Singles of the '00s, Part 4: R&B

In a way this is the yin to the yang of the rap/R&B crossover list that kicked off this series, presenting 50 great songs that R&B singers made without the help of guest rappers, even if it's not exactly all 'pure' R&B devoid of the increasingly ubiquitous influence of hip hop. I fell in love with R&B radio in the late '90s and was pretty much marinating it from the beginning of the '00s onward, although I didn't really get into buying R&B albums regularly until I started working as a critic and consuming more music about 5 years ago. In a way this list might be more consistently loaded with songs I love than any other list in this series, because as much as I love some R&B albums, to me it really is a singles genre where often an artists' best work and best qualities are shown on their hits. As with the other lists in this series, I'll be posting each of the 50 songs one at a time throughout this week, 10 a day, and you can follow me on Twitter as I unveil each choice:

50. 112 - "Peaches & Cream" (2001)
#4 Hot 100, #2 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

In a way it’s nice to open this list with something kind of anachronistic from around the beginning of the decade, since vocal groups, particularly male vocal groups, have gone almost completely out of style in the last few years. For a while, though, 122 and Jagged Edge and Dru Hill were really running things, and I kinda miss having those kind of high quality four-part harmonies on radio all the time. I think I loved “Peaches & Cream” the most in the form of the video mix, which cut to the follow-up single “Dance With Me” as kind of a bridge and then cut back into “Peaches” -- I was actually kinda disappointed when I heard the album and realized they’re not all one song. Part III is a pretty dope album, though.

49. Aaliyah – “Come Over” (2003)
#32 Hot 100, #9 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

The run of 5 good or great Aaliyah singles that charted after her 2001 death make for a posthumous run of hits that’s almost as strong as the amazing run of singles released during her lifetime. And though “Rock The Boat” was a bigger hit and “I Care 4 U” and “I Miss You” tend to make you more sentimental about babygirl’s passing, the last significant Aaliyah hit, “Come Over,” is one of the ones that sticks with me the most, just such a sweet, simple song, with a beautiful little bit of backing vocals by Tank and one of Aaliyah’s most charming, alluring performances.

48. R. Kelly f/ Usher - "Same Girl" (2007)
#20 Hot 100, #4 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Here’s the big hyped up collab between pretty much the two biggest male stars in R&B throughout the entire decade, but it feels kind of minor in a lot of ways, as the 2nd single off a forgettable album by the lesser star, at a time when both of them were starting to lose some heat to the younger competition. But it’s still a completely brilliant, hilarious song, perhaps R.’s last great dialogue song as he began talking to himself more and more with the “Trapped In The Closet” saga.

47. Carl Thomas - "I Wish" (2000)
#20 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

I remember very vividly in 1998, one night my brother and I watched an episode of the short-lived Magic Johnson late night talk show “The Magic Hour,” and Puff Daddy was on doing a little showcase of the ill-fated roster of new Bad Boy artists that he was getting ready to start hyping post-Biggie. One of them was Carl Thomas, who, much to our amusement, sang a low key ballad underneath a giant neon sign of his name. For the next couple years that Thomas’s only claim to fame was that great “Been Around The World” remix, we had a running joke about Carl Thomas taking his giant sign everywhere, and then eventually, he got his own solo hit, and it’s really just a wonderful little song that I never get sick of. Honorable mention to R. Kelly’s unrelated “I Wish” that was also a hit the same year.

46. Tamia – “Officially Missing You” (2003)
#83 Hot 100, #31 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

This may have been a somewhat obscure minor hit, but in my mind it’s such a perfect, universal-sounding ballad that it feels like it could’ve been a standard, the kind of song that starts as an R&B hit but then could be covered over and over and turned into a country hit, a pop hit, and on and on. Part of it’s just that Tamia’s version isn’t especially R&B to begin with, just her voice over an acoustic guitar and some strings and little else, part of it’s that that opening couplet (“all I hear is raindrops/ falling on the rooftop”) and the aching longing of that melody just feel like the ingredients for a classic. Plus there’s some meta points for the fact that one of Tamia’s earlier hits was called “Missing You.” 7 Aurelius wrote some really insipid Ashanti songs, but I’d forgive them all for this one.

