R&B Fridays: The Top 30 Tracks From Episodes 1-100

After delivering well over 1000 songs in the first 100 episodes, in honour of the 100th episode I’ll finally acquiesce to the oft-repeated demand for a recap by you R&B Friday fans. We’ve seen artists have great periods of consistency, others drop off a phenomenal effort and fade away, and everything in between: here we’ll seperate the great from the truly elite, and controversially select the definitive top 30 tracks to have graced the (often) selective walls of R&B Fridays.

The rules: Tracks MUST have been part of an episode, meaning tracks in the pre-post recap and in seperate posts do not count (unless a version of them was originally posted in an episode). This may explain tracks that you’re outraged about being omitted, so remember this. Every track included in the episodes is up for consideration, except for throwbacks. Finally, this list IS in ranking order, starting with #30 and down to the #1 track of R&B Fridays. Having changed my mind many times over the last week on the entire 30, I’ve forced myself to pick the final list and despite disagreeing with it myself every time I look at it, I’m putting it out there (at some point, every song has probably been at #1!). Click on to disagree and get angry.

#30: Rock City-You’re Still Here (Ep. 33)
-These boys are probably the most hit-and-miss duo in the music game but when they hit, they hit hard. This combined an R&B sensibility with an island vibe in the production, and of course the heavily accented vocals. Strong combination of energy and melody.

#29: R. Kelly-Fallin’ From The Sky (Ep. 25)
-A track that really demonstrated Kelly’s ability to make an atmospheric, epic track no matter what. The hindrance here was Autotune, and he managed to utilise in a way that really enhanced the spacey vibe of this track.

#28: Johnta Austin-Lost Inside Your Love (Ep. 13)
-One of the most consistent performers over the last 100 weeks, yet this is his only entry. It’s close to being the pick of his entire career, with his clear, addictive voice being in full-flow over a head-nodding yet mellowing production. Catchy hook capped this one off, and it’s one of those that is listenable in a commendable range of situations.

#27: Jay Sean-Still The Way Love Goes ft. Thara (Ep. 31)
-The original is one of my favourite R&B songs ever, so for Jay Sean to dare take it on was a risk. However, he most certainly did it justice with a hugely enjoyable remake that retained the smooth, sultry vibe of the original.

#26: R. Kelly-Echo (Ep. 20)
-To me, this was the track that really put R. Kelly back into my good books. From his Untitled album, it combined the vibe of a classic Kels slow jam with a big, grand hook that quite simply reminded everyone Kelly can still get it done better than most.

#25: Rocki Evans-I Tried (Ep. 84)
-The most recent track in this collection, and one that cemented Rocki as one of the most versatile talents rising in the R&B/crossover game. Blending guitar, piano, edgy percussion and raw vocals, he managed to deliver an incredibly harmonic track that would arguably be higher up this list if it had been around to marinate a little longer.

#24: Usher-Rockband (Ep. 20)
-Energy, energy, energy. One of Usher’s most intense, pulsating songs to date, he really cranked things up with this neck-snapping club stomper. Not many artists could tame this pounding production, but he did so with aplomb and delivered a great anthem.

#23: Tank-Can I Make Love (Ep. 75)
-The undisputed slow jam king of the last 12 months, this represented the peak of his efforts, though there was no shortage of options. An addictive, winding listen that stands head and shoulders above the majority of bedroom music.

#22: Quincy Jones-Strawberry Letter ft. Akon (Ep. 41)
-Probably one of the more surprising entries here, but I feel most people’s view of this song was obscured by a loyalty to the original. Whilst that was a great song, my exposure to it was minimal and frankly the somewhat darker style of this version really won me over. Akon really threw back to his Locked Up days on this one, whilst Quincy sampled the original brilliantly as part of a fantastic production.

#21: Lloyd-Let’s Get It In ft. 50 Cent (Ep. 68)
-Lloyd’s forte has become wispy, airy tracks that capture the imagination; here he flipped the script somewhat, and dropped off a compulsive head-nodder that displayed the maturity and well-roundedness of the music he’s capable of making.

#20: Marsha Ambrosius-Far Away (Ep. 76)
-An incredibly powerful track, Marsha displayed some fantastic songwriting skills on this effort to accompany her undoubted vocal ability. Introspection is the name of the game here, and this is another that may have been higher if this was written in a few months.

#19: Ne-Yo-Try Me Out (Ep. 64)
-Catchy with a bouncy, Rihanna-esque beat, this represented a slightly different direction for Ne-Yo but proved one of his better risks. Memorable vocals, a frighteningly-addictive hook and a strong production made for a big single feel, and this really deserved to be placed on one of his albums.

#18: The-Dream-Turnt Out (Ep. 53)
-On the other hand, this turnedt out to be one of the best songs Dream did place on an album. Combining a sexy slow jam vibe with a thumping percussion, Dream delivered a well-rounded track delivered in that trademark falsetto of his. A real highlight of his career.

#17: Usher-Love ‘Em All (Ep. 52)
-One of the catchiest songs he’s probably ever made. It’s an easygoing track that works well for both the club and private listening, and quite simply gets the basics right: solid vocals, a production that enhances the vocals and verses that build to a memorable hook.

#16: Miguel-All I Want Is You ft. J. Cole (Ep. 43)
-A track that not only instantly launched Miguel’s career, but propelled Cole to the position of being a genuine feature heavyweight. Combining soul, R&B and hip-hop, this track provided a little bit of everything with a thick percussion, rough, organic vocals from Miguel and two very strong Cole verses.

