1 ThingThere wasn't any doubt that 2000-2009 was a good era for R&B -- what era isn't? -- but nothing could possibly confirm it like scanning the decade's charting singles...and realizing that over 300 of them are, on some level, enjoyable. This list consists of the top 100, ordered by preference. Each song debuted on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart during the decade. A list of equal length that covers non-charting singles and album tracks -- Jill Scott's "Slowly Surely," Sa-Ra's "Glorious," Bugz in the Attic's "Consequences," the Foreign Exchange's "Daykeeper," and so on -- might follow.


1. Amerie, "1 Thing" [Columbia, 2005]. This tumbling, Meters-assisted masterpiece was something of a shock to the system. When it debuted on the chart, in January '05, Amerie's dreamy, gold-selling debut was well over two years old, and nothing on it suggested that she had this in her. Like an earlier Rich Harrison production, Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love," it swings on a kinetic drum loop. It's just as exciting, flailing all over the place with unbound joy, but it produces a greater rush with fewer components (no horns or Jay-Z necessary). Key point for sticklers with strict authenticity principles: in addition to knocking the beat out of the park with her ecstatic vocal, Amerie gets a songwriting credit.

2. Aaliyah, "Rock the Boat" [Blackground, 2001]. It's impossible to hear "Rock the Boat" and not think about the plane accident that stole a tremendous talent -- not when it occurred just after the filming of the video. No greater match between lyrics and production was made during the decade. Lapping percussion, dancing synth spangles, slightly giddy guitar wiggles, blissed-out strings and, of course, Aaliyah gracefully gliding atop all of it with breezy, rousing whispers. Check the back half of the-Dream's "Veteran" for a sly reference.

3. Sade, "Soldier of Love" [Epic, 2009]. When it hit the airwaves, in December '09, it sounded like Sade Adu and company were riding in to reclaim their land. Understated yet supremely suspenseful -- crisp snare rolls, cold guitar stabs, staggering synth-probes, and at least a dozen other elements are deployed, ricocheting off one another as Sade Adu rewrites "Love Is a Battlefield" with scarred, assured defiance. Who else could return from a nine-year absence with a song that begins with a regal trumpet and not come off like a clown?

4. R. Kelly, "Step in the Name of Love" [Jive, 2003]. Along with Bobby Valentino's "Slow Down," Lalah Hathaway's "Let Go," and Robin Thicke's "Lost Without U," "Step" kept the art of two-step alive while functioning as a modern anthem for the form. Happy music at its most infectious and hypnotic -- a 20-minute mix would not have worn out its welcome.

5. Anthony Hamilton, "Charlene" [So So Def, 2003]. Not merely an instant vintage, memory-triggering Southern soul classic. Within the span of three lines ("Damn the money, diamonds, and pearls/What about the hard day she had with the baby/All she needs is for me to love her"), the sound of Hamilton's voice shifts from rough-hewn resentment to a falsetto that is deeply, sweetly pained. When the song peaked in November '04, it was flanked by Usher and Alicia Keys' "My Boo" and Lil Wayne's "Go D.J."

6. Alicia Keys, "You Don't Know My Name" [J, 2003]. Keys can be irritating as hell. "No One," for instance, was astonishingly shrill and clumsy. Every now and then, she releases something that forces the proverbial guard to drop. The wistful, shimmering "You Know My Name" is so overpowering that it almost provoked use of the adjective "magical" and a long string of emoticons. "Hot chocolate?"

7. Aaliyah, "Try Again" [Blackground, 2000]. Subtract the Roland TR-303 acid wriggle, the bullfrog, and the tribble, and you'd still have one of the finest Timbaland/Aaliyah collaborations.

8. The-Dream, "Falsetto" [Def Jam, 2007]. The harmless kid brother to Ginuwine's "Pony," yet the most hubristic charting R&B single in memory. Who else, besides R. Kelly, would not only have the nerve to work up an impression of a conquest's high notes, but also make it the hook? When this appeared on the chart, it joined five other songs written and/or produced and/or performed by Terius "The-Dream" Nash, including J. Holiday's "Bed" and "Suffocate" and Mary J. Blige's "Just Fine."

9. Ryan Leslie, "You're Not My Girl" [Casablanca, 2009]. Brainiac hustler Leslie had come to prominence with Cassie's "Me and U" (like Club Nouveau's eerie "Why Treat Me So Bad" turned into an icy-yet-in-heat slow jam) and notched a minor solo hit with "Diamond Girl" (stuffed with weird synth trills and fillips). "You're Not My Girl," however, is lushly-detailed disco-funk that continues to tighten its grip with each play. The harpsichord flecks are a nice touch, but what really puts the song over the top is the xylophone, redolent of the S.O.S. Band's "Take Your Time (Do It Right)."

10. Ciara, "Promise" [LaFace, 2006]. The premier surrogate Aaliyah ballad of the decade -- a rigid/plush amalgamation of "Rock the Boat," Zapp's "Computer Love," Kraftwerk's "Tour de France," and Prince's "Shhh," produced by Polow da Don and Black Elvis. Ciara might be the most underrated vocalist of the decade, but she is partly to blame (see: Ciara).

