R&B in the 2000s was built on the sounds of the 90s but took a much more contemporary turn that changed the genre’s trajectory, catching the attention of all music fans. These artists tended to use more electronic elements and hip hop with themes mainly centered around relationships and partying.
From broken hearts to Friday nights to happy ever afters, this list of the best 2000s RnB songs has a range of stories and emotions, and all of them will have you moving to the beat.
- Untitled (How Does It Feel) – D’Angelo
- We Belong Together – Mariah Carey
- Foolish – Ashanti
- Milkshake – Kelis
- Say My Name – Destiny’s Child
- Be Without You – Mary J. Blige
- Oops (Oh My) – Tweet
- Give It to Me Right – Melanie Fiona
- Irreplaceable – Beyoncé
- Umbrella – Rihanna & Jay-Z
- Fallin’ – Alicia Keys
- Rock the Boat – Aaliyah
- Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh) – Lumidee
- Slow Down – Bobby V.
- I Am Not My Hair – India.Arie
- Crazy in Love – Beyoncé ft. Jay Z
- American Boy – Estelle and Kanye West
- U Remind Me – Usher
- Wifey – Next
- Rehab – Amy Winehouse
- Honey – Erykah Badu
- Don’t Stop the Music – Rihanna
- Just Dance – Lady Gaga & Colby O’Donis
- Cry Me a River – Justin Timberlake
- You Rock My World – Michael Jackson
- Let’s Get Married – Jagged Edge
- Yo (Excuse Me Miss) – Chris Brown
- Ordinary People – John Legend
- Sexy Love – Ne-Yo
- 4Ever – Lil Mo
Untitled (How Does It Feel) – D’Angelo
The steady high hat and slow-paced electric guitar set this song up as a steamy one. D’Angelo uses an upper range and seductive vocal delivery reminiscent of Prince, asking the person he’s with how it feels to be with him. The music video was particularly impactful due to its suggestive nature, featuring some explicit shots of D’Angelo himself.
We Belong Together – Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey owns up to her mistakes in this smooth R&B ballad. It seems like she ended a relationship and is now regretting it, begging this person to forgive her and come back. It takes a lot of pride to admit you were wrong, but Carey hopes her vulnerability will bring this person back. “I didn’t mean it when I said I didn’t love you, so I shoulda held on tight.”
Related: Listen to more good songs for heartbreak.
Foolish – Ashanti
The repetitive piano riff and soothing chimes in ‘Foolish’ create a peaceful feel to this song, even though Ashanti isn’t feeling peaceful herself. She sings about a love she can’t stay away from, even though she knows it’s bad for her. With or without this person, she’s in different kinds of pain, singing, “my days are cold without you, but I’m hurting while I’m with you.”
Related: Check out our list of bad relationship songs.
Milkshake – Kelis
‘Milkshake’ has a simple and effective beat centering around deep synth and an occasional bell ring. Kelis knows the power of her femininity in this song, talking about how she can “bring all the boys to the yard” with her dancing and attractiveness. She knows she stands out compared to other girls and isn’t afraid to claim it.
Related: Pump yourself up with these confidence boosting songs.
Say My Name – Destiny’s Child
This classic Destiny’s Child song took home two Grammys in 2000 and has remained popular ever since. ‘Say My Name’ is about the suspicion that a partner is cheating on you. The woman in this song asks her boyfriend to say her name and affirm his feelings if he truly is being loyal. She tells him about her doubts, saying, “you actin’ kinda shady, ain’t callin’ me, baby.”
Related: Hear this song on our list of songs about getting played.
Be Without You – Mary J. Blige
It’s no secret that keeping a long-term relationship going is difficult. Mary J. Blige is going through a rough patch in this song, singing about love on the rocks. However, Blige wants to talk it out because she believes the love can be saved. “I wanna be with you, gotta be with you, need to be with you.”
Related: Find some encouragement with these stay together songs.
Oops (Oh My) – Tweet
If you’ve ever taken a hit to your self-confidence, ‘Oops (Oh My)’ can help you build it back up. A track written by Tweet and Missy Elliot, this song is about appreciating your own beauty. It follows a girl coming home, looking in the mirror, and realizing how gorgeous she is. She sings, “I was looking so good I couldn’t reject myself,” reminding us all that we should acknowledge our great looks!
Related: Here are some great self empowerment songs.
