It’s 8:00pm. Candles lit. Takeaway ordered. Wine bottles at the ready. That’s great, but if you really want to set the scene and make an impression, it’s time to compile your slow jams playlist.
Whether they are played quietly in the background during an intimate moment at home or are part of a liquor-fuelled bump and grind in the club, slow jams are enjoyed by all R&B music fans, and everyone has their favourite. Here are the best of the best from the past 20 years.
Pre-Young Money it was Irv Gotti’s hip-hop label Murder Inc. that was dominating the charts, lead by rapper Ja Rule and R&B singer Ashanti. “Movies”, which was taken from her self-titled debut album in 2002, talks about the fairytale, head over heels type of love seen in films. “I wanna be like those girls in the movies, to have a man so in love it makes him drop to his knees”, she sings.
If you’ve ever fallen in love, listening to this song will certainly have you reminiscing about the good old days. Although, if you’re single, it may wrongfully encourage a cheeky “I miss you” text to the ex or have you trawling through all those unanswered DMs on Twitter. Be careful.
Playing out like an A-Z songbook on the sounds of lovemaking, the next track on the countdown comes in the form of Ginuwine’s “When We Make Love”. Lyrically, he talks about… Well, take a listen for yourself below. #NSFW
How far would you go for bae to show you love them? Pull a star out the sky? Walk through the desert heat? Apparently, Brandy would do just that! Pick up some more tips and take a listen below:
The Isley Brothers originally released “At Your Best” back in 1976, but today it is probably more recognised as an Aaliyah track, produced by R. Kelly for her debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number”. What’s impressive is that Aaliyah, while only 15 at the time of release, sounds beyond her years. In a genre where vocal trills and frills are aplenty, she delivers a sublime performance demonstrating both restraint and control in her voice.
“They Don’t Know” is a classic slow jam by one of R&B’s forgotten stars, Jon B. Released in 1997, the track was the singer’s biggest hit to date.
Having already pulled stars from the sky and walked in the desert heat, your relationship will now be moving rather quickly and just about everyone will want to share their opinion – with some being less welcome than others. Despite your best efforts, all the outside chitter-chatter is starting to impact the two of you moving forward together. Unfortunately, we’ve all been there. Jon B’s solution? Don’t listen to what anyone else has to say. Simple.
“Baby” was the third consecutive hit single taken from Ashanti’s self-titled debut. Although lyrically very simple (I counted approximately 77 repetitions of “baby”), you’ll struggle to listen to this one and not find yourself murmuring the lyrics and melody over the next day or so.
SWV’s “Rain” has all the right ingredients of a classic slow jam. Great vocals. Great Melodies. Great lyrics. However, coexisting in a discography of huge hits such as “Right Here” and “Weak”, “Rain” feels somewhat underrated. Still, it doesn’t take away from the fact it’s a great song.
While a top 20 hit for Keisha White in 2006, the original was recorded by Grammy Award-nominated British singer Joan Armatrading in the early 80s. However, Keisha brought the song up-to-date and made it her own, proving that, in a genre dominated by US singers, the Brits can certainly hold their ground.
No slow jam list would be complete without one of the genre’s biggest stars of the past 20 years, Usher Raymond. Taken from his Diamond-certified 2004 album “Confessions”, the track has become a classic. “Can you handle it if I go there baby with you?” he asks.
Dubbed by many R&B fans as “The Vocal Bible”, it was only fitting for Brandy to kick-off the countdown’s top 10 tracks. “He Is” was taken from the singer’s third studio album “Full Moon” and, whilst unreleased, it remains a firm favourite among her fans. It’s not hard to see why:
Here she is again, B-Rocka AKA Brandy. Big song. Big Vocal. Enough said.
Any song with the opening lyric, “I wanna tease you, I wanna please you” is bound to make for a great slow jam, and this song does not disappoint. Released in 1996, the track features Athena Cage of 90s R&B trio Kut Close, who collaborated with Keith on another classic slow jam, “Get Up On It”.
The highest entry for Usher is “Lifetime”, a track from his fifth studio album, “Here I Stand”, on which he sings about finding eternal love. “When you find that special someone, you will be willing to give them a lifetime”, he croons.
Usher is the go-to singer when you’re looking for those slow numbers to help set the mood. “Nice and Slow”, “Slow Jam” and “U Got It Bad” are just some of the tracks that didn’t make the list, but are worthy of a mention.
“Lay Down” is the first of two entries on the list for Floetry, a neo-soul duo from the UK comprising Marsha Ambrosius AKA The Songstress and Natalie Stewart AKA The Floacist. Simple, subtle and understated, it’s a great track to accompany a late night or early morning (see what I did there?) CUDDLE!
Love isn’t always fairytales and roses, in fact quite the opposite. Having already proven how much you love them and ignored all the unwanted commentary from your friends, the two of you have decided you’re both in the relationship for the long haul. Great, if only the ex would let go and move on too. What do you do? Grab him or her in the middle of the street and whoop their “tail”, according to Jill Scott. “You better back down before you get smacked down, you better chill”, she sings. Ouch!
“Speechless” was released as part of Beyoncé’s debut solo album, “Dangerously in Love”, back in 2003. Although one of the more underrated cuts from the album, it’s aged like a fan wine – getting better over time. Whilst “Speechless” is her only track to make this list, the album was packed with many great slow jams – “Be With You”, “The Closer I Get To You” and “Dangerously In Love 2”, to name a few.
Now, this one is for the grown folk only. “All you gotta do is say yes, open up your mind and let me undress you baby”, Marsha sings on the track, which talks about… (It’s all pretty self-explanatory, I’m sure). Lyrics aside, it’s the soft, breathy vocal from Marsha that elevates the song to the next level.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find an R&B fan that does not know this song by the late Aaliyah Haughton, released in 1996. Missy Elliott and Timbaland, who would later become pioneers in the field, wrote and produced the track, which went on to become Aaliyah’s joint highest charting single in the UK (at the time) and her third single to top Billboard’s R&B chart.
Its best quality is its versatility. The thunderous bass is enough to draw a large crowd to the dance floor of any club, yet it’s also a track you can easily wind down to at home. What’s more, despite being produced in the mid-90s, it sounds as if it could have been recorded yesterday and will probably still sound as fresh as it does now in 20 years’ time, a testament to Timbaland’s production.
Here we are at the number one spot – Eric Benét’s “Love of my Own”, a song that is quite simply the epitome of an R&B slow jam. Lyrically strong, it draws on themes of loneliness and yearning for true love, while vocally Benét opts for a mellow delivery, working hand in glove with the song’s quiet production.
The track may not have been the most obvious of choices, as it was never released as a single and only appears as the album closer to his sophomore release, “A Day in the Life”. However, in a world where radio DJs hammer the same songs to the point of them no longer being bearable, the somewhat unfamiliarity of this track adds to its appeal. Take a listen below:
Listen to all the above songs and many more favourites on my Slow Jamz playlist below:
What is your all-time favourite?