R&B is amongst the few genres that dominated the 90s music scene. Many artists blossomed into big stars during that era by making hits that reigned for months at No. 1 on most music charts. Some of these songs have never gone out of people’s hearts. If you want to make a nostalgia-tapping playlist, start with these incredible 90s R&B songs:
1. “The Boy Is Mine” – Brandy And Monica
This was a duet by two renowned American singers in 1998. It was the first Billboard hit for both artists, and the song went on to win a Grammy. Most people consider the single as the female version of the song The Girl Is Mine by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney. The popular song has remained a timeless piece over the years. It was the lead single from both artists’ second albums. It’s a revolutionary piece that shouldn’t miss on any R&B playlist.
2. “You’re Making Me High” – Toni Braxton
This single is one of the best from Toni Braxton, and it allowed her to tap into her sensual side. The song is sexy without being over the top. The 1996 hit song was number 1 on the Hot 100 Chart, and it scored the third Grammy for the husky-voiced singer. The captivating song is also able to showcase her vocals. Many people fell in love with her through this masterpiece. The accompanying video captures the song perfectly.
3. “That’s The Way Love Goes” – Janet Jackson
This delightful track is from Janet’s fifth album in 1993. When you consider her previous releases, this followed a different path. The song is about romantic lust, and the singer delivered it perfectly. It has a Grammy for the best R&B song, among other awards. The ballad has been sampled multiple times by major artists across genres. Most people consider the piece one of Janet’s signature songs. Be sure to watch the video because it brings everything perfectly together.
4. “When Can I See You” – Babyface
This acoustic gem was released in 1994. It became Babyface’s highest-charting single being number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The enchanting lyrics are also what makes the song great. Since it’s mostly repetition, anyone can easily sing along, even if it’s your first time hearing it. The romantic song will be a valuable addition to the R&B playlist.
5. “Always Be My Baby” – Mariah Carey
The song is from the 1995 album Daydream, which was a big commercial success. The song’s video is so innocent and charming. It shows Mariah Carey frolicking by a campsite. It will make you temporarily forget that the lyrics are about a fractured relationship. The singer has many amazing songs, but this was something special. It’s more straightforward with a catchy chorus that won’t leave your head. The song received a lot of positive reviews from critics and fans.
6. “Real Love” – Mary J Blige
Mary J Blige has been influential in the R&B genre for decades. She helped change a lot in the industry, and some of her monumental works were the song Real Love in 1992. The subject matter in the song is not different from most R&B tracks. She is searching for real love. The song feels joyous and sad at the same time. But you won’t resist dancing or singing along to it. This song should be part of your playlist if you appreciate Mary J Blige’s work.
7. “End Of The Road” – Boyz II Men
End Of The Road came out in 1992, and it spent 13 weeks at the top of the charts. The American boy band is known for making sensual and romantic songs that are hard to forget. This song captures unfiltered heartbreak emotions. It’s the kind of song you listen to when going through tough times in your relationship, and you want to let the tears flow. It’s all in the approach, and Boyz II Men approached the song with a lot of grace.
8. “Creep” – TLC
TLC is one of the most innovative groups when it comes to performing and song subject matter. Creep was their first hit song to reach number 1 on the Hot 100. The lyrics are about a woman who is aware of her boyfriend’s cheating. The woman also decides to cheat on him. The song got the group a Grammy in 1996. One group member, Left Eye, was against the song being released because she felt it wasn’t giving the best advice to people being cheated on.
9. “Fantasy” – Mariah Carey
This is another masterpiece from Mariah Carey in 1995. This kind of song can turn your day into something better. The song debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s also from the Daydream album. The video shows some captivating and interesting scenes, so we recommend you give it a watch while listening.
10. “No Diggity” – Blackstreet
No Diggity is a hypnotizing hit from 1996, and the single’s success was undeniable. The group’s success was short-lived because they broke up after a few years. But these are some of their works that still live on. There is no way Teddy Riley, Dr Dre, and Queen Pen would team up and not make a hit. You can sample the Another Level album and see which other songs capture your attention besides No Diggity.
