SZA and H.E.R are among the established artists helping keep R&B alive today; newcomers such as Jorja Smith and Summer Walker also play their part in keeping it fresh and exciting. Check out our list of top R&B music for some inspiration!
Lauryn Hill – ‘Don’t Let Go’
It would be difficult to overstate the significance of this LP, one of the biggest releases at its time. Hailed as an icon within hip hop and R&B circles and part of the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. Its success proved that record labels would support black artists beyond just those they thought could sell records.
Hill was raised in South Orange, a middle-class suburb characterized by diversity. This influences her music, which turns backup vocals into rap refrains and dismantles much of soul music’s facade. Casually tossing off lines like “C’mon baby, light my fire” shows she understands just how meaningless those words can be.
At a time when the Spice Girls’ bubblegum Girl Power was dominating pop music culture, Hill’s undeniable beauty and image that seemed grounded in reality made her an overnight sensation in 1998. Yet her honesty-of-expression also makes her unique.
En Vogue – ‘Too Close’
En Vogue’s catchy R&B track “You Belong To Me” showcases their trademark tight harmonies and powerful vocal performances, offering upbeat tuneful lyrics about keeping loved ones close and being there for them. Its catchy melody and heartwarming lyrics convey their message that someone needs them close.
En Vogue’s classic 1990s hit is an essential item in every R&B collection. Featuring funky basslines and upbeat drum rhythms that set an infectious groove for soulful melody and moving lyrics about female empowerment and resilience, this track became an international phenomenon and remains part of their discography to this day.
If you love En Vogue, be sure to watch their 2018 Christmas special on Lifetime: An En Vogue Christmas. Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron-Braggs and Rhona Bennett return together for an entertaining performance wrapped into an engaging plot line in this movie that proves why they remain an iconic group that remains fashionable today.
Next – ‘Too Close’
Next’s signature song was an intimate ballad about a guy getting an erection while dancing with a girl, yet it became an incredible success on both R&B and pop charts, receiving plenty of radio play despite its explicit lyrics. Next’s talent as an act enabled them to make such an impressionful statement with such limited radio play in just months!
Don’t Get Too Close’ is the more daring yet slightly less successful of the two albums, exploring our hero’s interior world through an eclectic mashup of emo, rap, J-pop, memecore video game music and duets between male vocalists BEAM and Bladee that blends emo, rap, J-pop memecore music video game music as well as duets between them and male/female duets. Notable guests include Justin Bieber; rappers Chief Keef Kid Cudi and Swae Lee as well as viral pop arrivals PinkPantheress and Prentiss; rapper Chief Keef; rappers Chief Keef Kid Cudi, Swae Lee; rapper Chief Keef; rappers Chief Keef Kid Cudi Swae Lee as well as viral pop hits PinkPantheress and Prentiss (though at times lacking uniqueness), this album still provides a satisfying listening experience especially on tracks three (“Selecta”) and five (“Real Spring”, where both BEAM and Bladee provide outstanding vocal performances by BEAM and Bladee. BEAM and Bladee provide complementary vocal performances throughout. BEAM and Bladee both give excellent complementary vocal performances which help make up this production’s edge by not pushing enough into original directions but ultimately delivers satisfying listening experience nonetheless; in particular BEAM delivers. Bladee (inc), Chief Keef, Kid Cudi, Swae Lee as well as pop viral pop arrival PinkPantheress Prentiss”). Viral pop arrival PinkPantheress Prentiss make for pleasant listening experience delivering excellent compliment vocal performances which provide very complimentary performances provide very well for their voices come along the production’s production still deliver complementary vocal performances provide quality vocal performances along with Bladee provide exceptional complement vocal performances to create such quality vocal performances to ensure satisfying listening experiences overall production but do ensures remain memorable when their respective rhyme ee’s Chief Keef, Kid Cudi, Kid Cudi and Swae Lee and Chief Keef; Rap Chief Keef, Kid Cudi, Swae Lee as well. as Prentiss Prentiss! Prentiss Prentiss Prentiss Prentiss Prentiss Prentiss. Prentiss). Prentiss. Prentiss Pop arrived Pink Pantheress/Ventiss Swae Lee performs Swae Lee (S Swae Lee; Swae Lee while rapper Swae Lee (Cudi and Swae Lee/SWa Lee (Kill and Swae Lee as Swae Lee (all appear, Chief Cudi Swae Lee etc…), Cudi. All three/ Swae Lee Swae Lee both come into their Pop additionn Theiss Prentiss Prentiss Prentisss Prentiss and Prentiss Prentiss and Prentiss). Swae Lee respectively!) as Prentiss/Vand Prentiss). Also appear alongwith Swae Lee). ViaLee Lee). Prentiss etc and Swae Lee etc….) alongside viral pop arrival Pink Pant Hector as Swae Lee also make an appear alongside each provide guesting Lee! Swae Lee are there too a Lee’s Swae Lee! etc all appear. By keeping their due in their respective arrival p Plus all offer them while Pink Pantheress/rentiss Vi. But these. But not push enough. They’ss as Pink Prentis
Destiny’s Child – ‘Say My Name’
Destiny’s Child first formed in Houston, Texas at age nine. Over time they quickly rose to become one of the most beloved female R&B acts of the late 1990s, known for their groundbreaking albums and worldwide tours as well as infamous for their turbulent personal lives that included numerous abrupt personnel changes often coupled with high-profile legal disputes between members.