45. Chris Brown - "Yo (Excuse Me Miss)" (2005)
#7 Hot 100, #2 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

I have to admit that well before he did something that revealed him as a loathsome person, I pretty much hated Chris Brown, thought his voice was piercingly shrill and unpleasant and that his dancing was awkward and overrated and that most of his songs were annoying. But he occasionally has had an undeniably good single, both pre- and post-pummelinghisfamousgirlfriend’sfaceingate, and this stands as probably his best.

44. Destiny's Child - "Bootylicious" (2001)
#1 Hot 100, #2 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

As Beyonce’s solo career continues to thrive and slowly eclipse the group that launched her career, I think it’s fair to say that the Biggest Selling Female Group Of All Time maybe wasn’t all that great, to be honest, and since by far my favorite single of theirs, “Bills, Bills, Bills,” hit right at the end of the ‘90s and I’ve never been all that in love with “Say My Name” or most of their post-The Writing’s On The Wall stuff, I’ll leave their presence on the list with this goofy Stevie Nicks beatjack. The funny thing is that the summer of 2001 was really the only time during the whole decade that I didn’t really have regular access to an R&B radio station or cable TV, so I pretty much completely missed this song when it came out and didn’t hear it til a little after it was a hit, and was totally relieved that an actual good song came out of that whole nightmarish Survivor period.

43. 'N Sync - “Gone” (2001)
#11 Hot 100, #14 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Like Destiny’s Child, ‘N Sync is slowly become more and more simply the prelude to its breakout star’s solo career, especially as Justin Timberlake continues to lean more and more R&B while the most of the group’s catalog consists of a kind of antiquated white harmony group pop sound. The second and third singles from their last album, “Gone” and “Girlfriend,” however, established both Justin’s primacy as the group’s frontman and burgeoning songwriter and his intentions to cross over to R&B, with this being his first charting appearance on urban radio. I love that little bit where the beat stops for a bar and a stopwatch ticks.

42. Tweet f/ Missy Elliott - "Oops (Oh My)" (2002)
#7 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

I remember being in the car with my brother during Christmas break from my second year of college, and it was I think New Year’s Day 2002 and every station was just going berserk over this song. Timbaland and Missy had just had an amazing year and pretty much ran 2001, and this felt like almost a direct announcement that they were going right back at it and continuing their incredible run for a while, which they did.

41. Ne-Yo - "Closer" (2008)
#7 Hot 100, #21 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

In the second half of the decade, Ne-Yo quickly established himself as both a hitmaker that wrote songs for other artists, and a platinum star in his own right. A bit part of that success belongs to Stargate, the Norwegian dance producers that he helped cross over to American pop, first with some midtempo R&B ballads, and then later with some uptempo dance tracks that helped usher in the heavy European dance influence on U.S. urban radio the last couple years. A lot of the songs that have resulted from that trend have been absolute garbage, but this is one moment where the fusion made perfect sense and a great songwriter at the peak of his powers figured out how to fit all the pieces together.

40. Keyshia Cole - "Love" (2006)
#19 Hot 100, #3 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Keyshia Cole gets knocked a lot for jacking her whole style from Mary J. Blige, but to be honest for the past few years she’s simply been putting out better songs than the real Mary most of the time. Some people hate the completely ridiculous vocal ululations she does on the chours, but I kind of love them, they really complete the whole weirdly dramatic, exalted feel of the song.

39. Faith Evans - "You Gets No Love" (2001)
#38 Hot 100, #8 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Faith has kind of been a budget Mary J. for about a decade longer than Keyshia, trudging along with a lot of sappy midtempo songs about adversity and occasionally a fun pop jam and using every possible play on words of her name as an album title until finally running out of ideas with this year’s Something About Faith. On this song for once she actually displayed some swag befitting someone who was married to possibly the greatest rapper of all time, barking out these dope little drapped refrains like “I got the shit to make you cop my shit” in between the sung parts.

