This dissertation is devoted to the study of vocal style in African-American popular ballads released between 1991 and 1995. There is intensive musical analysis of selected songs, with "One Sweet Day" by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men as a centerpiece. The analysis serves as a springboard for considering larger questions of identity in modern society. Chief among these is the notion of "musical blackness" as it has developed in recent years. I claim that musical stylistic features of contemporary ballads represent multiple cultural systems and traditions, including but not limited to race.