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Best R&B love songs
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The 14 best R&B love songs of all time

Here’s a list that’ll send you swooning – a roundup of the best R&B love songs by artists from D’Angelo to Nelly

Matthew Singer
Edited by
Matthew Singer
Marina Rabin

No genre knows love better than R&B. The Motown songbook alone contains enough lessons of the heart to fill several medical textbooks. Sure, many great soul songs are about the dark side of love – jealousy, betrayal, breakups, etc. But that’s not why you came to this list, is it? 

It’s to find those songs that speak directly to the joy of being with someone else. Whether it’s innocent infatuation, all-consuming obsession or lustful intoxication, there’s an awesome jam out there to communicate exactly what you’re feeling. And not all of them are of the smooth, old-school variety either. Here, we’ve compiled the absolute best R&B love songs, and while you’ll find plenty of ‘60s classics, there are several modern, chart-busting pop bangers as well. So let’s get it on, shall we?

🏩 The best love songs of all time
😭 The best heartbreak songs
🍆 The sexiest songs of all time
🕺 The best party songs of all time

Best R&B love songs, ranked

‘Let’s Stay Together’ by Al Green

1. ‘Let’s Stay Together’ by Al Green

Al Green’s greatest gift to the world is that he makes love funky. The lyrics to the Reverend’s landmark 1971 hit, ‘Let’s Stay Together,’ articulate the solemn vows of marriage: ‘Whether times are good or bad, happy or sad.’ But sung by Green, these promises are given wings. Covered multiple times since its release, Green’s gorgeous original was given a new lease on life in ’94, when Quentin Tarantino featured it in Pulp Fiction. But our favorite boost for this R&B love song has to be the snippet sung by President Obama at a fundraising event in 2012, naughty smile and all.


‘My Girl’ by the Temptations

2. ‘My Girl’ by the Temptations

This sugary ’64 chart-topper (the Temptations’ first) might be the best puppy-love song of all time. Penned by fellow Motown signees the Miracles, its instantly recognizable guitar riff (right up there with the one from ‘Satisfaction’), peppy finger snaps, unabashed optimism and comforting-as-a-much-needed-hug harmonies can make even the most jaded downer feel all warm inside.


‘Dilemma’ by Nelly ft. Kelly Rowland
Universal Motown Records, a division of UMG Recordings, Inc.

3. ‘Dilemma’ by Nelly ft. Kelly Rowland

Probably one of the best duets ever. If you’re looking to woo a partner via the medium of the karaoke mic, this is a sure way to achieve that (probably). How can so few words convey so much emotion? You tell us, Nelly. Though perhaps not the best example of a song extolling the virtues of a monogamous relationship (the refrain ‘Even when I’m with my boo / All I think about is you’ raises a few questions) who are we to judge? A banger’s a banger.

Marina Rabin
Contributing writer
‘Untitled (How Does It Feel?)’ by D’Angelo

4. ‘Untitled (How Does It Feel?)’ by D’Angelo

Coupled with soul man D’Angelo’s extraordinary songwriting chops and an exquisitely chiseled body, the video for ‘Untitled’ is almost too much to watch; the singer is naked as far as the eye can see, and he licks his lips as he sings the song’s refrain (he was thinking of his grandma’s home cooking, he maintains). Video aside, there’s also that delicious, almost unbearable musical climax. Press play, and you’ll see what we mean.

‘Love on Top’ by Beyoncé
Columbia Records

5. ‘Love on Top’ by Beyoncé

Beyoncé is queen of the love songs (albeit the tunes on that affair in recent years). Love on Top was released in 2011 when we were all still bright eyed, bushy tailed and full of belief in her and Jay-Z’s R&B royalty love story. When things were a bit more ‘honey honey’ and a bit less Becky with the good hair. Love on Top is brimming with this kind of optimism, as Beyoncé unapologetically belts about the joys of true love. It’s also creatively ambitious - Beyoncé challenged herself by moving up four keys at the end of the song to achieve those raw, elated vocals. 

Marina Rabin
Contributing writer
‘Wonderful World’ by Sam Cooke

6. ‘Wonderful World’ by Sam Cooke

If there’s anyone out there whose heart doesn’t melt just a little bit when they hear the drum flutter that opens this 1960 swoon of an R&B love song, we’ll eat our hat. ‘Wonderful World’ is lullaby-simple in its structure—of course one and one is two! Of course this one should be with you!—echoing the way that when love feels right, it’s somewhere between a no-brainer and a miracle. And no, we still don’t know what a slide rule is for.

