A little-discussed truism of R&B is that female vocalists benefited more from Michael Jackson than male vocalists did, and none more than Karyn White. Only gays and black teenage girls seemed to appreciate White’s potential as a revolutionary force in black dance music, someone whose natural gift for melody and a rocker’s instincts pushed the mediocre material that characterized late ’80s R&B over the top.

White was washed out to sea in the Whitney-Mariah tidal wave that swept through the business in the early ’90s, her nervous, totally human vocal gymnastics replaced by a faux gospel passion. Beyonce Knowles, the lead singer and kingpin of Destiny’s Child, is closer to White in terms of musical sensibility than any other big-name singer now shaking her scantily clad rump on MTV. But even if she was influenced artistically by White as a child, she grew up in an industry atmosphere that favored the big effect over all other considerations.

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