By John Benson
Doing it on their own is how the members of ’90s flash-in-the-pan act Color Me Badd remember the pop group’s early days when the fledgling Oklahoma City band was still in high school.
“We loved to write because we didn’t have any of the big stars or producers who wanted to write anything for us,” said singer Mark Calderon, calling from his Cincinnati home. “So we had to do it on our own. One of the things we’d do back in the day to try to get the attention of record labels was go right up to them and start singing. We went to an ASCAP Awards in New York City, walked up to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and started singing.
“They loved us and said we needed to go back and write a song in English and Spanish. So we went back to Oklahoma and wrote ‘I Adore Mi Amor.’ That was one of the first songs we really wrote and produced. That was the song that got us our record deal.”
Talk about being fearless with one goal in mind, the teenage members of Color Me Badd would often find out where major acts were staying when they came through Oklahoma City. This led to chance encounters with Huey Lewis and the News, Kool & the Gang and Bon Jovi. The latter band ended up having Color Me Badd open their show in front of 20,000 fans.
As far as the group’s ’90s success, it may have been somewhat fleeting, but the vocal group did enjoy top-five radio hits “I Wanna Sex You Up,” “I Adore Mi Amor” and “All 4 Love.” By the mid-’90s, Color Me Badd ended up in the “Where are they now?” category. However, a funny thing happened over the past decade as millennials grew up.
Nostalgia kicked in leading to the group’s reunion. That sentiment defines the current I Love The 90s tour, starring Vanilla Ice, Salt-N-Pepa with Spinderella, Color Me Badd, Coolio, Tone Loc And Young MC. The walk down parachute-pants-memory lane comes to Youngstown for a Sunday show at Covelli Centre.
“It’s crazy because we had no idea that so many promoters in so many cities wanted to see this lineup,” Calderon said. “And I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I was looking at the schedule and saw these 15,000-seat venues, I was like, ‘Really? OK.’ Getting back out there on the big stage has been amazing with sellouts on the weekends.”
Color Me Badd recently received an unexpected boost when The Gap used “All 4 Love” for its new ad campaign, which debuted earlier this week during the television broadcast of the Grammy Awards.
“It’s what the music people want to hear – the old R&B sound, the feel-good music, something you can party and dance to,” Calderon said. “That’s why it all works. I’m just honored to be a part of the ’90s tour.”
Considering Calderon still has ties to Oklahoma City, is he more upset about Color Me Badd’s relatively short career or the fact Kevin Durant left the Thunder?
“As a group, we’ll always be friends,” Calderon said. “I’m upset with Durant leaving. We’ve still got Russell Westbrook. I don’t mind that Durant left OKC. It’s the way he did it and where he went.”
So it’s kind of like if in the mid-’90s the members of Color Me Badd joined Bell Biv DeVoe for greener pastures?
“Exactly,” Calderon said, laughing. “You got to do it on your own, man.”