also featured Vanilla Ice, Salt-N-Pepa, Tone Loc and Young MC.
Listen to some of their songs below
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