#15: Usher-There Goes My Baby (Ep. 30)
-Given that he’s dominated airwaves with two club tracks in the last year or so, it’s easy to forget just how good his material was surrounding those tracks. This made for one of the better slow jams of early 2010, with a sultry delivery and memorable hook that provided one of the highlights of his Raymond vs. Raymond album.

#14: Bobby Valentino-In The Night (Freaks Come Out) (Ep. 43)
-Bit of a controversial one this. Quite simply, it was one of the most replayable R&B tracks of 2010, and whilst it probably lacked some of the qualities other tracks possessed, the atmospheric production couldn’t have been a better fit for Bobby, and made this an easy and addictive listen.

#13: Usher-OMG ft. will.i.am (Ep. 30 and 39)
-Just because it was a mainstream smash, that doesn’t make it exempt from being an exceptional bit of pop/R&B. Absolutely impossible to keep still when this was on, the track needs no introduction and stands up as one of will.i.am’s finest beats to date. Ush has really dominated this middle section eh?

#12: Lloyd-Everyday ft. Rich Boy (Ep. 26)
-A combination of factors here, with the original demo Beautiful being the real catalyst to enjoying this track. Great vocal performance as you’d expect, accompanied by a guitar-laced, atmospheric production that synergised perfectly with Lloyd’s voice. Hugely replayable.

#11: Lloyd-Get A Room (Ep. 31)
-Every bit as atmospheric as the above, but in a far more energetic and pulsating manner. Lloyd’s versatility has never been as obvious as with this duo of tracks, as he switched things up to a club track that brought some intensity without sacrificing Lloyd’s naturally addictive vocals.

#10: Riz-She’s Like A Star (Ep. 1)
-The earliest track in this list, standing the test of time and coming from the very first episode. Undoubtedly Riz’s best song to date, the combinations of synth and keys made for a brilliantly-diverse production that provided a platform for Riz to add some passion of his own to this superb all-rounder.

#9: Janet Jackson-Heartbeat Love Ft. Pitbull, Machel Montano & Rock City (Ep. 37)
-If you really want to talk energy, this to me is the best uptempo track we’ve seen in R&B Fridays. The verses are packed with clunky percussion and synth hits, but it’s the high-tempo hook that really makes this frighteningly addictive, with the sort of vibe that almost forces you to start shaking parts of your body you really shouldn’t.

I feel as though I should put a disclaimer here: almost every track in this top 30 was number 1 for a while, particularly the top 8. Inevitably, most of you will disagree considerably with my choices from here on (they are pretty wacky), so keep in mind the following:

a) To me, this order is just how I felt in the last 10 minutes.
b) I don’t care.

#8: Usher-Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home)
-Combine Usher’s natural energy with a slow jam sensibility and you have a midtempo track of the very highest order. The dynamism in his vocals throughout is hugely commendable, as he manages to change the vibe of the song in an instant with a simple inflection of his voice, utilising the simple, bass-heavy production to its full effect.

#7: Sade-Skin (Ep. 33)
-The most relaxing song in this list. Marking Sade’s return to the spotlight, this was a beautifully mellow track that was simply impossible to dislike. Lovely vocals, smooth beat and generally one that is just incredibly easy to listen to.

#6: Bilal-Little One (Ep. 64)
-Quite possibly the best lyrical song to have been posted in R&B Fridays. With heartfelt storytelling from Bilal, the vocals are delivered in an organic, soulful manner that floods this song with emotion and meaning.

#5: The-Dream-Make Up Bag ft. T.I. (Ep. 47)
-Not an obvious choice by any means, but like the Bobby Valentino track above, immensely replayable. Impossible to not sing along too, Dream really nailed that middle ground of club track and casual listen with this one, dropping off some solid lyrics alongside a thudding production and infectious hook. Tip came through with a great verse too, and really rounded this one off.

#4: Bruno Mars/Lloyd-Dance In The Mirror (Ep. 50, 49, 41)
-There were various incarnations of this song: one by Bruno, one by Lloyd and one combined. All three were simply superb, and showcased both artist to the height of their abilities with a laidback, summery production allowing both guys to really grab the listener with solid vocals and mischevious lyricism that’ll leave a big smile on your face!

#3: Dwele-Dim the Lights ft. Raheem DeVaughn (Ep. 54)
-Two soulful voices on one track, and the combination is a sexy R&B/soul crossover that I have no issue with declaring one of my favourite slow jams ever. Sultry and mellow with a hint of passionate energy, this is quite simply the blueprint for bedroom music with its winding production and versatile, engaging vocals.

#2: Diddy-Dirty Money-Hair Down (Ep. 29)
-The best song they’ve made, and the one they didn’t put on the album. A lovely wispy, atmospheric quality dominates this song, with incredibly captivating vocals from all (yes, including Diddy!) involved: they may not be technically perfect, but the emotion and style of them synergising as well with a beat as I’ve heard in R&B.

#1: Christina Milian-Welcome to Vegas ft. The-Dream
-Big call isn’t it? I’ve ended this the only way I know how: controversially. Why? Well, not just because of the song itself, but this never actually made it into an episode: rather, I had an episode built around it, but Indi stole it from my hands. Do you feel cheated? Good, so did I.

Many probably viewed this as a bit of a ‘good, not great’ track, but I found it almost flawless. Put it on in the car? Sounds great. Headphones on your own? Superb. In a club? Close the night off in style. The airy, night-pop feel of the production creates an atmosphere of elegance and introspection, with a helping of modernism from the stuttered synth melodies. Milian delivers the best performance she ever will, and with Dream on the songwriting credits, there’s a genuinely emotional vibe to the atmospheric and winding vocals. I expect to be disagreed with, but right now this song is the one I feel really embodies the perfect style of music to really represent R&B Fridays…even if it never made it in.

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