11. “This Is How We Do It” – Montell Jordan
This was a staple song in the 90s. When people talk about old school songs, this track usually comes up at one point. The song was the pinnacle of Montell Jordan’s career. He enjoyed a lot of success capitalizing on this catchy sound. The track spent weeks at the top of the chart. You can easily dance to the beats while you enjoy the lyrics. 90s dance parties aren’t complete until This Is How We Do It plays.
12. Heartbreak Hotel – Whitney Houston
It would be criminal to complete a list of 90s R&B songs without mentioning Whitney Houston. Her legendary career has blessed the world with many beautiful ballads, including Heartbreak Hotel. The song hit the airwaves in 1998, and it left a big mark in the industry. It reminded many people of Whitney’s musical capabilities besides her Hollywood blockbuster appearances. This song is a great starting point if you are yet to listen to her music.
13. “You Make Me Wanna” – Usher
Usher’s second studio album did not receive the appreciation it deserves. It had a lot of gems like this lead song. The 1997 song is about relationships, specifically a love triangle where the narrator wishes to leave his girlfriend for another woman. There is an accompanying music video you should watch. Usher is a big star even to date, and he went on to produce many more R&B songs that solidified his place amongst the best to ever do it.
14. “Freak Like Me” – Adina Howard
Freak Like Me is the debut song from Adina in 1995. The song was number 2 for two weeks on the Billboard chart. Many artists have covered the song over the years by creating different versions of the sound. There were many artists during the time singing about sex, but Adina stood on her own and told everyone it’s okay to own the freaky side of you. You are missing out if you haven’t heard this classic yet!
15. “Don’t Walk Away” – Jade
This is a song from the American R&B group Jade from their famous album Jade To The Max. It became one of the biggest songs in 1992 and 1993. It was also a huge dance hit at the time. It reached number 4 on the Billboard chart and number 2 on the Hot R&B and Hip Hop songs. The lyrics depict a conflicted woman in love.
16. “Say My Name” – Destiny’s Child
Say My Name is the most successful song from The Writing’s On The Wall album. It’s one of the first songs from Destiny’s Child that talks about the pitfalls of love more maturely. The song became an anthem from 1999 up into the early parts of 2000. The Grammy-winning song is still a masterpiece, especially for fans who loved the girl group. By the time the song was released, two of the group members were already out.
17. “One In A Million” – Aaliyah
Timbaland and Missy Elliot wrote this song. They were unknown at the time, but the song became a breakthrough for the writers and the singer. The song solidified Aaliyah’s place in the R&B and pop world. She is professing her love for a man. It’s a great romantic song to dedicate to someone you love. You will enjoy the lyrics as much as you enjoy the singer’s vocals.
18. “I Wanna Be Down” – Brandy
Brandy was only 15 when she released this song in 1994. It’s the ultimate crush song with an epic video. It’s the first of many hits to come from the talented singer. Brandy sounded her age in this song. You could pick on her innocence and purity in the lyrics. She has a gentle tone that resonates well with the song’s subject matter. You can use the song to proclaim your feelings.
19. “No Ordinary Love” – Sade
This song from 1992 is about loving someone without knowing if they love you back. Even if you have never felt the pain love can cause, you will still appreciate the song. The guitar and instruments add to the emotional turmoil of the song. It’s a portrait of trying to keep it together even though things aren’t working. It was the leading single from the fourth studio album. The song won a Grammy for the best R&B performance by a duo or group.
20. “Hold On” – En Vogue
En Vogue is an American girl group that released Hold On in 1990. The single was number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It had an impressive commercial performance. The down-tempo dance beat makes it easy to dance to, and the lead vocals on the single are the perfect introduction to the song. They inspired a wave of sisters, including Destiny’s Child. Ensure you add the lovely song to your 90s playlist.
