The Best 90s R&B Songs Of All Time

One of the most significant genres that came into its own in the 90s is R&B (Rhythm and Blues). Initially coined in the 50s as a blanket genre to cover African-American-influenced music like Jazz, Soul, Blues, and Gospel. But in the late 80s, it experienced a revival that ended up making it one of the most dominant genres of the 90s.

This list looks at some of the most popular and influential R&B tracks that helped define a generation. These songs also helped inspire a new wave of artists that continue to evolve and incorporate R&B influences into their modern productions. 

Table of Contents

TLC – No Scrubs

TLC enjoyed a lot of success throughout the 90s. Cultivating an image of a group of strong, confident, and independent women struck a chord, and as the 90s came to a close, they released one of the most popular songs of the decade.

No Scrubs debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts and held onto that position for four weeks. Scrubs instantly entered the global lexicon to describe men with little ambition and poor relationship maturity. The song scooped up two Grammys solidifying it as of the best R&B songs of all time. 

Montell Jordan – This Is How We Do It

Throughout the early 90s, Def Jam Records established itself as one of the most influential Rap and Hip-Hop labels. But in 1995, they broadened their horizons into R&B with the debut single from Montell Jordan. This is How We Do It was an instant success hitting the #1 position and holding onto it for seven weeks.

The infectious chorus cemented it as a dancefloor hit, but the rhythm and masterful vocal performance highlighted its depth as a radio smash. To this day, you can confidently drop this classic and know you’ll get a dancefloor grooving and singing.

Boyz II Men – End Of The Road

One of the most successful groups in the early 90s R&B scene was Boyz II Men. This four-man group leaned into the soulful side of R&B and delivered several hits. By far, one of the most recognizable is End of The Road. A powerful emotion-filled ballad that highlights the entire vocal range of the group.

Originally released as a single from the Boomerang soundtrack, it eventually found its way onto their debut album after its enormous success. And damn, did it dominate. Reaching #1 in its fifth week, it held onto that position for a staggering 13 weeks. A soulful tune that has become a staple for romantic evenings and slow dances at weddings. A staple on any best 90s music playlist.

Usher – Slow Jam ft. Monica

Usher was another dominant R&B artist of the 90s, and several of his releases could comfortably join this list. But there is one lesser-known track that I’d like to highlight from Usher’s second studio album, My Way, released in 1997.

Slow Jam featuring the talented Monica is a cover of the track from Midnight Star’s 1983 album No Parking on the Dance Floor. This soulful rendition highlights the potential for R&B artists to reinvent older songs for a modern audience. Another fantastic slow dance song with magnificent vocal performances from two sensational artists that’s also featured on our 90s Usher songs list.

Toni Braxton – You’re Makin’ Me High

Powerful voices come in all different varieties, but there is no denying that Toni Braxton offered one of the best from the 90s. You’re Makin’ Me High was part of Toni Braxton’s second studio album and helped usher in the decade’s second half.

This groovy mid-tempo track was a perfect highlight for Braxton’s sultry tones. Another superstar, Brandy, developed the beat with lyrics written by Babyface. Combined with Toni’s fantastic voice, there was no doubt this track would be famous. It peaked at #1 and helped Toni win her third Grammy Award.

Janet Jackson – That’s The Way Love Goes

As we entered the 90s, Janet Jackson was already a massive star. But with the conclusion of her previous contract, she signed with Virgin Records sparking a new direction in her career. Her fifth album Janet released in 1993 and marked a shift to soulful R&B along with influences from other genres like pop, hip-hop, and funk.

The debut single That’s The Way Love Goes was the perfect introduction to the new Janet Jackson. Embracing a more sensual tone, this smooth R&B track hit #1 and stayed there for eight weeks. Even now, it ranks as one of her most successful releases and also made it to our best 1990s love songs list.

Ginuwine – Pony

Need to get a dancefloor grooving? Look no further than this hit from 1996. A stunning debut track from Ginuwine filled with innovative elements that set it apart from other R&B tracks at the time. With a thick bassline and drum and bass influences, it rocketed up the charts to #6.

Diggin deeper reveals there is a little more to this track. The producer for this track is none other than Timbaland, and this release cemented him as one of the up-and-coming producers and led to an illustrious career.

