Top 11 90's R&B Love Songs
For a typical music lover, there’s no better genre of music to set the mood than classic 90’s R&B love songs. The tunes that get played during the “Quiet Storm'' on the radio are perfect for an at-home date night or simply when you’re feeling like settling in with a few favorite records.
Though it’s tough to narrow down the choices of love songs from arguably one of music’s greatest genres, here’s our curated list for the best 90’s R&B love songs to get the romantic feelings flowing, some of which you can find in our record store.
#1 “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
Never had a soundtrack received as much, if not more attention, than the movie than Whitney Houston’s The Bodyguard. It’s the music that guided the movie and secured Houston’s place among the top talents of a generation. Her version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” is an iconic and beautiful song commonly found on wedding playlists during the ‘90s decade. Her crystal clear voice and powerhouse range allowed her to belt out power ballads like no one else.
In addition to the original soundtrack, the recording also appears on the I Wish You Love: More from the Bodyguard, a 25th anniversary celebration album that features hit songs from the movie, as well as previously unreleased material. Other popular R&B love songs on the album include “I Have Nothing” and “Run to You,” which create the perfect trifecta of hits.
#2 “Vision of Love” by Mariah Carey
Alongside Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey also paved the way as one of the best-selling R&B singers of the 1990s and beyond. She debuted her self-titled album Mariah Carey at the beginning of the decade with a title track that unexpectedly reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for four consecutive weeks.
She entered the pop genre of this time with her multi-range vocals, focusing mainly on her angelic sound and personal lyrics versus new technology and instrumentation. Her “Vision of Love” lyrics describe a true love she’s found through faith and patience. It debuted as the first of many R&B love songs she would be known for throughout her career. Other top R&B love songs include “Love Takes Time,” also off her debut album, “Always Be My Baby” from 1995’s Daydream album, and “Thank God I Found You” from her 1999 Rainbow album.
#3 “Let Love Rule” by Lenny Kravitz
Though his debut studio album was released in 1989, Lenny Kravitz emerged into superstardom as a mainstay in the ‘90s. He’s best known for his R&B ballads, as well as his funk, soul, and rock and roll sound. The album’s lead single of the same name, “Let Love Rule,” was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist.
While this love song track isn’t your typical slow jam and doesn’t focus as much on romantic love, it’s hard to discount Kravitz’s passion through this beautiful song where love is the central theme.
#4 “Real Love” by Mary J. Blige
Dubbed the “Queen of 90’s R&B” Mary J. Blige talks about “Real Love,” on the 1992 track from her debut studio album. It became a top-ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and continues to be one of her most recognized songs to this day. She mixes in her R&B sound with an edgier hip-hop vibe, which she’s cemented as her signature sound.
On its face, the “Real Love” lyrics don’t make it seem like your typical love song. It captures one of the best things about her music, which is self-love, even if it means temporarily being lost in the uncertainty of relationships. Plus, the groove of the music alone fits right in with songs that lean toward a more soulful nature.
#5 “I Wanna Be Down” by Brandy
In 1994, R&B singer and actress Brandy debuted her self-titled album when she was just fourteen. Her single “I Wanna Be Down” was one of two number-one hits on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles and was the lead single off the album.
This love song reflects the language of innocence with a sweet and smooth melody mixed with a hip-hop twist. Despite her age at the time this track was released, her vocals, lyrics, and rhythm have a maturity that appealed to teenagers and adults alike, then and now.
#6 “No Ordinary Love” by Sade
The soothing vocals of 90’s R&B artist Sade are a must-have on any love song list. Her album, The Best of Sade, is a compilation of her greatest hits and was released in 1994. Her worldly sound combines elements of soul, R&B, jazz, and funk.
“No Ordinary Love” originally debuted on the album, Love Deluxe, and has reached global success in Europe, Canada, and the U.S. Sade’s smoky voice and intimate lyrics blend well with distinctive guitar riffs and instrumentation. Her music delivers a sensual groove that so many have deemed the ultimate in cool, thus resulting in one of the best 90’s R&B love songs of all time.
#7 “I’ll Make Love to You” by Boyz II Men
Before the colorful, upbeat pop sounds of boy bands like N’Sync and Backstreet Boys, there was the smooth harmony of Boyz II Men. They’re known best for their emotional ballads and cappella harmonies. Their hit single “I’ll Make Love to You” off their II album went to number one, only to be replaced by another beloved love song, “On Bended Knee.”
Sung with tenderness and desire, Boyz II Men went on to sell 12 million copies and secured II as the third best-selling album in 1995. Their rise in the ‘90s cemented their status in the music industry as one of the top R&B groups, and they’re responsible for some of the best R&B love songs we still enjoy today.
#8 “Again” by Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson’s album Janet was her first to debut at number one with a string of hit singles, including the heartbreaking love song, “Again.” Throughout the ‘80s Janet Jackson was known for her powerhouse performances and entertaining dance numbers, but the ‘90s tapped into her softer, more sensual side.
“Again” appeared in the romantic drama Poetic Justice, which she also starred in, and received a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. Performed as a piano ballad, the lyrics tell the story of love lost and serves as a nostalgic reminder of pop culture during that decade.
#9 “Red Light Special” by TLC
Much like their album name, TLC’s hit “Red Light Special” was a “crazy, sexy, cool” track that reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100. It was a song written and produced by Babyface in 1995 and embraced a sexier sound from the group as they matured professionally and personally. Like their other hits, they relied on smooth R&B vocals and an empowering stance the trio popularized.
#10 “Ex-Factor” by Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill’s soulful sound is highlighted in her song, “Ex-Factor.” Though it talks about not receiving the kind of love she deserves, it doesn’t keep this track off the list of the best 90’s R&B love songs. The gentle pace and groovy sound of this exceptional singer imbued within the song has a passion-fueled feeling to it, whether listening to the song with a significant other or adding it to a playlist to get over a breakup.
Lauryn Hill’s entire album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill focuses on the ups and downs of love. It’s her first solo contribution after departing from The Fugees and ultimately winning five of the ten Grammy Awards she was nominated for in 1999. She has created her own unique place in the music industry through her poetic messaging and vocal rawness that has inspired a legion of fans from day one.
#11“Are You That Somebody?” by Aaliyah
Aaliyah’s hit “Are You That Somebody?,” which initially appeared on the soundtrack for Dr. Doolittle in 1998, went on to become a grammy-nominated hit —combining her R&B sound with pop-funk energy added to the playfulness of the lyrics about a late night rendezvous.
She reinterprets the idea of 90’s R&B love songs with her cooing vocals against stronger beats and instrumentation. The hit also appears on her posthumous compilation album, I Care 4 U. The album also included unreleased tracks and demos, which was all recorded during her height as an R&B superstar of the ‘90s.
The love songs of the ‘90s hold a special place on any playlist, whether it’s for nostalgic purposes or newer generations exploring the classics of decades past. There’s no shortage of R&B love songs talking about true love, missed love, or love lost.
With household name artists and hit single after hit single, making a playlist that embodies the sounds of ‘90s R&B starts with these songs. The beauty of listening to records is that it preserves a part of music history that can’t be replicated in quite the same way as digital tracks. Being able to hear the emotion come through by way of vinyl only adds to the music listening experience.