In 1997, over 240 songs led by singers entered Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart. Approximately 210 of them were ballads. Well over 100 of them were mid-tempo tracks with guest rappers, while…well, all right, replace "approximately" with "it seemed like." Even without hyperbolic perception, the year was bloated with ballads -- a large amount of which were barely distinguishable -- and too much space was left for featured MCs whose rhymes occasionally matched up with the sung content. This was also the year in which Keith Sweat, whose '87 debut was among the baddest and boomingest albums of its decade, released a polite and merely passable cover of Slave's pop-funk classic "Just a Touch of Love." It was emblematic of commercial R&B's shortage of power and energy. Only during 1997 could two artists -- Vanessa Williams and Brian McKnight -- incorporate Nu Shooz' fulsome "I Can't Wait" to frail effect.

Erykah Badu's arrival wasn't merely welcomed. It was needed. She appeared in January with "On & On," and before the end of the year, she placed two additional singles at the top of the chart, while "Otherside of the Game" should have repeated the feat. Timbaland and Missy Elliott -- present together or separately at numbers eight, 11, 12, 16, 17, 28, and 38 -- continued their reign as the hottest writers and producers. Among the minor hits that should have been bigger: Nuyorican Soul's cover of Salsoul Orchestra's Philly disco gem "Run Away," Trina Broussard's update of Minnie Riperton's "Inside My Love" (not an easy task), and Sam Salter's Christopher "Tricky" Stewart-produced "It's On Tonight."

A completely subjective list of favorite R&B songs that hit Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart during the year:

1. Erykah Badu - "On & On" [Kedar, 1/25]
2. Erykah Badu - "Otherside of the Game" [Kedar, 8/23]
3. Erykah Badu - "Next Lifetime" [Kedar, 3/29]
4. Janet Jackson - "Got 'Til It's Gone" [Virgin, 9/13]
5. Erykah Badu - "Tyrone" [Kedar, 11/1]
6. Christión - "Full of Smoke" [Roc-a-Fella, 2/22]
7. Zhané - "Request Line" [Motown, 3/15]
8. Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott - "Sock It 2 Me" [Gold Mind, 10/18]
9. Tony! Toni! Toné - "Let's Get Down" [Mercury, 5/10]
10. LSG - "My Body" [EastWest, 10/25]

11. Aaliyah - "4 Page Letter" [Blackground, 3/15]*
12. Ginuwine - "Tell Me Do U Wanna" [550, 2/22]
13. Mark Morrison - "Return of the Mack" [Atlantic, 1/18]
14. Mariah Carey - "Honey" [Columbia, 9/13]
15. Mary J. Blige - "I Can Love You" [MCA, 7/26]
16. Total - "What About Us?" [LaFace, 8/30]
17. Ginuwine - "I'll Do Anything/I'm Sorry" [550, 7/5]
18. Mary J. Blige - "Love Is All We Need" [MCA, 3/22]
19. Brian McKnight - "You Should Be Mine (Don't Waste Your Time)" [Mercury, 9/6]
20. Destiny's Child - "No, No, No, Pt. 2" [Columbia, 11/29]

21. Zhané - "Crush" [Motown, 6/7]
22. Nuyorican Soul - "Runaway" [Giant Step, 5/3]
23. Changing Faces - "G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T." [Big Beat, 5/3]
24. Next - "Butta Love" [Arista, 9/6]
25. Donell Jones - "You Should Know" [LaFace, 2/1]
26. 702 - "Get It Together" [Biv 10, 2/15]
27. Trina Broussard - "Inside My Love" [So So Def, 8/16]
28. Playa - "Don't Stop the Music" [Def Jam, 10/25]*
29. Dru Hill - "In My Bed" [Island, 1/4]
30. Usher - "You Make Me Wanna…" [LaFace, 8/23]

31. The Brand New Heavies - "Sometimes" [Delicious Vinyl, 4/26]
32. Sam Salter - "It's On Tonight" [LaFace, 12/20]
33. Sweetback - "You Will Rise" [Epic, 2/1]
34. Refugee Camp All-Stars - "The Sweetest Thing" [Columbia, 4/5]
35. 112 - "Cupid" [Bad Boy, 3/1]
36. Janet Jackson - "Together Again" [Virgin, 12/13]
37. En Vogue - "Whatever" [EastWest, 7/19]
38. SWV - "Can We" [Jive, 8/2]
39. Rahsaan Patterson - "Stop By" [MCA, 2/15]
40. Blackstreet - "Fix" [Interscope, 8/2]

*These songs are not available on Spotify in the U.S. Favorites 41 and 42 appear in their place, at the end of the playlist.