Brandy & Monica – The Boy Is Mine

Everybody loves a good team up, and there is possibly none better from the 90s R&B scene than this hit featuring Brandy and Monica. Two supremely talented singers combined for a groovy back and forth detailing two girls fighting over the same guy.

This release also proved to be a commercial success sitting at #1 for thirteen weeks. Critics also approved, which resulted in them picking up a string of awards for both the song and the video. A perfect example of late 90s R&B.

Mariah Carey – Fantasy

By the time her fifth album came out in 1995, Mariah Carey was already a hugely bankable star. But the lead single from that album showed a maturing of her sound and leaned heavily on R&B influences.

Both critics and fans loved the refreshed direction, and Fantasy debuted at #1 and held onto that spot for eight weeks. This song merged traditional pop with R&B flourishes and is credited for legitimizing the crossover appeal of hip-hop and R&B with mainstream pop.

Blackstreet – No Diggity

Speaking of crossovers, No Diggity from Blackstreet is another fantastic example of the experimental era of R&B in the mid-90s. Leveraging hip-hop superstar Dr. Dre to add some grittiness, this grinding dancefloor hit demands attention.

Smooth vocals, new jack swing, and clever rap segments meant there were few people that couldn’t find something to love about this release. It reached #1 and, more importantly, ended the 14-week dominance of Macarena sitting on top of the charts.

Destiny’s Child – Say My Name

Before Beyonce became the Queen B of the music industry, she was part of the successful girl group Destiny’s Child. This release from their second studio album was hugely successful and reached the #1 position on the Billboard Charts.

With the creative and innovative use of musical elements, it was a great ending to a fantastic decade of R&B. It also helped drive a unique vocal style for R&B that hadn’t been seen before. The video also proved popular and won the Best R&B Video at the 2000 MTV Awards.

Next – Too Close

Nearly all of the artists showcased in this list so far went on to have massive careers spanning several years and, in some cases decades. Unfortunately, Next was not one of them, but they did leave an indelible mark on the R&B scene, with this track released in 1997.

Silky smooth grooves and cheeky lyrics made sure it was both a commercial and club hit. It is also the only #1 the group managed to achieve. It reached Platinum status with over 2 million copies sold.

Keith Sweat – Twisted

Keith Sweat had already enjoyed a successful career when this smooth downtempo R&B classic hit. Taken from his fifth album, it reached #2 on the Billboard charts right in the heart of 1996 when the R&B scene dominated the charts with hit after hit.

This laid-back track is a perfect example of the defining R&B style at the time. Clean, smooth bassline and beats, romance-heavy lyrical focus, and some soulful backing vocals. But don’t look past the Flavahood Sexual Remix, which samples Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing to great effect.

Shai – If I Ever Fall In Love

The 90s were filled with R&B groups aiming to emulate the success of groups like Boyz II Men. One of these was Shai. These four friends met at Howard University and delivered a few key hits. Their most successful was If I Ever Fall In Love, reaching #2 on the charts.

Their subsequent albums never reached the success of their debut album. But this track is a fantastic soulful journey with a warm and stunning vocal composition. A must-have for any R&B fans’ playlist.

Groove Theory – Tell Me

While we are on the topic of one-hit wonders, I’d be remiss not to include Tell Me from Groove Theory. This duo featuring Amel Larrieux and Bryce Wilson experienced great success with this debut single in 1995. It peaked at #5 on the Billboard charts and experienced overseas success in Australia and New Zealand.

Unfortunately, the members went their separate ways, and there was never a follow-up. But we will always have this R&B classic to enjoy.

The 90s R&B Revolution

The 90s saw a massive leap into the mainstream for R&B. It was also a turning point for the perception of music created by African-Americans. In tandem with Rap and Hip-Hop, R&B went on to influence artists around the world.

The lines between genres began to blur as the 90s came to a close. But there is no denying the everlasting impact that 90s R&B has had on the music industry and is arguably one of the most popular and influential genres of the 90s. Turn the lights down low, get your groove on and enjoy these classics. 

Watch The Full Playlist

The full playlist with every song in this post can be watched via the video below or directly on our YouTube channel.

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Article by Robert Calabrese
Article by Robert Calabrese

Robert has over 15 years of experience working in the digital marketing industry. From a very young age he was influenced by music theory as part of his education and played a variety of instruments. From there, his passion moved into electronic music and the equipment used to create it. Using his education and experience, Robert started his own digital marketing company and successfully operates his business in the music industry.

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