21. “Are You That Somebody” – Aaliyah
Aaliyah was experimenting with a lot of new sounds in the mid-90s. This was one of the masterpieces she created in 1998. You can also see her signature dance sequences in the video. This song was recorded as Dr. Dolittle’s film soundtrack. It became a great piece; even though it didn’t top the US charts, it was still a big commercial success. It earned a Grammy Award nomination even. Aaliyah didn’t like the song when she first read it, but she eventually agreed to record it – thankfully she did!
22. “Right Here” – SWV
This is a sad yet upbeat song from 1992. The song was a success on many levels, but the group came to admit later that they didn’t like the song initially. They felt that it was not going to be a hit. The original song peaked at number 13 on the Hot R&B Singles chart. The song’s remix has become the go-to for most producers who want to incorporate old-school sound in modern singles. You should listen to the original version and the remix to get the full scoop of the song. The simple lyrics make it easy to fall in love with the song.
23. “Forever My Lady” – Jodeci
There was a time in the 90s when groups dominated the industry. Jodeci was also dominating during the era. This song was from their debut studio album. When it comes to love songs, the group was always there. This love song topped the charts in 1991. If you are yet to discover the group, this single can be a nice introduction, certainly. The love song carries a beautiful message that you will appreciate regardless of whether you are in love or not.
24. “My Boo” – Ghost Town DJs
This is the only song released by Ghost Town DJ’s. Not many artists start and finish their careers at the top, but that is what these singers did. Their vocal performance made the song a hit. The song was popular in 1996. It became popular again in 2016 because of the Running Man Challenge. The meme was so viral that so many people recorded short clips online.
25. “On Bended Knee” – Boyz II Men
Boyz II Men have a lot of songs that dominated the 90s. All the group members have something different to showcase in their songs. On Bended Knee was not any different. It was a hit from the moment people started listening to it. The artists were pleading to get the love of their lives back. The group is known for making love ballads, and it reached number 1 on the Hot 100 chart.
26. “Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here” –Deborah Cox
Deborah Cox used to be Celine Dion’s background singer. It was not until she started her career as a solo artist that most people discovered how talented she was. 1998 was a big year for her career after releasing this album’s hit single. The song is about finding love again despite many heartbreaks in the past. The critical response to the lyrics was mostly positive. The Canadian singer outdid herself in every way while delivering the song.
27. “Pony” – Ginuwine
The super producer Timbaland was also behind the album The Bachelor, which featured the song Pony in 1996. The somewhat adult lyrics are about the singer looking for a compatible lover in all ways. The artist was still very young when he became a singing sensation. Listen to Pony and see if it fits in the playlist you are creating. This was the top-charting single from the debut album. There is a music video out you can also watch, which we find HIGHLY enjoyable.
28. “I Miss You” – Aaron Hall
Aaron issued this song as the number 4 single on his solo debut album. It was in honor of his girlfriend that no longer was with him. This ended up being one of his biggest hits on Billboard, and it even won him a couple of awards. Despite having a sad story attached to it, it’s still incredible music you can enjoy listening to.
29. “Un-Break My Heart” – Toni Braxton
Un-Break My Heart was a global hit, thanks to Dian Warren. She is the one who penned down this hit ballad. Toni Braxton also knew how to deliver the lyrics with expertise. That’s why this is one of her biggest songs to date. It keeps coming back; it won’t be a surprise if you already have the song or you know the lyrics by heart. It topped the Hot 100 chart for almost three months.
30. “No Scrubs” – TLC
This is another hit song from the famous girl group TLC. All the three group members had different styles and personalities that were always on display, and it resonated with many fans. This was one of their signature songs that won two Grammys. It called out guys who don’t bring anything to the table. That’s why the song was a big female anthem in 1999 and beyond. Some of the original lyrics changed to describe the theme perfectly.
