10. SWV “Right Here/Human Nature” (1993)

Writers: Brian Alexander Morgan, Tamara (Taj) Johnson, Steve Porcaro, John Bettis | Producer: Teddy Riley | #1 R&B (6 weeks)

On it’s own, SWV’s “Right Here” was a sunny new-jack (or new-jill) jam. Add the ethereal synthesizers of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” and you have a monster that topped the soul charts for a month and a half in the late summer of 1993 and provided SWV with their third consecutive top ten pop hit. Teddy Riley, in conjunction with his pals Allstar and (an uncredited) Pharrell Williams delivered a banger for the jeeps while staying true to the melodic nature of both the original “Right Here” and the song the new version sampled. While the more commonly heard version features just SWV, look for the “Demolition” mix (available on SWV’s Remixes EP as well as a couple of greatest hits compilations,) which perfectly splices Michael Jackson himself into the mix, as if he and SWV’s Coko had been singing a duet all along. Call it a mash-up before the term was even invented. (Big Money)

9. TLC “Waterfalls” (1995)

Writers: Organized Noize, Marqueze Etheridge, Lisa (Left Eye) Lopes | Producers: Organized Noize | #4 R&B

I can’t, I just can’t with this. This FREAKING song, is my JAM. Remember being a kid and pretending you were someone else? Well if I wasn’t one of the Spice Girls, I was T-Boz from TLC. I remember watching this video and thinking, I want those silk pajamas (ed. note: this might actually be the “Creep” video?)…but also, oh my god, something funny is happening to me. It was puberty really hitting home. Left-eye’s rap was cut out of some versions, and that is just wrong. LISTEN TO THE FULL SONG. Junior high dances come to mind again. (Bridget)

8. Boyz II Men “End of the Road” (1992)

Writers: L.A. Reid, Babyface, Daryl Simmons | Producers: L.A. Reid, Babyface, Daryl Simmons | #1 R&B (4 weeks)

With this Babyface-helmed ballad, Boyz II Men truly cemented their legend. It spent a then-record 13 weeks on top of the pop charts. Considering how rooted “End of the Road” is in the R&B harmony group tradition, that may come across as surprising. But once a song catches fire, it catches fire. The timelessness of this song still impresses two decades later. It could’ve been a hit for the Platters in the Sixties. The Temptations or The O’Jays would’ve had a smash with it in the Seventies, and hell, it wouldn’t be far fetched to picture a latter day New Edition considering this song as a companion piece to “Can You Stand The Rain” in the late Eighties. That’s the key to a well-written tune. The icing on the cake is the vocal prowess BIIM brought to the situation. Sure, after 1,000 or so listens, Wanya’s whining got annoying (“OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!!”) and Mike’s spoken monologue was cheesy even back then, but there’s no denying that “End of the Road” was a perfectly executed R&B ballad. (Big Money)

7. BLACKstreet “No Diggity” (1996)

Writers: Andre (Dr. Dre) Young, Teddy Riley, Chauncey Hannibal, Lynise Walters (AKA Queen Pen), William Stewart, Richard Vick, Bill Withers | Producer: Teddy Riley | #1 R&B (4 weeks)

Eighteen years on, white folks are just figuring out what “no diggity” means – the affirmative phrase “no doubt”, in case you were wondering – but, outdated slang aside, BLACKstreet’s early hit never smacks of anything but pure, unchecked cool. Teddy Riley trots out some light verbal gymnastics near the track’s end, but much of the song is sung in a smooth, laid-back baritone; and, somehow, entering the party while this song’s on is scientifically guaranteed to make you feel invincible 100% of the time. It’s that supple Bill Withers sample, that slinky, bare-bones groove, and the fact that the boys of BLACKstreet deploy here one of r&b’s secret-est of weapons: restraint. (Drew)

6. Color Me Badd “I Wanna Sex You Up” (1991)

Writers: Dr. Freeze, Color Me Badd | Producer: Dr. Freeze | #1 R&B (2 weeks)

This song was the source of humor to me in my teenage years for two distinct reasons. One was the hubbub that erupted in my Brooklyn high school when we discovered that Color Me Badd was not a black group (think Hootie & The Blowfish in reverse) and the second was a discussion that took place with my grandmother and our next-door neighbor, when our neighbor said “I can’t believe what kids are listening to these days. I always thought the name of the song was ‘I Wanna Set You Up.’”

