The genre of R&B has done a successful job at cementing itself as the go to music source for memorable love songs. The artists that make up R&B have contributed songs that have gone on to be Valentine’s Day staples as well as the first choice for couples who are on the prowl for music for their first dance at their weddings. These R&B songs in particular are at the top of their class in regards to the best of the best – songs that do the job of illustrating love through the eyes of its composer.
“Like You’ll Never See Me Again” by Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys’ song “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” appears on her third studio album As I Am and speaks of cherishing each moment spent with a significant other for it is not guaranteed that you will see them once you say goodbye. The single was released in November 2007 and won 2 NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Music Video and Outstanding Song. “Like I’ll Never See You Again” peaked at number 12 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
“Be Without You” by Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You” was seen as the lover’s anthem of 2005. Appearing on Mary’s seventh studio album The Breakthrough, the song earned Mary J. Blige the Best R&B Song and the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards. “Be Without You” speaks on being in love through the good and the bad staying in a relationship and working through the hard times knowing that the good times outweigh the times when there are problems.
“I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
“I Will Always Love You” was originally written by Country music star Dolly Parton. Whitney Houston’s cover appeared on the soundtrack for the film The Bodyguard. The single spent more than 14 weeks at number one on various Billboard charts, making it the longest running number one single from a soundtrack and Arista Records biggest hit. Like many other love songs, “I Will Always Love You” was the quintessential love song that depicts the narrating character professing admiration and love toward the person she adores.
“You’re All I Need to Get By” by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s song “You’re All I Need to Get By” was released in 1968 on Motown Records. The single was the blueprint behind the 1995 Hip-Hop hit “I’ll Be There/You’re All I Need” by Method Man and Mary J. Blige. “You’re All I Need to Get By” was written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson (Ashford & Simpson) who also sang background vocals on the song. The song is about achieving everything just from the love that is given from another and when things are bad, love is all that is needed to get by. “You’re All I Need to Get By” peaked at number seven on Billboard’s Hot 100 and at number one on the Hot R&B/Soul Singles chart and remained there for 5 weeks.
“Love” by Musiq Soulchild
“Love” appears on Musiq Soulchild’s debut album Aijuswanaseing and was supposed to be a Lauryn Hill song. The song peaked at number 2 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs charts and was an ode to all that love has to offer. The song’s title was originally supposed to be “Lord” but Musiq decided against that idea to avoid being seen as a gospel singer.
“Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green
Al Green’s song “Let’s Stay Together” appeared on his album that shares the same name and was released in 1971. The single reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and remained on the chart for 16 weeks. “Let’s Stay Together” was ranked number 60 by Rolling Stone Magazine on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. In the song, the narrator is expressing how much they love and cherish the person they are with, asking that they remain with them through the good and the bad.
“By Your Side” by Sade
Sade’s “By Your Side” is a song that is often selected by couple’s as the song for their first dance at their weddings. The single was released in 2000 and was the lead single from the English group Sade’s fifth studio album Lover’s Rock. “By Your Side” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 2002. The song that peaked at number 2 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart in 2001, followed suit in the love songs that professes admiration for a significant other by assuring them that they will always be by their side no matter what.
“One In A Million” by Aaliyah
“One In A Million” appeared on Aaliyah’s second studio album that shares the same name and was released in October of 1996. The song was written and produced by Missy Elliot and Timbaland. “One In A Million” shows the narrator expressing their appreciation for the special love given to her by her significant other. In the song’s chorus Aaliyah sings, “Your love is a one in a million, it goes on and on and on/you give me a really good feeling, all day long.” “One In A Million” reached number 1 on the R&B Airplay chart and stayed there for 6 weeks.
“At Last” by Etta James
“At Last” was originally written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren for the musical film Orchestra Wives in 1941. Though Etta James was not the first artist to cover the song, “At Last” has become a signature classic for James, appearing on her debut album that shares the same title released in 1961. The lyrics in the song touch on finally finding love. Other artists that have covered “At Last” are Celine Dion, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, and most recently Beyonce Knowles.
“If I Ever Fall in Love” by Shai
Shai’s “If I Ever Fall in Love” was a song that was much different from the R&B that was present during the time it was released. The song that was released in 1992 was done in a cappella. “If I Ever Fall in Love” proved to be Shai’s biggest hit, landing at the number 1 spot on the U.S. R&B Charts remaining there for one week. “If I Ever Fall in Love” was the ideal R&B love song of the 90’s that highlighted all the things that made a person fall in love with someone.
These R&B songs do more than bring back a familiar memory; they can easily be described as food for the soul. Though there are a slew of love songs that are considered to be the best of all time, these songs successfully shine light on the true essence of what love really is; not your typical fairytale but a story that ends with a happily ever after.