31. “Weak” – SWV
SWV stands for Sisters With Voices; this girl group was also a big success in the 90s. Weak is from their debut studio album in 1992. The ballad describes the feeling of falling in love for the first time. You can easily get overtaken by someone until you start acting crazy. It topped the US charts for two weeks. The song was supposed to be for Charlie Wilson first, but the girls found their way to the lyrics.
32. “Just Kickin’ It” – Xscape
This song was released as the first single from the American R&B group Xscape. The song is about a man-woman relationship. It describes the kind of woman every man wants. Some female fans did not appreciate the lyrics because they were controversial. The vocals should be the main focus when listening to the song. Even if it’s not the modern outlook of how most relationships are today, the vocals are still impeccable.
33. “In My Bed” – Dru Hill
Over the years, you have heard many songs about how hurt artists were when they discovered their lovers loved someone else. This heart-wrenching song is about the same thing. It’s the second single from the debut album in 1996. The singer realizes something is wrong with his girlfriend, and he is convinced there is someone else. He tells the story beautifully, and you won’t have to guess because the lyrics are very direct. The music video focuses on the girlfriend who is supposedly cheating.
34. “Feels Good” – Tony! Toni! Tonè!
This song from 1990 was number 1 on the US R&B chart for two weeks. It’s a catchy song you can listen to repeatedly, and it features a rap verse from Mopreme Shakur. The lyrics were a bit scandalous at the time, but they still managed to get their point across. The artist urges you to listen to the record as frequently as possible until you have had enough.
35. “Twisted” – Keith Sweat
Keith Sweat released this track as a single in 1996. It features vocals from talented artists, making the song all the more special. It is one of the biggest songs by the artist. It doesn’t matter whether you are a fan of his or not; you have to appreciate Sweat’s contribution to the industry.
36. “If I Ever Fall In Love” – Shai
The only thing that stopped this song from reaching the number 1 spot was Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You. That is how good the song is. You will listen to this incredible love song on an endless loop because you can’t get enough. The way he describes falling in love with this brown-eyed girl will make you want to fall in love as well. It’s finding someone who can stick with you through thick and thin.
37. “I Get Lonely” – Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson sounds incredible on this 1998 hit. Unlike most of her previous songs, this was purely R&B, which is why most people feel like this was a departure from her signature pop style. Janet broke a lot of records during her musical career, and this song made her the only female to have eighteen consecutive top ten hits at the time. The song is packed with emotions that can awaken some memories from you, so give it a good listen.
38. “Poison” – Bell Biv DeVoe
The American vocal group has been giving fans hit songs ever since they were part of the New Edition. But the pillar in their sound and career was the song Poison. According to the writer, the lyrics are a personal love letter to an ex-girlfriend. It was not intended for the group, but they fell in love with the demo version once they heard it.
38. “So Into You” – Tamina
Tamina is a vocal star, and you can hear it in her music. Her debut album came in 1998, and audiences fell in love with this track. The mid-tempo song describes the singer’s feelings towards her partner. Quincy Jones signed Tamina to his record company, where she worked on her first album.
40. “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)” – Mint Condition
This smooth ballad is from the album Meant To Be Mint, which came out in 1991. This is definitely the most successful hit from the album. The ballad reached number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and a lot of artists have sampled the song ever since.
41. “Sittin’ Up In My Room” – Brandy
Babyface produced this hit song for the 16-year-old singer. The lyrics are pure genius and very playful but still emotional. Brandy was too graceful for her age, especially with her outstanding vocals. It can be a great song to listen to even if you are not sussing out your feelings in the bedroom like the girl in the song.
42. “Nice & Slow” – Usher
Usher with another hit from his second album in 1998. Compared to his previous songs, this one was a bit sensual. Usher is driving to his lover’s place with many hopes and desires. His tender vocals add some dripping romance to the song.
43. “Return Of The Mack” – Mark Morrison
Morrison came into the picture in the early 90s. But it was not until his hit song Return Of The Mack in 1996 that his career started rising. This song stayed on the chart for months. He wrote and recorded the song, and the song went platinum. The British R&B singer has had some other successful songs worth checking out. A captivating video accompanying the song depicts Mark arriving back in London.
