The Best R&B and Soul Songs of the 2000s

Looking Back at the First Decade of the New Millennium

Women dominated the R&B charts in the 2000s. Destiny's Child (and later Beyonce), Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, and Alicia Keys were the decade's biggest artists and consistently put out some of the decade's best music. These artists are all represented in 20 of the best singles of the 2000s, as are other incredibly talented male singers such as Maxwell, Anthony Hamilton, and D'Angelo. Check out the best the 2000s had to offer in the R&B and soul genre.

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'Fallin',' Alicia Keys (2001)

Alicia Keys 'The Voice' Season 12 - May 1, 2017 - Arrivals
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"Fallin'," which was the lead single on Alicia Keys' 2001 debut album, "Songs in A Minor," is the rare song that makes such a huge impression that you can remember where and when you heard it for the first time. The song makes it apparent from the very start that Keys is a classic artist making timeless music.

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'Do You Feel Me?' Anthony Hamilton (2007)

Singer-songwriter Anthony Hamilton performs onstage during Black Girls Rock! 2017
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"Do You Feel Me," which was recorded for the soundtrack to the Denzel Washington flick "American Gangster," is a meaty old-school track that sticks to your ribs like good soul food.

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'Be Without You,' Mary J. Blige (2005)

Mary J Blige In Concert - Atlanta, GA
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"Be Without You" is from Mary J. Blige's "The Breakthrough" album, which was released in November 2005. The song was a hit in the first half of 2006 and became the most successful release in the history of ​​Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, spending 15 weeks at the top. Among the things that make "Be Without You" so great are the sentiments of faith and loyalty, as well as the strong vocals.

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'Rehab,' Amy Winehouse (2006)

Back To Black Amy Winehouse

"Rehab" was released in 2006 about the late Winehouse's resistance to her managers trying to get her to attend an alcohol rehabilitation program. "They tried to make me go to rehab, I said 'No, no, no,'" she defiantly sings over a shimmying horns-and-percussion-laced Motown-inspired beat. 

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'Pretty Wings,' Maxwell (2009)

Maxwell Performs In Amsterdam
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"Pretty Wings," which was released in April 2009, is "about the last relationship I had," Maxwell said about the song in an interview at the time of its release. "[It is about] how you meet the person of your dreams but at the wrong time...the song is a testament to what I wanted to her."

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'Honey,' Erykah Badu (2008)

Erykah Badu performs on stage in Exposition Park during Day 2 of FYF 2017
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"Honey," one of the funkiest, catchiest tunes of 2008, is also one of the most creative videos in R&B music history, receiving an MTV Video Music Award for direction. With this one song, Badu energized a genre that had been stagnant for months.

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'U Remind Me,' Usher (2001)

Singer/songwriter Usher attends the B. Riley & Co. 8th Annual 'Big Fighters, Big Cause' Charity Boxing Nigh
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"U Remind Me," is a rare song in which a man is not chasing a woman; he is actually explaining to a female why he will not hook up with her. The song highlights Usher's stylish charm and is simple and to the point without going overboard.

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'Survivor,' Destiny's Child (2001)

Kelly Rowland, Beyonce and Michelle Williams perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show
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Female-empowerment jams get no better than "Survivor." This song is like Aretha Franklin's "Respect" but for the hip-hop generation. "You thought that I'd be weak without ya, But I'm stronger. You thought that I'd be broke without ya, But I'm richer. You thought that I'd be sad without ya, I laugh harder. You thought I wouldn't grow without ya, Now I'm wiser." You tell 'em, girls!

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'Untitled (How Does It Feel),' D'Angelo (2000)

D'Angelo performs live for fans at the 2016 Byron Bay Bluesfest
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D'Angelo's song "How Does It Feel" just absolutely screams sex appeal.

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'Do You?' Ne-Yo (2007)

Ne-Yo arrives at the Teen Choice Awards 2017
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Does an ex still think about you sometimes? Ne-Yo tackles this topic. He has a knack for songwriting, which comes across in "Do You?" the second single from his "Because of You" album. There is also a remix version with Mary J. Blige.

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'You Don't Know My Name,' Alicia Keys (2003)

the diary of alicia keys album cover

"You Don't Know My Name" hit #3 for Alicia Keys in 2004. The innovative concept involves a cell phone call, and the signal starts breaking up. Brilliant.

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'Independent Women,' Destiny's Child (2001)

Destiny's Child in Concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City - July 29, 2005
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Like Destiny's Child's mega-hit "Survivor," the song "Independent Women" is another female empowerment track. If there is one thing the group does well, it is creating crafty hooks, including: "The shoes on my feet, I've bought it. The clothes I'm wearing, I've bought it. The rock I'm rockin', I've bought it."

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'No More Drama,' Mary J. Blige (2001)

Mary J Blige attends the Pamella Roland fashion show
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Mere description can't do Mary J. Blige's powerful, emotion-filled vocals on this song justice. "No More Drama" is a perfect example of why she is the unequivocal queen of hip-hop soul. The song famously begins and ends with a sample of the theme music from the "Young and Restless" soap opera.

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'Say My Name,' Destiny's Child (2000)

American pop group 'Destiny's Child' attend the MTV Music Video Awards
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"Say My Name" has arguably the most clever lyrics of any of Destiny's Child tracks. After listening to this song, even the most cheating of men could probably feel what it must be like on the other side of the equation.

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'I Am Not My Hair,' India.Arie (2005)

India Arie performs onstage during the 2017 Black Girls Rock!
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The original version of India.Arie's "I Am Not My Hair" was released in December 2005 and was nominated for the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song at the 2007 Grammy Awards. A remix featuring Akon dropped in 2006 and might even edge out the original. This song is one of the most uplifting singles of the list and is about learning to be comfortable with who you are and loving yourself regardless of your appearance. 

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'100 Yard Dash,' Raphael Saadiq (2008)

Raphael Saaqiq The Way I See It

"100 Yard Dash" is a fast two-minute, 18-second song about a man who's completely turned upside down by a woman. The song's classic style would make a listener swear it was about 50 years old. Saadiq emulates the Motown sound in an authentic way instead of sounding like a cheap imitation.

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'Give It to Me Right,' Melanie Fiona (2009)

Melanie Fiona Give It to me right album cover

Melanie Fiona's "Give It to Me Right" is a highly addictive track about needing a man who knows how to properly handle his business in the bedroom. It is sexy without being too sexual and gets a point across without being crass or vulgar, which is one of the great things about it. The song intricately weaves in a sample of "Time of the Season" by '60s psychedelic pop group The Zombies.

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'Let Me Love You,' Mario (2005)

Singer/songwriter Mario attends the Moncler Grenoble fashion show during 2017 New York Fashion Week
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Beautifully simplistic, Mario's "Let Me Love You," from 2005, stands the test of time well. It is one of the best songs of his career. It appears on Mario's second studio album, "Turning Point" and was written by Ne-Yo.

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'Soldier of Love,' Sade (2009)

Singer Sade
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After Sade's hiatus of almost 10 years, one of music's sweetest voices returned in December 2009 with "Soldier of Love," the first single from the album of the same name. The song, which Sade wrote and coproduced, features a pulsating and anthemic drum beat, plus the haunting vocals that she is so well-known for.

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'We Belong Together,' Mariah Carey (2005)

Mariah Carey The Emancipation of Mimi

Billboard listed "We Belong Together" as the "song of the decade" and the ninth most popular song of all time. The lyrics chronicle a woman's desperation for her former lover to return. Mariah Carey's artistry makes this song shine like a star.