Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at claycane@gmail.com.


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    Wednesday, October 29, 2008

    I love the female voice and I love '90s and '80s R&B. I am not Rolling Stone, but below is my list of some of the best R&B from sistahs during that era. These songs are often overlooked in the "greatest songs of all time" specials or editorials (from pop to R&B critics). So with the help of two other folks, who happen to be singers themselves, I humbly pulled this list together. I didn't repeat artists and only used songs that were released as singles.

    Sometimes it's the voice, the beat, the lyrics -- but whatever it is, it has got to have the soul.

    30. "All Around the World" - Lisa Stansfield (1993)

    29. "The Pleasure Principle" - Janet Jackson (1986)

    Yeah, I know this song is pop, but it was a #1 R&B hit and probably the most popular song for R&B lovers from the Control album.

    28. "Save the Best For Last" - Vanessa Williams (1991)

    27. "Hopeless" - Dionne Ferris (1997)

    26. "One in a Million" – Aaliyah (1996)

    She introduced the Timberland and Missy sound with this song. While "Are You That Somebody" is her most memorable hit, "One in a Million" is Aaliyah at her '90's R&B best.

    25. "Through the Rain" - Tanya Blount (1995)

    This girl should've had a career like Mary J. ...

    24. "What's Love Got To Do With It" - Tina Turner (1984)

    23. "Real Love" - Mary J. Blige (1992)

    This song ushered in a new sound for female R&B in the '90's and one of the only sustaining artists from that era -- Mary. The merger of hip-hop and R&B, and Mary's pained voice -- coupled with the New York style video, instantly became a classic.

    22. "Sweetest Thing" – Lauryn Hill (1997)

    No song on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill touches this classic Lauryn ballad from the Love Jones Soundtrack.

    21. "Sweetest Taboo" - Sade (1985)

    20. "Missing You" - Diana Ross (1984)

    A tear-jerker, dedicated to the late-great Marvin Gaye. Diana's last hit and let you know Miss Ross didn't forget her roots.

    19. "If Only You Knew" - Patti Labelle (1983)

    Patti in a lower key!

    18. "Through the Fire" - Chaka Khan (1984)

    17. "You Give Good Love" – Whitney Houston (1985)

    16. "Superwoman" - Karyn White (1988)

    Anyone could've made this song hit and Karyn White lucked out with this ballad written by two men, Babyface and L.A. Reid. I don't think there are many black women in the late '80's who didn't have every line of this song memorized!

    15. "Get Here" - Oleta Adams (1990)

    14. "Love Shoulda Brought You Home Last Night" – Toni Braxton (1992)

    Damn, we were loving some Toni. We hadn't heard a voice like this since Anita Baker. You couldn't help but listen to this ballad without hearing Halle Berry in Boomerang say, "Love shoulda brought your ass home last night!"

    13. "Better Days" - Dianne Reeves (1987)

    The grandma song!

    12. "Congratulations" - Vesta (1989)

    11. "Love Under New Management" - Mikki Howard (1989)

    10. "As We Lay" - Shirley Murdock (1987)

    9. "Hold On" - En Vogue (1990)

    Classic R&B! The "Who's Lovin' You" a capella, the harmonies, and the beat. This song started '90's, girl-group R&B.

    8. "Just Call My Name" - Alyson Williams (1989)

    7. "Giving You the Best That I Got" – Anita Baker (1988)

    6. "Out On a Limb" - Teena Marie (1985)

    Now of course I thought of "Fire & Desire" but I left out duets because then I'd have to include Renee and Angela, Ashford & Simpson, etc. But, "Out On a Limb" is classic!

    5. "How Can I Ease the Pain" - Lisa Fischer (1991) -- I already ranted on this.

    4. "With Open Arms" - Rachelle Ferrell (1994)

    She was sangin', just sangin'...

    3. "And I Am Telling You (I'm Not Going)" - Jennifer Holliday (1982)

    This is self-explanatory...

    2. "Comfort of a Man" - Stephanie Mills (1990)

    There isn't a second of this song that isn't R&B. From the chords, lyrics, and Stephanie Mills' immaculate voice. "Comfort of a Man" could've been a hit in 1990 or 1960.

    1. "Living In Confusion" - Phyllis Hyman (1991)

    I just don't see it getting more rhythm and blues than this. There is so much Phyllis to chose from: "Meet Me On the Moon," "Old Friend" and the #1 R&B hit "Don't Wanna Change the World." Still, "Living In Confusion" is the song that truly captures the essence of Hyman in voice and lyrics. She had the rhythm, soul, vocals, and she definitely was blue. The song was written by Kenny Gamble, Terry Burrus, AND Phyllis Hyman. Yes, she co-wrote this song and almost all the songs on this list the artists had no hand in writing. I'm sure Phyllis penned the line, "You build me up to let me down." There is not a single vocalist on the planet -- and there never will be -- who can sing this song like Phyllis Hyman -- period!

    Honorable Mentions: "Treat U Rite" - Angela Winbush, "Miracles" - Stacey Lattisaw, "Grapevyne" - Brownstone, "No More Lies" - Michel'le, "The Men All Pause" - Klymaxx, "Love Come Down" - Evelyn "Champagne" King, "Before You Walk Out of My Life" - Monica, "Soon As I Get Home" - Faith Evans, "Jump To It" - Aretha Franklin, "I'm Weak for You" - Madame X (if you don't know this song, it's a must listen)

    Add your favorites in the comments!

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    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 34 comments

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