11. D'Angelo - "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" [Virgin, 2000]
12. Cassie - "Me and U" [Bad Boy, 2006]
13. Beyoncé - "Crazy in Love" [Columbia, 2003]
14. Tweet - "Oops (Oh My)" [Goldmind, 2002]
15. Erykah Badu - "Honey" [Universal Motown, 2007]
16. Mýa - "Fallen" [Interscope, 2003]
17. Ashanti - "Only U" [The INC, 2004]
18. Nivea - "Laundromat" [Jive, 2002]
19. Kelis - "Milkshake" [Star Trak, 2003]
20. Michael Jackson - "Butterflies" [Epic, 2001]

21. Rihanna - "Umbrella" [Def Jam, 2007]
22. Monica - "Knock Knock" [J, 2003]
23. The-Dream - "I Luv Your Girl" [Def Jam, 2008]
24. Ryan Leslie - "Diamond Girl" [Casablanca, 2008]
25. Dear Jayne - "Rain" [Capitol, 2008]
26. Amerie - "Why Don't We Fall in Love" [Columbia, 2002]
27. Brandy - "What About Us?" [Atlantic, 2002]
28. Diddy - "Last Night" [Bad Boy, 2006]
29. Tori Alamaze - "Don't Cha" [Universal, 2005]
30. Omarion - "Ice Box" [Epic, 2006]

31. OutKast - "Hey Ya!" [LaFace, 2003]
32. Jagged Edge - "Walked Outta Heaven" [Columbia, 2003]
33. Usher - "U Don't Have to Call" [LaFace, 2001]
34. Ciara - "Goodies" [LaFace, 2004]
35. Usher - "Yeah!" [LaFace, 2004]
36. Brandy - "Full Moon" [Atlantic, 2002]
37. Destiny's Child - "Bootylicious" [Columbia, 2001]
38. Raheem DeVaughn - "Customer" [Jive, 2008]
39. Keyshia Cole - "Let It Go" [Geffen, 2007]
40. Maxwell - "Pretty Wings" [Columbia, 2009]

41. Justin Timberlake - "Rock Your Body" [Jive, 2003]
42. Prince - "Black Sweat" [NPG, 2006]
43. Mariah Carey - "We Belong Together" [Island, 2006]
44. Usher - "Throwback" [LaFace, 2005]
45. Bilal - "Fast Lane" [Interscope, 2001]
46. Kelis - "Get Along with You" [Virgin, 2000]
47. Truth Hurts - "Addictive" [Aftermath, 2002]
48. Bobby Valentino - "Tell Me" [Def Jam, 2005]
49. Ginuwine - "Differences" [Epic, 2001]
50. Nate Dogg - "I Got Love" [Elektra, 2001]

51. Teairra Mari - "Make Her Feel Good" [Roc-a-Fella, 2005]
52. Ashanti - "Foolish" [Murder Inc., 2002]
53. Mary J. Blige - "Take Me as I Am" [Geffen, 2006]
54. K. Michelle - "Fakin' It" [Jive, 2009]
55. Jaheim - "Could It Be" [Warner Bros., 2000]
56. Raheem DeVaughn - "Guess Who Loves You More" [Jive, 2005]
57. Erykah Badu - "Didn't Cha Know" [Motown, 2000]
58. Erykah Badu - "Bag Lady" [Motown, 2000]
59. 112 - "Peaches and Cream" [Bad Boy, 2001]
60. Angie Stone - "Wish I Didn't Miss You" [J, 2002]

61. Alicia Keys - "Fallin'" [J, 2001]
62. Pharrell - "Frontin'" [Star Trak, 2003]
63. Teedra Moses - "Be Your Girl" [TVT, 2004]
64. Ne-Yo - "Because of You" [Def Jam, 2007]
65. Sunshine Anderson - "Heard It All Before" [Atlantic, 2001]
66. 702 - "I Still Love You" [Motown, 2003]
67. Kelis - "Bossy" [LaFace, 2006]
68. Rihanna - "Hard" [Def Jam, 2009]
69. Ne-Yo - "So Sick" [Def Jam, 2005]
70. Robin Thicke - "Wanna Love You Girl" [Star Trak, 2006]

71. Donell Jones - "Spend the Night" [LaFace, 2007]
72. Jill Scott - "Golden" [Hidden Beach, 2004]
73. Monica - "So Gone" [J, 2003]
74. Dwele - "Hold On" [Virgin, 2004]
75. 112 - "U Already Know" [Def Soul, 2005]
76. Jennifer Hudson - "Spotlight" [Arista, 2008]
77. Jazmine Sullivan - "Need U Bad" [J, 2008]
78. Erykah Badu - "Back in the Day (Puff)" [Motown, 2003]
79. Keyshia Cole - "Shoulda Let You Go" [Geffen, 2007]
80. Ruff Endz - "No More" [Epic, 2000]

81. Ciara - "Oh" [LaFace, 2004]
82. Mario Winans - "I Don't Wanna Know" [Bad Boy, 2004]
83. Avant - "Read Your Mind" [Geffen, 2003]
84. Akon - "Locked Up" [Universal, 2004]
85. Bobby Valentino - "Slow Down" [Def Jam, 2005]
86. Maxwell - "Get to Know Ya" [Columbia, 2001]
87. Cheri Dennis - "I Love You" [Bad Boy, 2006]
88. Aaliyah - "We Need a Resolution" [Blackground, 2001]
89. John Legend - "Used to Love U" [Columbia, 2004]
90. Next - "Wifey" [Arista, 2000]

91. Brooke Valentine - "Long as You Come Home" [Virgin, 2005]
92. Ashanti - "Rain on Me" [Murder Inc., 2003]
93. Keri Hilson - "Knock You Down" [Interscope, 2009]
94. Lumidee - "Never Leave You" [Universal, 2003]
95. Carl Thomas - "I Wish" [Bad Boy, 2000]
96. Lil' Mo - "Superwoman" [EastWest, 2001]
97. Ideal - "Whatever" [Virgin, 2000]
98. Koffee Brown - "After Party" [Arista, 2000]
99. Electrik Red - "So Good" [Def Jam, 2009]
100. Mint Condition - "Is This Pain Our Pleasure" [Elektra, 2000]