38. Isley Brothers f/ R. Kelly and Chante Moore - "Contagious" (2001)
#19 Hot 100, #6 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

On some level, it’s a shame that one of the greatest R&B bands of all time had to keep up with the times by kind of falling into the hit parade of someone younger like R. Kelly and just letting Ronald Isley becoming part of R.’s cast of characters in his weird dramatic song-plays, while Ernie Isley mimed playing guitar in the video to a thoroughly modern R. Kelly backing track. But at the same time, this song makes great use of Ronald’s voice.

37. Sisqo - "Thong Song" (2000)
#3 Hot 100, #2 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Dru Hill’s best singles all happened in the ‘90s, and it makes me kind of feel weird to represent Baltimore’s biggest R&B group with just the novelty hit from one member’s solo career. Still, though, this song has so much entertainment value beyond just the goofy premise and chorus, so many crazy production tricks and little hooks that just keep hitting you, one after another.

36. Mario - "Just A Friend 2002" (2002)
#4 Hot 100, #3 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Just as Sisqo and Dru Hill were starting to lose momentum, a new R&B star started to rise out of Baltimore. And even though he peaked with “Let Me Love You” a couple years later and has had an assortment of minor hits, I still kind of like this lightweight Biz Markie cover that was his first hit. His voice and his vocal skills are really surprisingly mature given the kid was only 15 at the time, and I love how he nails the slippery phrasing of lines like “I wanna know/ your number and/ if I can come over and.”

35. Musiq Soulchild - "Halfcrazy" (2002)
#16 Hot 100, #2 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Musiq Soulchild is the kind of guy that makes people hate the entire genre of neo soul, with his calculated nice guy image and bland ballads and uninspired vocals. But this really is just killer, interesting production and compelling song, the one time when he was not just tolerable but enjoyable to listen to.

34. Rihanna - "Don't Stop The Music" (2007)
#3 Hot 100, #74 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Doing these genre-specific lists inevitably leads to some judgement calls about where to categorize certain songs and artists, particularly when the line between R&B and pop got blurrier and blurrier over the last few years. The charts can usually kind of make up my mind for me, but sometimes it’s more difficult. For instance, Rihanna started as kind of a dancehall crossover pop artist, then started working with more urban producers and being embraced by R&B radio, but some of her biggest hits, like this one, were pretty much all over pop radio and barely on urban radio. So does it make total sense that “Don’t Stop The Music” is on the R&B list but I’m putting some other kinda-R&B hits by pop artists like Fergie or the Pussycat Dolls on the pop list? I don’t know, but I’m sticking with that.

33. Michael Jackson - "Butterflies" (2001)
#14 Hot 100, #2 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

And of course, decades before artists like Rihanna blurred the line between R&B and pop, the the King of Pop was making songs that were hits on R&B radio and was embraced by black audiences, including the song that was sampled on “Don’t Stop The Music.” The last album released during his lifetime, Invincible, may not have been much of a triumph, but he did score one last memorable R&B hit.

32. Prince - “Call My Name” (2004)
#75 Hot 100, #27 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Countless young R&B singers and producers spent the past decade pillaging Prince’s unfuckwithable ‘80s catalog, while the man himself was slowly coming out of his name-changing ‘90s coccoon and gradually making some moves toward being a star again. “Black Sweat” may have been the one time he came close to sounding like an interesting, modern version of himself and making a decent dent on the Hot 100, but “Call My Name” was his biggest R&B hit of the decade (although still a minor one at that), a luxurious slow jam that featured some of the fussy arranging and overplaying that’s saddled a lot of his recent live band recordings, but also boasted a tune and a lyric as strong as his best soul ballads from the Sign O The Times era.

31. Usher - "Confessions Part II" (2004)
#1 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

These days, Usher is going pop with “OMG” just to cling onto his slowly sliding career, but back in the era of Confessions, he was the biggest pop star in the world (even if not exactly an icon on the level of Michal or Prince) simply by being really good at R&B and having the perfect balance of club jams and ballads. But my favorite hit from him during that period is the song that isn’t quite either, the weird is-it-autobiographical-or-not tale of cheating and unwanted pregnancy that gave a nice tabloid edge to his blockbuster album. I don’t really care about all of that, though, I think this is just a great, unique, elegantly constructed song.

