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The absolute best R&B love songs of all time

Here's a list of the best R&B love songs by artists from D'Angelo to Stevie Wonder to send you swooning

Photograph: Courtesy Timothy Saccenti
Miguel

Some of the best love songs of all-time fall under the R&B umbrella—from old-school soul belters to contemporary pop-tinged bangers. (The genre also claims some of the best breakup songs but, shh, forget those for now.) Whether you’re looking for the perfect karaoke song to woo your beloved, or something to cozy up with your sweetheart to, this list of the best R&B love songs should be just what the doctor ordered.

Best R&B love songs of all time

1
“Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green

“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 the song has to be the snippet sung by President Obama at a fundraising event in 2012, naughty smile and all.—Sophie Harris

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2
“My Girl” by the Temptations

“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.—Tim Lowery

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3
“Untitled (How Does It Feel?)” by D’Angelo

“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.—Sophie Harris

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4
“Thinkin Bout You” by Frank Ocean

“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?—Hank Shteamer

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5
“Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke

“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 a 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.—Sophie Harris

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6
“When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge

“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.—Tim Lowery

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7
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” by Stevie Wonder

“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.—Kristen Zwicker

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8
“The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson

“The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson

MJ’s chart-topping Bad single finds the King of Pop in full-on cupid’s-arrow love-struck mode (contrast with the seedy depictions of romance in the equally compelling “Billie Jean” or “Dirty Diana”). It’s a plea, in a sense, for love unattained—but the body-moving, carefree approach leaves little doubt to the singer’s sincerity.—Andrew Frisicano

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9
“Adorn" by Miguel

“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 single. 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.—Andrew Frisicano

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10
“Climax” by Usher

“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.—Marley Lynch

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