In 1999, they released their best-selling second album The Writing’s on the Wall which contained their hit singles Bills, Bills and Say My Name as well as several others that achieved number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 charts. Farrah Franklin was dismissed from the group that now consisted solely of Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams due to multiple missed promotional appearances and concerts. Even after becoming a solo artist, Beyonce never reached the same level of renown as her former bandmates. Their voices still added dimension and texture to “Say My Name.” Beyonce in particular stood out with her complex, rhythmically sophisticated delivery and restrained melismatic runs; making this performance very potency vocally.
Aaliyah – ‘Try Again’
Aaliyah was only 22 when she died in a plane crash on the island of Abaco in the Bahamas on August 25th 2001, only three albums into her career yet she had already made an enormous mark in contemporary R&B, hip hop and pop. Her music inspired many artists such as Ciara, Drake and Rihanna.
Aaliyah was an immensely talented singer known for seamlessly fusing R&B and hip hop music styles together, and had an immense potential as both an R&B/hip hop crossover artist as well as actress. Her first acting debut came when she played Jet Li’s female counterpart in Romeo Must Die and executive produced its soundtrack; Aaliyah scored her own hit single called “Try Again”, written and recorded with Timbaland collaborator Stephen Garrett for this soundtrack release.
This song, an infectiously catchy dance track by Aaliyah, interrogates initial romantic feelings of any relationship. A true feminist anthem that refuses to succumb to pop love songs; instead it poses questions such as whether relationships are worth investing in; it still sounds fresh today, twenty years after its original release! A testament to Aaliyah that this track doesn’t sound outdated at all!
Ashanti – ‘Foolish’
Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas spent her formative years in Long Island singing, dancing and acting. At Glen Cove High School she excelled as a star athlete before eventually abandoning track for music instead. Ashanti released her debut album ‘Ashanti’ in 2002 to great acclaim; its lead single “Foolish” combined her sweet vocals with hip-hop beats for instant popularity.
Ashanti became a household name overnight with her hit single, and became the first female artist ever to simultaneously top both Billboard Hot 100 charts with two songs by herself (“What’s Luv?” and “Always on Time”) simultaneously in just one week – earning two Grammy nominations as well! ‘Foolish’ garnered Ashanti further success and popularity.
Chapter II and Concrete Rose, released in 2003 and 2004 respectively, continued Ashanti’s commercial success. She followed these albums up with Christmas albums and remix albums called Collectables by Ashanti in 2005 before shifting her attention towards acting roles like Coach Carter and John Tucker Must Die. Back to recording with 2014 release Braveheart which became her fifth chart-topping album; furthermore her most recent collaboration with Nelly will be available sometime later in 2020.
Frank Ocean – ‘My Love Is Your Love’
Frank Ocean is a multi-talented singer-songwriter and record producer. He began his music industry career as a ghostwriter for other artists such as Justin Bieber and John Legend. Later that same year he joined hip hop collective Odd Future and released his debut mixtape ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’ which received great acclaim, prompting Def Jam Records to sign him to their record label contract.
Channel Orange was released in 2012 to critical acclaim and eventually won a Grammy Award for Best Urban Contemporary Album. Pitchfork listed it as number one on their best albums list for 2010s decade; one iconic track off this album is called ‘Dear April,’ depicting deep intimacy between lovers.
Ocean addresses unrequited love in an unexpected manner with his song ‘Bad Religion.’ The lyrics draw parallels between religious fervor and unhealthy romantic obsession. One of Ocean’s lesser-known love songs called Rushes delves deeper into infatuation’s excitement; the track featured on 2016 album ‘Blonde,’ his final release through Def Jam Recordings.
Sisqo – ‘Underwear’
Sisqo was an essential figure of 90s R&B music for those who grew up during that decade, becoming famous through Dru Hill and then going solo with three albums and his hit single, “Thong Song,” which has since been sampled and remixed by many other artists.
The hook in this song is an irresistibly catchy melody composed of orchestral violin strings and hip-hop beats, featuring Sisqo’s iconic “YEEEEEAAAAHHHHHH” ad-lib on the bridge. Additionally, co-producers Tim Kelley and Bob Robinson used Wes Montgomery’s cover of The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” as inspiration when creating its melody for this track.
Sisqo’s music video for this song follows in line with other videos at that time; it depicts him at a bikini fashion show and gazing upon barely clothed women of color, drawing parallels with scholarship on colonial hypersexualization of black female bodies and colonial sexualization of African-American female bodies as objects for objectification by whites. Furthermore, this song serves as a call-to-action for black women to reclaim their power over thongs.