30. Maxwell - "Pretty Wings" (2009)
#33 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

I'd always been kind of indifferent to Maxwell's early hits, never seemed to hear them enough to form an opinion on them one way or another, and then he kinda disappeared for 8 years. But when he came back, he came back with a song that just knocked me on my ass and hooked me from the first listen, such a beautifully detailed production, almost otherworldly.

29. Amerie - "Why Don't We Fall In Love?" (2002)
#23 Hot 100, #9 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Although the flashier, more bombastic "Crazy In Love" and "1 Thing" are what made Rich Harrison into a serious hitmaker, "Why Don't We Fall In Love?" was such an arresting, dynamic production and Amerie's voice was such a perfect foil for it that it really feels wrong to give this song too much of a bridesmaid treatment, it and the album All I Have stand on their own as fantastic R&B.

28. Ginuwine - "There It Is" (2001)
#66 Hot 100, #18 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

The R&B star improbably born as Elgin Baylor Lumpkin has had an up and down career in the decade since Timbaland stopped providing him with genius track after genius track, and though he’s had some pretty big hits in that time, this minor hit has always been one of my favorites, just a great great song with a lot of charming lyrical detail and a killer vocal performance that climaxes with the most ridiculously dramatic reading of the phrase “my housenote” ever.

27. R. Kelly - "A Woman's Threat" (2000)
#115 Hot 100, #35 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

This is one of R.'s first singles from a decade that would see him fall from grace, come back, repeat the cycle a couple times, and lapse into slapstick tomfoolery and self-parody more than once. So it's nice to remember that the guy really can write some dark, stirring, serious songs with real emotion behind them. And that those songs can still include a phrase like "my hopes, my dreams, my panties."

26. Beyonce - "Irreplaceable" (2006)
#1 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

One of the things about contemporary R&B is that when something kind of fresh and different comes along and works really well, it quickly gets kind stripped for parts and every element that made it work gets recycled individually in a bunch of other songs. Stargate are especially guilty of that with a lot of their production sounds, and in the year after this song raced to #1, it seemed like there were a dozen other singles with that same strumming guitar backing track, and even a different-sounding song, Rihanna's "Take A Bow," that took an almost identical lyrical approach. But all the diminishing returns can't kill how great this song sounded when it first dropped.

25. Tank - "Maybe I Deserve" (2001)
#38 Hot 100, #7 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

This is probably the most underrated song on this list, in terms of it not getting talked about by critics or crossing over outside R&B radio, but real heads know the deal. Tank’s debut single was an immaculately composed character study, with the song slowly building in intensity to this amazing emotional climax.

24. Janet Jackson - "Doesn't Really Matter" (2000)
#1 Hot 100, #3 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Janet started out the decade strong with All For You and this great single that preceded it on the Nutty Professor 2 soundtrack, but it was all downhill from there, as the Super Bowl incident and a series of frequent and increasingly dire albums full of flop singles signalled the downfall of a career that had been almost unstoppably consistent for a couple decades. It’s kind of insane how well Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis can still adapt to changing trends and beat a lot of younger producers at their own game.

23. Usher - "U Got It Bad" (2001)
#1 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

That bridge where the most of the music drops out and Usher sings that “I’m your man, you’re my girl, I’m gonna tell it to the whole wide world” part was so killer that he had to write carbon copies of this song with bridges that pull the same trick on two other singles that also topped the R&B charts (“Burn” and “Papers”).

22. Mary J. Blige - "Just Fine" (2007)
#22 Hot 100, #3 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

To a certain stripe of R&B fan and/or dorky internet critic, Terius “The-Dream” Nash is the greatest thing to happen to urban music in the past 4 years. I don’t really share that opinion -- his palette as a songwriter is really limited, his producers’ tracks are usually the best thing about his songs, and although he’s occasionally scored a great solo single like “Rockin’ That Shit,” his voice is more often than not pretty unpleasant to me. But to me, this song, the one Mary had to settle for when she missed out on “Umbrella,” is for me the closest thing to a perfect, transcendant song he’s been a part of, the only one he or Mary made in the past decade that’s worthy of this list (since, honestly, I’m not a big fan of later Mary megahits like “Family Affair” and “Be Without You”).