Give It to Me Right – Melanie Fiona
‘Give It to Me Right’ is an empowering song that reminds women not to settle for anything less than they deserve. Too often, women are expected to sacrifice their standards to be in a relationship, but Melanie Fiona won’t settle for that. She says, “give it to me right or don’t give it to me at all,” because she knows she can find someone else who will treat her how she’s meant to be treated.
Related: See our playlist of the best songs about self love.
Irreplaceable – Beyoncé
If you’ve recently gone through a bad breakup and are looking for an empowering song to help you move on, definitely give ‘Irreplaceable’ a listen. Beyoncé puts her man in his place with this song, reminding him that she could replace him easily the second he starts disrespecting her. She knows her worth and is not willing to make exceptions, singing, “you must not know ’bout me. I could have another you in a minute.”
Related: This song features on our playlist of songs about your ex.
Umbrella – Rihanna & Jay-Z
‘Umbrella’ combines R&B and pop for the ultimate dance song—something Rihanna always seems to do flawlessly. She sings about an unwavering love in this track, promising to be there for her partner come rain or shine. She’s confident they can face any hardship together, saying, “it’s raining more than ever; know that we’ll still have each other.”
Related: You’ll need your umbrella for these ! songs about rainy days.
Fallin’ – Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys showcases her impressive range and talent for vocal runs in this swaying R&B song. Keys gets vulnerable in the track, singing about what it feels like to love someone who might not be the best for her. The relationship might border on toxic based on lines like “sometimes I feel good, at times I feel used.” Despite this, Keys can’t help that she’s falling for this person anyway.
Related: You can hear this song on our list of great piano songs.
Rock the Boat – Aaliyah
This alluring song is full of innuendos, mostly consisting of nautical language. Aaliyah is flirtatious in this song, telling someone how into them she is, singing, “I want you to rock the boat.” The music video is primarily set on a boat but has a grim feel because it was finished shortly before Aaliyah’s fatal plane crash.
Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh) – Lumidee
With a clapping rhythm and subtle kick drum backing her throughout the song, Lumidee sings about her commitment to her relationship. She is grateful for this person, saying she never expected to be loved the way she is. She promises that “if you want me to stay, I’ll never leave you,” making this one of the sweetest love songs.
Related: Here are the best songs about being thankful. You’re welcome!
Slow Down – Bobby V.
Have you ever seen someone really attractive while you’re out and about and wished you could get them to stop and talk to you? Bobby V sings about that experience in ‘Slow Down,’ when he sees a woman walking in front of him and feels an immediate sense of attraction. He wants to catch up to her and talk, saying, “slow down, I just wanna get to know you.”
I Am Not My Hair – India.Arie
It’s unfortunately pretty common for people to judge others based on their physical appearance, which can be very harmful. India.Arie sings about wanting to be more than her hair and skin, wishing people would see her for her soul. This sentiment carries extra weight for black people, as prejudice against their hair or skin often runs much deeper than simple judgment. India.Arie offers one example: “I couldn’t get no job ’cause corporate wouldn’t hire no dreadlocks.”
Related: Need a new hairdo? Check out these songs about haircuts.
Crazy in Love – Beyoncé ft. Jay Z
‘Crazy in Love’ starts with a bang, immediately bringing in horns and Beyoncé’s rich vocals. The song is about a love that is so passionate it makes the couple feel crazy. All they think about is each other, and all they want to do is be together all the time. The feature from Jay-Z is fitting, as the pair were dating when this song was released and would later marry.
Related: This song is on our list of popular 2000s songs.
American Boy – Estelle and Kanye West
Estelle and Kanye West team up for this super catchy song with a riveting beat. West starts the song with a melodic rap about how we can expect a great song out of ‘American Boy,’ singing, “this a number one champion sound.” Estelle, a London native, goes on to sing about wanting to see America with her boyfriend.
Related: Check out more iconic pop songs.
U Remind Me – Usher
Usher won his first Grammy for this song, full of beautifully layered vocals and impressive vocal ad-libs. In ‘U Remind Me,’ Usher sings about meeting a girl that looks a lot like his toxic ex. He struggles with his feelings for the girl because he likes her, but he can’t help being reminded of all the pain his ex caused him by looking at her. He’s regretful that the relationship can’t happen but tries to explain by saying, “wouldn’t believe all of the things she put me through. This is why I just can’t get with you.”
