TOP R&B LOVE SONGS
Throughout the years, R&B artists have sent listeners swooning with thoughtful and timeless love songs. If you’re searching for the right song to show that special someone you care, a romantic playlist for a night in, or the perfect R&B wedding songs, here’s a glimpse at some of our favorite R&B love songs- new, classic, and anywhere in between.
1. BY YOUR SIDE - SADE
Though Sade Adu and her group released "By Your Side" in 2000, it has had a lasting place in our hearts nearly twenty years later. The lyrics are simple and direct, promising to always be there no matter what. By Your Side has seen various remixes and covers that have helped it to stay sounding current. If love the original, be sure to check out the 2016 Neptunes remix and The 1975’s recent cover.
2. YOU ARE THE SUNSHINE OF MY LIFE - STEVIE WONDER
Described by NPR as “unquestionably one of the most influential and important musicians alive today,” Stevie Wonder has been a staple in the R&B genre since the 1960s. Released on the Talking Book album in October of 1972, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," written and produced by Wonder, rose to popularity. The song won a Grammy Award for “Best Male Pop Vocal Performance” and dominated the charts in 1973. There’s no question why: With its straightforward and romantic lyrics, melodies that sit somewhere between catchy and complex, and Wonder’s unmatched vocals, this song has withstood the test of time.
3. BEYOND - LEON BRIDGES
Reminding listeners of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, Fort Worth native Leon Bridges has reimagined the soul love song. Released as the third single for Bridges’ Good Thing album, "Beyond" stood out and gained radio play. On "Beyond," Bridges describes taking his time with a new relationship and the fear of messing up a good thing by moving too fast. “I'm scared to death that she might be it / That the love is real, that the shoe might fit / She might just be my everything and beyond (beyond).” These honest and relatable lyrics breath new life into old school sensibilities.
4. AIN'T NOBODY - RUFUS AND CHAKA KHAN
In 1983, funk band Rufus and Chaka Khan released what would become a career defining song: "Ain’t Nobody." It reached number one on Billboard’s R&B Charts and went gold in the United Kingdom. Full of bouncy synths and drum machine grooves, the arrangement makes this song danceable and so iconic. Khan’s voice is powerful, confident, and so distinct while delivering the very direct lyrics. With a chorus stating “Ain't nobody / Loves me better than you,” it’s pretty clear and self explanatory. "Ain’t Nobody" has been covered and interpolated by a star studded list including Mary J. Blige and LL Cool J.
5. ORDINARY PEOPLE - JOHN LEGEND
In 2004, a young John Legend released his debut album, Get Lifted. With production credits including Kanye West and will.i.am, Get Lifted hit number 7 on the Billboard 200, and was certified gold. One of the songs off of that album remains to be one of Legend’s most popular: Grammy award winning "Ordinary People." The song is about a relationship that has moved out of the illusion of the honeymoon and infatuation phases, and into more turbulent times. Legend pressures that we’re all just human and sometimes we need to slow down. Featuring only piano and voice, "Ordinary People" will remain a timeless R&B love song.
6. WHAT YOU DON'T DO - LIANNE LA HAVAS
As stated by Refinery 29, “Lianne La Havas is having a major moment.” From performing with Prince on Saturday Night Live to releasing award winning albums of her own, Grammy nominated Lianne La Havas has been winning over listeners with her pristine songwriting and voice. "What You Don’t Do," released in 2015, has become one of her most popular songs, racking up over 26 million streams on Spotify. Her voice shines through a classic inspired arrangement featuring a gospel choir and horns. "What You Don’t Do" is about having confidence in a relationship and appreciating a partner who doesn’t say hurtful things or play games.
7. AT LAST - ETTA JAMES
This list would be incomplete without mentioning the song "At Last," specifically the Etta James version that made it so popular. Covered by Beyonce, Stevie Wonder, and Celine Deon, "At Last" has stuck around. We’ve all heard it a million times, yet never tire of it. November of 1960, Etta James released her debut studio album, At Last!, produced by Phil and Leonard Chess. The song "At Last" peaked at number 2 on R&B charts, and even crossed over to pop radio. From the immediately recognizable opening string line, to James’ distinct voice, it’s apparent why "At Last" has had a lasting impact.
8. THINKIN BOUT YOU - FRANK OCEAN
Frank Ocean figured something out. It’s like he travelled both into the future and past and combined what the music sounded like in both places. Somehow, his 2012 album channel ORANGE still sounds current nearly 8 years later. He was described by Pitchfork as one of “the most gifted singer-songwriters of his generation” and Ocean proves this to be correct on his most popular track, "Thinkin Bout You." The song is about a first love who Ocean still has on his mind. He wonders if the other person feels the same. With a minimal arrangement, his vocals and lyrics are at the forefront, sharing his honest truth.
9. I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER - ARETHA FRANKLIN/DIONNE WARWICK
"I Say A Little Prayer" is a song only to be attempted by top vocalists, and we are so lucky to have so many great versions of it. First, we’ve got the original written for, and recorded by, Dionne Warwick. Her sweet voice and vocal control made this song a hit. Next, Aretha Franklin recorded it. She made the song her own, with her unique, powerful voice, changing some of the melodies, and bigger arrangement. "I Say A Little Prayer" was reinvented and re-entered the charts after the release of her cover. In more recent times, Lianne La Havas can be found performing this song live, stripped back with just vocals and guitar. Regardless of which version you like best, I Say A Little Prayer is one of those R&B love songs with a timeless impact.
10. EASILY - BRUNO MAJOR
In 2016, Bruno Major set out to write, record, and release a song every month, eventually becoming the album A Song for Every Moon. Easily was one of those songs and has become a fan favorite ever since, garnering over 125 million streams on Spotify. "Easily" discusses the parts of relationships that aren’t always happy. The song is incredibly honest, with lyrics like “We had a good thing going lately / Might not have always been a fairy tale / But you know and I know / That they ain’t real / I’ll take the truth over the story,” and “Just because it won’t come easily / Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.” Set to Major’s skillful guitar playing and soulful voice, "Easily" has easily (wink) become one of my favorite R&B love songs.
From classic soul love songs to modern jams, R&B love songs have stood out throughout history. There are so many that it can be hard to keep track of, so we hope to have helped steer you in the right direction! Curious about our top indie wedding songs or alternative love songs? Check out our other recent posts!