21. Jamie Foxx f/ T-Pain - "Blame It" (2009)
#2 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

T-Pain is, like The-Dream, such an emblematic figure of the changing face of R&B the past few years that it feels odd to only have him on this list once. But unlike The-Dream, I’m only including one T-Pain song not to diminish his importance but because most of his best work was with rappers (and since this song is kind of an extended riff on “I Luv Your Girl,” The-Dream kinda is on this list twice after all). This beat is such a deceptively simple masterpiece, with a swinging groove that was so unlike anything else on urban radio at the time that it was bound to inspire some knockoffs (like the nearly as great Trey Songz hit “Say Aah”), and Jamie and T-Pain are both at their most charismatically douchy, truly a party song for the ages.

20. Justin Timberlake - “Rock Your Body” (2003)
#5 Hot 100, #45 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

This is one of the songs on the list, like Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop The Music,” that had a much higher peak on the Hot 100 and the pop charts than the R&B charts, so it’s arguable whether it belongs here or on the pop list (and I could’ve gone for a bigger R&B hit for Justin like “Cry Me A River,” but I just don’t like it as much). But since it was produced by the Neptunes and Justin is singing with an R&B vocal style (as opposed to, say, Madonna or Britney songs produced by the Neptunes), I feel it’s important to affirm that hey, it doesn’t matter than Justin is white and was in a boy band, at this point he’s pretty obviously an R&B artist and this would unanimously be considered an R&B song if, say, Usher sang it.

19. Robin Thicke - "Lost Without You" (2006)
#14 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

As kind of a counterpoint to Timberlake, here’s a song by a white singer that was huge on R&B radio but only a moderate pop hit. It’s also kind of remarkable for being the mainstream breakthrough of a guy who had his own somewhat embarrassing pop culture past to live down (being the son of Canadian TV star Alan Thicke) while being an acoustic bossa nova ballad that sounds nothing like almost any other R&B radio hit of the last 10 years.

18. John Legend - "Ordinary People" (2005)
#24 Hot 100, #4 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

This might not seem like a very profound observation, but consider the fact that every other song on this list, and in fact almost every song on the R&B chart the past 10 years, has a rhythm track. It might be fast or slow, programmed or played live, but you don’t get on urban radio without drums. That alone, that “Ordinary People” is nothing but piano and voice, makes its success kind of remarkable, never mind the fact that it was the breakthrough hit for Kanye’s backup singer with the off-putting name. It’s just such a simple, straightforward arrangement with such a massive melody that it just hit me (and a lot of people) like a ton of bricks in the middle of the winter of 2005 and stood out from everything else on radio playlists. The video for the song, unfortunately, slathered on unnecessary strings and incredibly annoying dramatic dialogue (“WHAT GOOD IS A BABY GONNA BLAH BLAH BLAH”) and dulled its effect.

17. Alicia Keys - "If I Ain't Got You" (2004)
#4 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

The hits that made Alicia Keys a Grammy-winning household name in 2001 were neo-soul in theory, but featured some of the most brittle, unappealing synthesized drum and piano sounds on pop radio, backing up songs that beat you over the head with hollow emotional catharsis and mercenary hooks. So it was kind of a strange, surprising victory that with subsequent albums she made some actual warm, appealing R&B songs with more naturalistic production (not quite as minimal as “Ordinary People,” but getting there), a subtle makeover into something approaching the ‘authentic’ talent she was hyped up as way too early in her career.

16. Nivea f/ R. Kelly - “Laundromat” (2003)
#58 Hot 100, #20 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Much like painters might have a blue period, R. Kelly’s sprawling body of work can be broken down in terms of lyrical and production styles that he toyed with at some point or another. This is one of the highlights of his water-drip-sound period of 2003, featuring the lover’s quarrel duet format that he experimented with and slowly refined over the course of a decade (before he decided to make all-out radio plays with “Trapped In The Closet” and do all the voices himself, which is a whole other, less creatively fertile period).