Wifey – Next
The muse of this song is the perfect woman, someone that Next believes is worth marrying. They list this woman’s amazing qualities throughout the song, ending the track with a proposal—”will you be my wifey?” We hear a woman’s voice in response that accepts the proposal, giving the pair the happy ending they’ve been dreaming of.
Rehab – Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse’s rich vocals take this stubborn R&B to new heights, with deep horns adding an ominous sense to the song. She talks about the people in her life that were pressuring her to go to rehab and how she refused. With the line “yes I’ve been black, but when I come back, you’ll know,” she admits that she has had dark times. Yet, she felt like she could always recover from them.
Related: See more songs about addiction recovery.
Honey – Erykah Badu
With a funky bassline and electronic instrumentation, ‘Honey’ is sweet and sticky. Erykah Badu is in love with a guy but is unsure how he feels about her. She doesn’t want to tie him down but is desperate to have an answer, asking him, “can you tell me, please? Wanna know if you feelin’ me.” The music video won an MTV Video Music Award.
Related: Satisfy your sweet tooth with our sugar songs playlist.
Don’t Stop the Music – Rihanna
Rihanna’s discography has a lot of iconic hits, and ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ is one of them. The melodies are so catchy, and the beat is perfect for a club night. The song is about escapism through dancing and partying, letting the music carry away your worries and inhibitions: “I wanna take you away, let’s escape into the music.” Some background vocals sample a Michael Jackson song (‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’).
Related: Have a great workout with the best gym songs.
Just Dance – Lady Gaga & Colby O’Donis
‘Just Dance’ was the first song Lady Gaga ever released solo, and it’s an amazing dance song. She sings about a night out, where she drinks a little too much and starts to get disoriented. Luckily, she finds comfort in dancing and knows that as long as she enjoys the music, she’ll be okay. “Just dance, gonna be okay.”
Related: Go back in time with our list of throwback songs.
Cry Me a River – Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake tells the story of his relationship falling apart in ‘Cry Me a River’ (in 2011, he confirmed that the song was about Britney Spears). Timberlake sings about how even though he loved this girl with his whole heart, she cheated on him. He’s in pain but is unwilling to hear that she’s in pain, too. When she tries to come back to him, he says, “the bridges were burned. Now it’s your turn to cry me a river.”
Related: Get a tissue for these good songs to cry to.
You Rock My World – Michael Jackson
‘You Rock My World’ is a unique song combining elements of R&B, pop, and electronic music. The song’s eclectic elements make for a fun time as Michael Jackson sings about a girl that has changed his life. His feelings for her are like nothing he’s felt before, and his world feels like it’s turned upside down. He says, “I cannot explain the things I feel for you,” but he knows that it’s love.
Let’s Get Married – Jagged Edge
‘Let’s Get Married’ is a beautiful love song that you should definitely add to your wedding playlist. Jagged Edge sings about that special feeling of knowing you’re ready to commit to someone. The feeling of being able to say to your girl, “meet me at the altar in your white dress.” The vocals are passionate, adding an extra layer of devotion to this sweet song.
Related: Listen to more of the best songs about weddings.
Yo (Excuse Me Miss) – Chris Brown
Chris Brown is hoping that his dance moves will be enough to impress a woman at the club. She seems to be on her way out, but Brown can’t stand the thought of her leaving without talking to her. He says, “I saved the last dance for you,” hoping she’ll give him a chance.
Ordinary People – John Legend
This stripped-back piano ballad sees John Legend getting real about the hardships of love. He talks about how love is real work—it can’t always be the fairytales that romcoms make you long for. Legend wants to put in the work, though, because he deeply loves this person. “We’re just ordinary people. We don’t know which way to go,” but he knows that they can find the way together.
Sexy Love – Ne-Yo
Just as the title suggests, Ne-Yo wrote this song about an intimate night with his girl. The song is relaxed and steady, creating a similar feeling to Ne-Yo’s feelings around this woman. There’s a slight build as the song goes on, though, with more intense vocals and synth added as the night goes on.
4Ever – Lil Mo
Lil’ Mo sings about a steady relationship in ‘4Ever.’ It seems like she has finally found the person she wants to be with forever based on lyrics like “I ain’t goin’ nowhere, you ain’t goin’ nowhere, so let’s make it official.” She has no doubts and is ready to commit to this person.