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 jere-my). His "Birthday Sex" just oozes with sensuality.
1. "Pretty Wings," Maxwell
"Pretty Wings" is the official first single from BLACKsummers’night, 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."
2. "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.
"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.
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.)
5. "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.
6. "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 ....
7. "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.
9. "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.
10. "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.