15. Fantasia - "When I See U" (2007)
#32 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

I wasn’t watching “American Idol” regularly during the 3rd season so I never really saw Fantasia’s storied transformation from a Macy Gray soundalike (ugh, remember her?) to one of the greatest performers the show’s ever seen. But she’s had a pretty decent run as a singles artists, and this song towers above all her others, such a sweet sentimental tune with simple, addictive melody with lots of little moments that let Fantasia showboat just a little bit without overpowering the song.

14. Ne-Yo - "So Sick" (2006)
#1 Hot 100, #3 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Like “Irreplaceable” about a year later, “So Sick” was Ne-Yo and Stargate’s way of introducing a somewhat new sound that they quickly ran into the ground with a dozen retreads. But like “Irreplaceable,” the original article still sounds good and stands on its own, and to be honest I never do get tired of that synth harp sound.

13. Beyonce - "Get Me Bodied" (2007)
#68 Hot 100, #10 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

For years, Swizz Beatz was one of the few super producers in hip hop who never made much of a splash in R&B, even when he was married to Mashonda and did some records for her. But Beyonce deserves some credit for being the first artist to really figure out how to sing over his harsh, aggressive beats in a way that sounded just perfect, with a series of B’Day era songs including the also great “Check On It” and “Ring The Alarm.” One of the last and least visible hits from the album’s long singles campaign, however, a 6-minute dancefloor killer with a call-and-response outro, ended up becoming for me maybe the pinnacle of Beyonce’s solo career, just an incredible vocal performance with utterly devastating harmonies. And then another producer totally copied the sound of this for “Single Ladies,” and everyone got on that song’s dick and forgot about “Get Me Bodied,” but fuck that, this is the best.

12. Sunshine Anderson - "Heard It All Before" (2001)
#18 Hot 100, #3 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Success is often fleeting in the R&B world, but in the last decade labels have gotten pretty good about setting up pretty much any artist with a big single with some follow-ups and features and at least letting them ride out their fame a little bit. So there’s really not much in the way of one hit wonders on this list, but Sunshine Anderson is most definitely a one hit wonder, and this song was so awesome and so totally ruled when it was out, largely because of her voice, that I do kinda wish she’d had more hits.

11. Mariah Carey - “We Belong Together” (2005)
#1 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Mariah spent the first half of the decade tumbling from the pop superstar pedestal she’d been on for the entirety of the 1990s, and then decisively clawed her way back to the top with a ballad as monolithic and world-beating as any of her earlier #1s, but a little more tapped into contemporary R&B trends thanks to songwriters Jermaine Dupri and Bryan-Michael Cox (the latter of whom is a relatively unknown figure in R&B, compared to other songwriters like Ne-Yo and The-Dream and Sean Garrett who’ve had hits as performers, but has been quietly been a part of so many hits that he appears on this list 4 times, which is more than anybody except R. Kelly, Usher and Stargate).

10. Anthony Hamilton - "Charlene" (2004)
#19 Hot 100, #3 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Anthony Hamilton’s music, particular circa his breakthrough album Comin’ From Where I’m From, sometimes grates on me for the same reason as I was explaining my dislike for the first Alicia Keys album -- classic soul signifiers and vocal style over some of the most harshly rigid drum machine sounds around. But as horrible as the snare drum sound is on “Charlene,” I still just love that song and never ever got sick of it the hundreds of times I heard it on the radio.

9. Aaliyah - "More Than A Woman" (2002)
#25 Hot 100, #7 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

“More Than A Woman” is somewhat on the 2nd tier of Aaliyah’s hits, certainly below her ‘90s classics like “Are You That Somebody?” and “One In A Million,” but as far as her small but incredibly high quality output in what little time she was alive in the 21st century, I have to rate this song above “Try Again” or any of the other Aaliyah singles, just an incredible Timbaland beat and a bewitching tune.

8. Monica - “So Gone” (2003)
#10 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

This Missy-penned song is such a wonderfully dizzy mix of joy and pain, swagger and sadness, Monica kicking little cocky rap flows about kicking down your door and smacking your chick one minute, and then forlorn and wondering how you could not think to call the next minute, all over a cartoony patchwork of strings and flutes.

