Best R&B/Soul Songs of 2009

The Cream of the Crop ...

The year two-double-oh-nine is now almost over as this is being written, so it's time to look back at the best R&B and Soul songs of the year. There was a handful of truly phenomenal songs, like Maxwell's "Pretty Wings" and India.Arie & Musiq Soulchild's "Chocolate High," plus some addictive tracks that are a snapshot of a moment in time, like Mary J. Blige's "The One" and Keri Hilson & Lil Wayne's "Turnin' Me On." The biggest surprise here though, is probably the debut single by formerly unknown singer Jeremih (it's pronounced


). His "Birthday Sex" just oozes with sensuality.

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"Pretty Wings," Maxwell

"Pretty Wings" is the official first single from


, which was Maxwell's fourth studio album, and first in eight long years. "It’s about the last relationship I had," Maxwell said about the song in an interview. "How you meet the person of your dreams but at the wrong time ... the song is a testament to what I wanted to say and say, to her."

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"The One," Mary J. Blige

To paraphrase the song, 'I'm not sayin' she's the best, but ... she's the best.' This track, which was released back in July '09, is the lead single from Mary's Stonger album, which came out in late December.

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"On the Ocean," K'Jon

"On the Ocean," a song about how being in the music industry can sometimes feel like being on a raft in the middle of the water, is the breakthrough single from this Detroit, Michigan native, who cut his chops grooming local artists as a producer and songwriter.

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"Give it to Me Right," Melanie Fiona

Melanie's new on the scene, and for those who haven't had a chance to check out her music yet, here's a stream of her first single, "Give it To Me Right," a highly addictive track about needing a man who knows how to properly handle his business in the bedroom. It's sexy without being too sexual and gets a point across without being crass or vulgar, which is what I really like about it. Can't wait to hear more from her. (Oh, and if you're wondering what song is being sampled here, it's "Time of the Season" by '60s psychedelic pop group The Zombies.)

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"Bulletproof," Raheem DeVaughn feat. Ludacris

It's rare these days that R&B/Soul songs delve into social issues like war, crime and unemployment, but this song does it and does it well. Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye would have been proud.

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"Turnin' Me On," Keri Hilson feat. Lil Wayne

The electrifying and addictive "Turnin' Me On" is the biggest standout track on Keri's March 2009 debut album, In A Perfect World ....

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"Blame It," Jamie Foxx feat. T-Pain

With big assists from T-Pain and Auto-Tune, Jamie Foxx managed to create his biggest and best hit since teaming up with Kanye West for "Gold Digger" in 2005.

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"She Ain't Got," LeToya Luckett

"She Ain't Got" is a sassy and saucy track on which LeToya harshly disses a romantic rival. It's from her sophomore album,

Lady Love

, which was released by Capitol Records on Aug. 25, 2009.

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"Birthday Sex," Jeremih

Jeremih and this rawly sensual track came out of nowhere and hit the top of the charts in only a couple of months during the first half of 2009. The song gives a whole new depth to the act of celebrating birthdays.

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"It's A Man's Man's Man's World," Leela James

Leela's sophomore album,

Let's Do It Again

came out March 24, 2009 via Shanachie Entertainment. The album is full of remakes of old-school Soul classics, and first single was a remake of James Brown's "It's A Man's Man's Man's World." In the humble opinion of yours truly, it's one of the most powerfully-sung tracks that's come out in awhile. Leela's got an incredible voice that exudes gritty realness.

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"Number One," R. Kelly feat. Keri Hilson

"Number One," which features 2009's top newcomer, Keri Hilson, is a braggadocious sexual duet that was a top 10 hit on Billboard's R&B chart and was all over VH1 Soul for months.

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"Chocolate High," India.Arie

"Chocolate High," which features India dueting with her rumored (ex)-boyfriend, Musiq Soulchild, is a tasty, sexy and radio-friendly track off her fourth album,

Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics

, which dropped Feb. 10, 2009.

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"Change," Daniel Merriweather feat. Wale

Daniel Merriweather is a big voice in the new Soul scene overseas. Daniel's originally from Australia, and is already a hit in the United Kingdom, where his official debut album,

Love & War

, debuted at No. 2 on the UK albums chart back in June 2009.

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"I Invented Sex," Trey Songz

This song, off Trey's third album,


, is a perfect example of what Trey's strength is: singing about the joy of lovemaking.

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"Can't Last A Day," Teena Marie feat. Faith Evans

Lady Tee's back again and plans to dropped her 13th studio album June 9, 2009 via Stax Records. The album,

Congo Square

, takes it's name from an historical area in New Orleans. The sweet first single was "Can’t Last a Day," a Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff-influenced track that pairs Teena with the always-great Faith Evans.

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"Thinkin' About You," Mario

This addictive ode to infatuation is off of Mario's DNA album, which dropped in October '09.

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"From My Heart to Yours," Laura Izibor

You can't really tell by looking at her or listening to her sing, but Laura Izibor is an Irish R&B singer straight outta Dublin. Her debut album,

Let the Truth Be Told

, was released in the U.S. on June 16 via Atlantic Records. Her warm-n-sunny current single, "From My Heart to Yours," has been getting some play on VH1 Soul lately, as well as a few TV shows, including "Grey's Anatomy" and "Ghost Whisperer." It's a catchy, upbeat summertime jam that once again proves that the U.S. isn't the only country that can produce quality R&B/Soul singers.

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"How It Was Supposed to Be," Ryan Leslie

"How It Was Supposed to Be," a song about lost love featuring Jadakiss, is an underrated song on an underrated album, Ryan Leslie's self-titled debut which dropped in February 2009. Ryan doesn't get nearly the props he deserves as an artist, but take it from your R&B/Soul Guide, this song and his album are both solid from top to bottom.

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"It's Yours," J. Holiday

With "It's Yours," the first single from his second album, J. Holiday picked up right where he left off back in '07. "It's Yours" is almost as instantly catchy as his big hit "Bed" was, and is smooth, sexy and strongly sung.

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"F__k With My Mind," Novel

Novel is an R&B singer-rapper who happens to be the grandson of legendary R&B vocalist Solomon Burke. He released an EP called

I Am ... Future Black President

in 2008, but Novel's had problems sticking with a record label. But once he finds a home, 2010 might be his break-out year. In the meantime, check out his bitter - yet sweet-sounding - break-up song.