‘Thinkin Bout You’ by Frank Ocean

7. ‘Thinkin Bout You’ by Frank Ocean

There's little direct allusion to sex in this minimal Frank Ocean masterwork, perhaps the highlight of 2012's widely swooned-over Channel Orange. But that lighters-in-the-air falsetto in the chorus and the brief stunner of a bridge—‘You know you were my first time / A new feel’—make this a boudoir ballad for the ages. What's a bigger turn-on, after all, than knowing you've been on your lover's mind?


‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’ by Aretha Franklin

8. ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’ by Aretha Franklin

Has the Queen of Soul ever sounded more desirable than when she opens this ballad with the eternal couplet, ‘Take me to heart / And I'll always love you.’ Over the kind of slow-burn groove that has inspired bedroom moves for decades, Aretha sings of intense desire…but don't you dare forget to respect her while you work your moves.


Steve Smith
‘If I ain’t got you’ by Alicia Keys
J Records

9. ‘If I ain’t got you’ by Alicia Keys

Another belter beloved by ‘X Factor’ contestants throughout the ages, this is a song about reminding yourself what’s important in life. Apparently partly inspired by the 2001 death of the princess of R&B Aaliyah, the song is a reminder to live in the present, and hold the one we love close as everything is transient. Alicia doesn’t care about the materialistic trappings of diamond rings and roses which other people want when these things are gone all we’re left with is the love we’ve had. Is someone chopping onions?

Marina Rabin
Contributing writer
‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ by Percy Sledge

10. ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ by Percy Sledge

Percy Sledge’s R&B (and wedding-soundtrack) staple might be one of the most romantic-sounding songs of all time, but the 1966 hit’s lyrics basically boil down to this: Love fucks everything up—your judgment, your pride, your friendships, your bank account, the roof over your head. It can be a powerful, fickle bitch, in other words. Oh, also: When you’re under its spell, it’s the absolute greatest thing in the world.

‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours’ by Stevie Wonder

11. ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours’ by Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder was a mere 20 years old when he released his apologetic anthem ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.’ Even at that tender age, the Detroit prodigy had ‘done a lot of foolish things’ that he ‘really didn’t mean,’ but making that record wasn’t one of them. It spent six weeks atop the U.S. R&B chart and garnered Wonder his first Grammy nomination, proving that everyone loves a second chance.

‘Ain’t Nobody’ by Rufus & Chaka Khan
Warner Bros

12. ‘Ain’t Nobody’ by Rufus & Chaka Khan

This dance masterpiece from the ‘80s never gets old. This song perfectly encapsulates the bliss of being so enamoured by that one person that everyone else might as well be invisible. The genius of Rufus and Chaka Khan managed to create a song which feels like being wrapped in a warm embrace to listen to, yet will also get people dancing every. Single. Time. And it’s next to impossible to resist screaming along to that chorus. There’s a reason this has remained a dancefloor staple for so many decades.

Marina Rabin
Contributing writer
‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

13. ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

From the twinkling intro to the rocket-powered chorus, this classic 1967 duet, featuring two of Motown’s most stirring voices, makes a convincing argument for the superheroic qualities of love - the feeling that you can scale any mountain, swim any river, cross any valley, if you know that one special person is on the other side.    

‘Adorn’ by Miguel

14. ‘Adorn’ by Miguel

With an opening salvo like ‘these lips can't wait to taste your skin,’ things get steamy quick on Miguel's 2012 sex-soaked R&B love song. Armed with a deadly falsetto, the crooner melds the sweetness of a young Marvin Gaye with the swag of in-the-club-like-yeah Usher—it's damn near irresistible.

‘Climax’ by Usher

15. ‘Climax’ by Usher

One thing you can count on with Usher is consistency: Two decades into his career, the slick singer is still releasing songs as titillating as, say, ‘Bad Girl.’ ‘Climax’ dropped on Valentine’s Day 2012, and it's as surefire a soundtrack for horizontal listening as his previous hits; according to Diplo, Usher proposed the idea of ‘tak[ing] the strip club to the stadium’ with its production. And with that dead-sexy falsetto and wax-melting grooves, you can hear it.

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