In the two decades since Color Me Badd made the scene, they (as well as their biggest hit) have been somewhat unfairly maligned by the rock press, most of whom know absolutely nothing about urban culture beyond what they’re told. Truth is-at least in my neck of the woods-“Sex You Up” was the jam of 1991. That song, in various iterations, was blasting out of every radio station, every jeep stereo, every club, every boombox for most of that spring and summer. Throw that song on now at a event, and motherfuckers will jam. Credit Dr. Freeze, hip-hop/R&B’s unsung hero, for creating a skeletal yet addictive groove, and credit Bryan, Kevin, Sam and Mark for adding their harmonies onto the song. They looked goofy as hell, but this song was so dope, they could’ve been wearing clown suits for all we cared. (Big Money)

5. Mary J. Blige “Real Love” (1992)

Writers: Mark (Prince Markie Dee) Morales, Mark C. Rooney | Producers: Mark Morales, Mark Rooney | #1 R&B (2 weeks)

Mary J. Blige had already scored a #1 R&B hit with “You Remind Me,” but “Real Love” was the song that really announced The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul as a force to be reckoned with. Co-written by Fat Boy Mark (Prince Markie Dee) Morales, “Real Love” was one of the first songs to truly meld a hip-hop attitude and look into a full-on R&B song. The melody and sentiment is pure soul, while the swagger (and the beat) is undeniably hip-hop. Credit Audio Two’s 1987 hit “Top Billin’” for the hard-hitting percussion, and credit Mary for singing (as always) like her life depended on it.

4. Michael Jackson “Remember The Time” (1991)

Writers: Michael Jackson, Teddy Riley, Bernard Belle | Producers: Teddy Riley, Michael Jackson | #1 R&B (2 weeks)

Even more so than its predecessors, 1987’s Bad album firmly situated itself within pop territory. Barring perhaps “Liberian Girl,” there aren’t really any tracks on Bad that one can consider “r&b.” This in fact played into larger criticisms of MJ at the time, that he had abandoned his black audiences, and his musical roots. By then claiming himself as the King of Pop, Michael Jackson had his “I’ll show them” moment with “Remember the Time,” from 1991’s Dangerous album. “Black or White” had already primed audiences for the album, yet even that tune was overtly pop-centric. We waited two months for the follow up single, which proudly (and successfully) proclaimed that MJ could still function within the r&b idiom. That liquidy bassline, a new jack swing beat, and an impassioned vocal made “Remember the Time” a #3 hit in 1992, and one of MJ’s most enduring tracks from the era; few of the songs on Dangerous hold up as well as “Remember the Time”. (Dr. Gonzo)

3. TLC “Creep” (1994)

Writer: Dallas Austin | Producer: Dallas Austin | #1 R&B (9 weeks)

When TLC initially hit the scene, they were like your cute little sisters. Even with their strong feminist message, they were still rocking boyish baggy jeans, brightly-colored clothes, huge hats and Left Eye’s signature condom over her left eye. With the release of album #2, 1994’s CrazySexyCool, T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli turned into sex symbols. This bass-heavy Dallas Austin groove was significantly more sultry than the group’s previous hits, and it catapulted them to the top of the pop charts for the first of what would be several #1 pop hits. T-Boz’s bass growl was in full force as she contemplated cheating on her man. The trio’s chemistry ultimately made CrazySexyCool the best selling album of all time by a female group. (Big Money)

2. Janet Jackson “That’s The Way Love Goes” (1993)

Writers: Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Janet Jackson | Producers: Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Janet Jackson | #1 R&B (4 weeks)

Janet Jackson is perhaps the most underrated living legend in history. Despite being one of the most commercially successful artists in music history with a deep catalogue of stylistically diverse, wonderfully written and produced music, there is always an undercurrent of “well, but she’s actually not that talented” to any conversation about her work.

Not so with “That’s The Way Love Goes.” It’s probably the one Janet song that everyone loves. It’s Janet at her most relaxed and beguiling – and it’s one of the best examples of how expressive a vocalist she really is. And it solidified her status as the pre-eminent black sex symbol of the early 90s – something that she flirted with two years earlier in the video for “Love Will Never Do (Without You).” (Tyler)

1. Bell Biv DeVoe “Poison” (1990)

Writer: Dr. Freeze | Producer: Dr. Freeze | #1 R&B (2 weeks)

As much as we had some disagreements about the VH-1 list, one thing is true: we both decided on the same #1 song. From its’ humble beginnings as that song by “the other guys from New Edition” to its’ current status as a pop culture signpost and surefire party-starter, “Poison” remains THAT JAM. Why is it still THAT JAM? Well, there’s the residual shock of hearing the dudes that sang “Mr. Telephone Man” going this hard on a track. We live in an age when music listeners have been desensitized to profanity or extreme sexual references on a song, so the surprise of hearing teen idols talk about “lo-pro hoes” or “me and the crew used to do her” on a song isn’t something the modern-day music listener might be able to relate to. There’s the catchphrase “never trust a big butt and a smile,” on loan from Boogie Down Productions and now forever owned by BBD. Finally, there’s Dr. Freeze’s hard-hitting beat. You recognize “Poison” less than 5 seconds after it starts. All that said, what are you waiting for? Get ready to dance. (Big Money)

And now, you can backtrack through the whole list:










Look out for a single post containing the entire list and a Spotify playlist coming later this week!

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