The Best R&B and Soul Songs of the 2000s
Women dominated the R&B charts in the 2000s. Destiny’s Child (and later Beyonce), Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, and Alicia Keys were the decade’s most prominent artists and consistently put out some of the decade’s best music. These artists are all represented in 20 of the best singles of the 2000s, as are other incredibly talented male singers such as Maxwell, Anthony Hamilton, and D’Angelo. Check out the best the 2000s had to offer in the R&B and soul genre.
D’Angelo’s song “How Does It Feel” absolutely screams sex appeal.
“Say My Name” has arguably the most clever lyrics of any of Destiny’s Child tracks. After listening to this song, even the most cheating of men could probably feel what it must be like on the other side of the equation.
Like Destiny’s Child’s mega-hit “Survivor,” the song “Independent Women” is another female empowerment track. If there is one thing the group does well, it is creating crafty hooks, including: “The shoes on my feet, I’ve bought it. The clothes I’m wearing, I’ve bought it. The rock I’m rockin’, I’ve bought it.”
Female-empowerment jams get no better than “Survivor.” This song is like Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” but for the hip-hop generation. “You thought that I’d be weak without ya, But I’m stronger. You thought that I’d be broke without ya, But I’m richer. You thought that I’d be sad without ya, I laugh harder. You thought I wouldn’t grow without ya, now i’m wiser.” You tell ’em, girls!
Mere description can’t do Mary J. Blige’s powerful, emotion-filled vocals on this song justice. “No More Drama” is a perfect example of why she is the unequivocal queen of hip-hop soul. The song famously begins and ends with a sample of the theme music from the “Young and Restless” soap opera.
“U Remind Me,” is a rare song in which a man is not chasing a woman; he is explaining to a female why he will not hook up with her. The song highlights Usher’s stylish charm and is simple and to the point without going overboard.
“Fallin’,” which was the lead single on Alicia Keys’ 2001 debut album, “Songs in A Minor,” is the rare song that makes such a huge impression that you can remember where and when you heard it for the first time. The song makes it apparent from the very start that Keys is a classic artist making timeless music.
“You Don’t Know My Name” hit #3 for Alicia Keys in 2004. The innovative concept involves a cell phone call, and the signal starts breaking up. Brilliant.
Billboard listed “We Belong Together” as the “song of the decade” and the ninth most popular song of all time. The lyrics chronicle a woman’s desperation for her former lover to return. Mariah Carey’s artistry makes this song shine like a star.
Beautifully simplistic, Mario’s “Let Me Love You,” from 2005, stands the test of time well. It is one of the best songs of his career. It appeared on Mario’s second studio album, “Turning Point” and was written by Ne-Yo.
The original version of India.Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair” was released in December 2005 and was nominated for the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song at the 2007 Grammy Awards. A remix featuring Akon dropped in 2006 and might even edge out the original. This song is one of the most uplifting singles of the list and is about learning to be comfortable with who you are and loving yourself regardless of your appearance.
“Be Without You” is from Mary J. Blige’s “The Breakthrough” album, which was released in November 2005. The song was a hit in the first half of 2006 and became the most successful release in the history of Billboard‘s R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, spending 15 weeks at the top. Among the things that make “Be Without You” so great are the sentiments of faith and loyalty, as well as the strong vocals.
“Rehab” was released in 2006 about the late Winehouse’s resistance to her managers trying to get her to attend an alcohol rehabilitation program. “They tried to make me go to rehab, I said ‘No, no, no,'” she defiantly sings over a shimmying horns-and-percussion-laced Motown-inspired beat.
Does an ex still think about you sometimes? Ne-Yo tackles this topic. He has a knack for songwriting, which comes across in “Do You?” the second single from his “Because of You” album. There is also a remix version with Mary J. Blige.
“Do You Feel Me,” which was recorded for the soundtrack to the Denzel Washington flick “American Gangster,” is a meaty old-school track that sticks to your ribs like good soul food.
“100 Yard Dash” is a fast two-minute and 18-second song about a man who’s completely turned upside down by a woman. The song’s classic style would make a listener swear it was about 50 years old. Saadiq emulates the Motown sound in an authentic way instead of sounding like a cheap imitation.
“Honey,” one of the funkiest, catchiest tunes of 2008, is also one of the most creative videos in R&B music history, receiving an MTV Video Music Award for direction. With this one song, Badu energized a genre that had been stagnant for months.
“Pretty Wings,” which was released in April 2009, is “about the last relationship I had,” Maxwell said about the song in an interview at the time of its release. “[It is about] how you meet the person of your dreams but at the wrong time…the song is a testament to what I wanted to say…to her.”
Melanie Fiona’s “Give It to Me Right” is a highly addictive track about needing a man who knows how to handle his business in the bedroom properly. It is sexy without being too sexual and gets the point across without being crass or vulgar, which is one of the great things about it. The song intricately weaves in a sample of “Time of the Season” by ’60s psychedelic pop group The Zombies.
After Sade’s hiatus of almost 10 years, one of music’s sweetest voices returned in December 2009 with “Soldier of Love,” the first single from the album of the same name. The song, which Sade wrote and co-produced, features a pulsating and anthemic drum beat, plus the haunting vocals that she is so well-known for.