12 of the Best R&B Songs That Will Make Your Heart Melt
You might already have the best souls songs in your collection but rhythm and blues embody a beautiful blend of music that elicits feelings felt deep in the soul. From romantic love songs to inspiring melodies, there are those certain R&B hits that instantly take hold of your heart and never let go. Here is Victrola’s list of our top favorites for those musical numbers that are so full of emotion you can’t help but be affected by them in the best possible way.
#1 “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green
“Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green is arguably his most notable performance. Originating from his 1972 album of the same name, this song has gone down in history as one of the best R&B songs of all time. The opening notes of this unique R&B love song are instantly recognizable and still resonate with people as much today as it does when it first debuted. It was a Billboard R&B chart-topping hit for nine weeks and is also part of his Greatest Hits album which was released in 1975, joining other of his soulful singles, including “Love and Happiness” and “Tired of Being Alone.”
#2 “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse was known for her emotion-filled sound and lyrics with songs that explored emotions of heartbreak, trauma, grief, and sadness. “Back to Black” is a single from her second and final studio album of the same name and paid homage to the sound of early ’60s R&B girl groups and other black singers from the 60s. As with her other hit singles, “Back to Black” was inspired by a past relationship and became one of her most revered songs during her time. Fans of Winehouse can feel the emotion from her vocals and instrumentation throughout the song and can feel the bitter remnants of a relationship gone wrong. Though her career was tragically cut short due to her death in 2011, her music lives on in the hearts of many.
#3 “I’ll Be There” by Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey’s five-octave voice range and R&B ballads are what put her on the map throughout the late ‘80s, ‘90s, and into the early 2000s. Her stripped-down rendition of the Jackson 5 song “I’ll Be There” is one of her most notable hits to date. It was the lead single from her MTV Unplugged EP and became her sixth U.S. chart-topping hit. This special version of the song highlighted her powerful vocals and soulful sound with her acoustic performance. Though this isn’t the only song that elicits strong feelings in its listeners, it continues to be a sweet R&B love song that still resonates today.
#4: “Rise Up” by Andra Day
With a mix of R&B, soul, and blues in her music repertoire, musical artist Andra Day knows how to inspire with her voice. Her emotion-filled musical performances have served as encouragement for listeners around the world. Day released her debut album, Cheers to the Fall, in 2015. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Album, as was her single “Rise Up” for Best R&B Performance. Channeling the earlier sounds of music greats like Eartha Kitt and Billie Holliday, Day makes music that gets deep down into the heart and soul of fans.
#5: “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin
The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin paved the path for R&B artists that have come after and her music continues to delight listeners with her heart-melting sound. “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman” is part of her Lady Soul album and is one of the best R&B songs to date.
Though it only reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100, it’s one of Franklin’s signature hits and has been revered and recorded by numerous other artists since. The slow tempo and soothing melody of the hit single are balanced by her powerful vocals and repetition of lyrics. It’s an instant classic that remains a timeless success.
#6 “On Bended Knee” by Boyz II Men
Looking for 90s R&B songs to add to your collection? If you wanted to set the romantic mood in the 1990s, then you would put on a Boyz II Men record. The quartet is known for its power ballads and music that makes the heart melt. With silky vocals and smooth harmonies, they created their own soundtrack of love with their 1995 II album, which sold 12 million copies in the U.S. One of the most popular tracks, “On Bended Knee,” is considered of the best R&B songs of all time, depicting heartbreak and reconciliation from a relationship gone wrong. The soulful number replaced their other top-charting ballad “I’ll Make Love to You,” also a track from their best-selling album.
#7 “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder is credited for creating music that inspires good moods, dancing, and social change. His best-selling, critically acclaimed Songs in the Key of Life album is one of the greatest records of all time and features his sweet tune “Isn’t She Lovely.” It’s a love song of a different variety, inspired by his baby daughter, Aisha.
The beginning of the song starts with a baby’s cry and has spoken parts of Wonder lovingly talking with her. Though never released as a single due to its extended runtime, “Isn’t She Lovely” has become a favorite R&B song throughout the years, depicting the heart-warming feeling and unconditional love that comes with being a parent.
#8 “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys
The moment Alicia Keys stepped onto the scene, it was clear she was an R&B star from the get-go. As with her debut album, Songs in A Minor, her second studio album, The Diary of Alicia Keys, was also a Grammy-nominated success. Her single “If I Ain’t Got You” broke the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed at the top of the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart for six consecutive weeks.
She eventually won Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for the song and is considered one of the artist’s greatest hits. Her soulful sound and command of the piano allow her vocals to shine through and emotions to be felt to the core.
#9 “Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston
One of the top R&B songs of all time is Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All. Though it may not be as commonly known as her other pop hits and ballads, it’s the type of song that stays with you for a long time. It was part of her debut, self-titled album, and is also found on her I Will Always Love You - The Best of Whitney Houston posthumous greatest hits album. The song is an inspirational hit focusing on lyrics of perseverance, strength, and motivation for people of all ages, in different stages of their life, and is one of the best non-traditional love songs ever recorded.
#10 “Love On Top” by Beyonce
Beyonce knows how to drive deep to the heart with her own soulful sound, though she has artistically intermingled different genres, including R&B and modern pop, rock, and hip-hop. “Love on Top” is one of her most beloved songs and has a poppy rhythm and multiple key changes that deliver an instant mood booster whenever it comes on.
She sings to the person she can count on during the hardest times and create a relationship of mutual love and respect. Originally recorded for her 2011 album, 4, “Love on Top” also is part of her Homecoming: Live Album which depicts her epic 2018 headlining Coachella performance. “Love on Top” earned her a Grammy for Best Traditional R&B performance and continues to be a favorite among fans today.
#11 “You’re All I Need to Get By” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Marvin Gaye is a music icon in his own right but also part of one of R&B’s most iconic dues. His songs with Tammi Terrell are full of energy, passion, and emotion that inspires us to love and connect. The sweet, echo-type style that starts their hit single “You’re All I Need to Get By” crescendoes to a blended harmony that instantly puts a smile on anyone’s face. It’s appeared on several of his albums, including his greatest hits,
Collected. The driving rhythm and sweet, simplistic lyrics landed this song at the number one spot on the Billboard Hot R&B/Soul Singles for five weeks and is one of the longest-running R&B hits to hold the spot.
#12 “Purple Rain” by Prince
As far as heart-melters go, Prince’s “Purple Rain” is one of the best R&B songs ever performed. As the title track of his album and film of the same name, this hit single is one of the most iconic of the era.
The power ballad combines the sounds of R&B with rock and gospel to create an emotional song that elicits feelings of despair and hurt followed by faith and love. Prince manages to mix all the feelings into one driving song and a continuous build to the emotional delivery everyone looks for.
Looking for other contemporary RB artists? Check out songs from Frank Ocean, John Legend, Keyshia Cole, and Mary J Blige.
When you want music that tugs at the heartstrings, you don’t have to look any further than these accomplished artists. Make sure you have them in the rotation by visiting our record store and selecting your favorites today.