44. “Not Gon’ Cry” – Mary J Blige
By 1996 Mary J Blige had proven capable of encapsulating unsettling emotions through song. But there was still something different about how she delivered the song Not Gon’ Cry. She received her third Grammy nomination because of the song. The story and the lyrics were inspired by the film Waiting To Exhale.
45. “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” – En Vogue
These four women will lure you into their world with this song. This song was released as the lead single from their second album, Funky Divas, in 1992. The song’s commercial performance was impressive, and it certainly stands the test of time to this day.
46. “I Love Your Smile” – Shanice
Shanice is a renowned dancer, actress, songwriter, and singer. She sings this love song beautifully, and it’s still her most successful single. The song has a rap bridge, but the radio version removes the bridge. The narrator does many things because she is in love and can barely keep it together. The amazing track is a showcase of Shanice’s talent, and we think it’s a must listen for 90s R&B lovers.
47. “Motownphilly” – Boyz II Men
Really even many more spots on this list could be dedicated to Boys II Men as they really dominated the 90s with their R&B sound. They came into the scene in 1991 with a fresh style, and this song became one of the most revered R&B songs at the time. The young vocalists would go on to have an amazing careers afterwards, but nothing quite matched their success together.
48. “Dreamlover” – Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey is looking for a lover who can give her everlasting love. She wrote enchanting lyrics and was also part of the production team. She performed the song a lot in 1993, mostly on televised talk shows. The carefree video completes the song perfectly. If you are looking for a perfect lover, this song is right up in your alley.
49. “Bills, Bills, Bills” – Destiny’s Child
This song is also from the 1999 album Writing’s On The Wall. The song got two Grammy nominations, and it stayed on top of the charts for a while. The ladies in the song are talking about a guy who can’t provide or pay bills (we love this track and TLC’s no scrubs for this theme). There are several cover versions of the song out there, but we prefer the original.
50. “I’m Your Baby Tonight” – Whitney Houston
This song is from Whitney’s third studio album in 1990. Although some critics found the lyrics questionable, the song was still a global sensation and the eighth chart-topper from the singer. Her soulful relaxed performance elevated the song to greater heights, and it’s definitely a worthy addition to her hallowed discography.
51. “Candy Rain” – Soul For Real
Candy Rain is the song you dedicate to your crush. It was released in 1994, and it became number 2 on the Billboard chart. It’s one of the few songs that still gets replay value when people want some old-school hits. It’s regarded as the group’s signature song. There is a remix for the song by the artist Heavy D. All things aside, it’s a beautiful love song with lyrics that are easy to understand.
52. “Diamonds And Pearls” – The New Power Generation & Prince
This upbeat song with heavy drumming is an expression of lust and love. The show-stopping bridge makes the song phenomenon. Prince opened the decade with his restrained vocals and a glittering expression of love, and this combination with the New Power Generation made the song a great success.
53. “Tell Me” – Groove Theory
The duo on their debut album released this song in 1995. Unfortunately, they fell apart soon after the release leaving fans with the number 5 son on the Billboard chart. Even though their reign was short-lived, this dong is a testament to what could have been.
54. “Ex-Factor” – Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill’s debut sent shockwaves across the industry. She could gracefully fuse genres together to capture audiences and boost sales. Ex-Factor came out in 1998, and the lyrics are supposedly about her former groupmate, Wyclef Jean. It’s a highly ranked breakup song. The melodic variations and her enchanting vocals did the song justice.
55. “Brown Sugar” – D’Angelo
Brown Sugar is the lead single from D’Angelo’s debut album in 1995. He describes a woman who has swept him off his feet, and is his “brown sugar”. He sounds amazing all throughout the song, and the well-placed lyrics make the song easy to follow. This was at the beginning of his career, but the singer had other successful songs later on. You will uncover some great soul and R&B hits if you follow him closely.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.