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20 Best R&B Songs of 2008

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As this is being written, 2008's almost over, so it's time to take a look back at some of the best songs of the year. Some were from well-known industry veterans who're household names, like Beyonce (If I Were A Boy" and "Single Ladies") Usher ("Love in This Club Part II") and Erykah Badu ("Honey"). But others came from unknowns and newcomers who snuck up on us, like Noel Gourdin's spiritual track "The River," Duffy's retro "Mercy," Young Steff's bouncy "Professional" and Karina Pasian's "Sixteen At War." For full details look below for the two-page list of your Guide's picks for the 20 Best R&B Songs of 2008.

1. 100 Yard Dash, Raphael Saadiq

"100 Yard Dash" is a two-minute, 18-second ditty about a man who's completely twisted over a honey-sweet woman. If you didn't already know the song was brand-new, you'd swear it was about 50 years old. Saadiq is that good at emulating the sound of that era that each song sounds like an authentic piece of music from the past, instead of just like someone who's trying to imitate.

2. Honey, Erykah Badu

Image © Universal Motown.
Not only is this one of the funkiest, catchiest tunes of the year, it's also got one of the most creative videos in R&B music history behind it. With this one song, Erykah breathed new life into what had been a stagnant music world.

Buy/download the song

3. Magic, Robin Thicke

Image © Interscope Records.
"Magic" is the first single off Robin Thicke's third album, Something Else, which is slated to be in stores this September. Personally, I'm diggin' this track's flavor a lot. Not only is it real R&B, it also goes a long way toward proving that Robin's not a gimmick or a one-hit wonder.

Buy/download the song

4. The River, Noel Gourdin

Image © Sony Urban/Epic Records.
Noel is signed to Sony Urban/Epic Records and is set to drop his debut album sometime in July. The first single is the spiritual track "The River," which instantly became one of your R&B Guide's favorite songs of the year.

Buy/download the song

5. My Heart, Lizz Wright

Album cover © Verve Records.
Lizz Wright has one of the most amazingly rich, substantive voices in music. Listening to it is like curling up with a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter's day. "My Heart" is off her third album, The Orchard, released Feb. 26 on Verve Records.

Buy/download the song

6. (TIE) If I Were A Boy AND Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), Beyonce

"Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" is an upbeat dance anthem that's basically the polar opposite of the more restrained, melancholy "If I Were A Boy." On "Single Ladies," Be reminds all the women out there that if their man hasn't made a serious commitment to the relationship, then he can't get mad if she wants to do her own thing: "If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it," she sings.

7. Spotlight, Jennifer Hudson

"Spotlight" exemplifies Jennifer Hudson's debut album as a whole: it's got a strong, independent woman singing strongly about love and relationships. In this case, the song is about a controlling lover: "If I'm just love's prisoner, then I'm bustin' out," she sings. Go on then, girl.

8. The Way That I Love You, Ashanti

This is hands down the best song on Ashanti's otherwise weak The Declaration album, which came out in early June.

Buy/download the song

9. Sexy Can I, Ray J.

Like Ashanti's "The Way That I Love You," this is a really strong song on an otherwise weak album. A really, really weak album.

Buy/download the song

10. Why Just Be Friends, Joe

On "Why Just Be Friends," Joe sounds way more motivated and energetic than he did on his final Jive album, Ain't Nothing Like Me.

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