7. Mya - "Case of the Ex" (2000)
#2 Hot 100, #10 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

This is one of the only 8 songs on the list that peaked higher on the Hot 100 than on the R&B chart, denoting that its crossover pop success exceeded that of its urban radio popularity. I’m not totally sure why that is, whereas with the other 7 songs it’s a bit more obvious. But this is a great little tense narrative over a taut beat by Tricky Stewart, years before he became The-Dream’s right hand man.

6. Usher - "U Don't Have To Call" (2002)
#3 Hot 100, #2 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

This is from that era where the Neptunes were rubber stamping their sound on everything and it just wasn't old yet, partly because Pharrell was hitting his peak as a songwriter. Usher never chased Michael comparisons as eagerly as most of his contemporaries, but that "gonna boogie" pre-chorus is really the most MJ moment in a pop hit the whole decade.

5. Alicia Keys - “You Don’t Know My Name” (2003)
#3 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

This song seemed audacious at first, but not necessarily in a good way: Alicia stepping up her over-the-top classic soul signifiers by using a sample-driven Kanye track, that spoken bridge teetering on the edge of campy or misguided. But it held up and kept sounding better and better, and for me she's yet to top it.

4. D'Angelo - "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" (2000)
#25 Hot 100, #2 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

As the big pop hit from a 'difficult masterpiece' kind of album and a song that's probably more well known for its video than the actual tune, I feel like in a way this doesn't quite gets its due, but it really is just perfect, easily the pinnacle of D'Angelo's career and maybe Raphael Saadiq's too. Love that abrupt ending.

3. Amerie - "1 Thing" (2005)
#8 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

As great as “Why Don’t We Fall In Love?” was, after two and a half years passed without much of a peep from her, she was starting to look like a one hit wonder toward the end of 2004 when she leaked this song, to keep her label from letting J.Lo have the song, and it leaped out of the speakers and immediately belonged to Amerie forever and catapulted her back into the spotlight and made Rich Harrison a brand name producer. You don’t hear Timbaland compliment other producers that often, so you know this is some bad shit when even he talks about how great this beat is.

2. R. Kelly - “Step In The Name of Love (Remix)" (2003)
#9 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Recently, I wrote this about “When A Woman Loves,” R. Kelly’s horrifyingly bad new retro soul single: “R.’s gaudiest contemporary club bangers have enough classic soul buried in their DNA that laying out his oldest influences in such a baldfaced and unimaginative way is dull for him and pandering for the audience.” Specifically, I was thinking about how perfectly “Step In The Name Of Love” melds all of the past and present swimming around R.’s brilliant, misunderstood brain into a modern classic. The hit remix was a revamped version of a song originally recorded for the shelved Loveland album, but it was on the second try that he perfected the formula that he’d repeat with a dozen other steppers’ anthems without ever improving upon it. This is one of two songs on this list that I played at my wedding.

1. Ciara - "Promise" (2006)
#11 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

I don’t particularly like Ciara. I thought “Goodies!” and “Oh” were lame back in the day and I think that recent singles like “Ride” and “Go Girl” are flailing and embarrassing. But for all her misplaced attempts at streetsmart swag, I do think she has a little bit of Janet/Aaliyah-style vulnerability that makes some of her ballads and midtempo tracks work, and that came out perfectly on this slow jam masterpiece, which I never would’ve expected after the one ballad single off Goodies. Polow Da Don was at the peak of his powers as a producer, weaving vocodered backing vocals, swaying underwater drums, Princely synths, while Ciara gave you two intros, great falsetto verses, a bighearted chorus, and an incredible climactic bridge. This was the other song that I put on the playlist for my wedding.
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the late 90s and early to mid 2000s were a bad time for music in the usa

only hip hop artists, soul artists and country singers could have hits then

especially british bands very ignored in that era

such a shame

i remember some time in 2001 when only american artists made the hot and only 1 british act DEPECHE MODE reached only # 85 on the hot 100 in june 2001

such a shame.......
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