Every time I think I’m gonna give up the game, the streets keep calling.
Not too long ago, I spent nearly a month looking back at the greats of 90s R&B. If you missed them, these links will give you life:
These top 10 lists were very well received – thank y’all for that. Inevitably, people asked, “where is the top 10 list for the singers of the 2000s?”
Honestly, I hadn’t even planned to venture into the 21st century. Many 90s R&B snobs like myself tend to think that good music died circa 2002.
My research proved that’s far from the case. There were tons of great material released in the past decade, and, despite what your mama n’ dem told you, many artists were commercially successful too.
So, since you asked so nicely, let’s look back at the top 10 female R&B artists of the 2000s. In case you’re new to the game, or have just forgotten, here’s how the rankings were calculated during the years 2000-2009:
Sales. Yes, we all have our favorites but Jay said it best: Numbers don’t lie/check the scoreboard. It’s not all about the numbers though. I also took into account the artist’s impact in the realm of R&B (which shut out some performers like Janet Jackson, who had decent sales but weren’t influential on R&B stations). Finally, longevity and strength of material rounded out the list. And remember, we’re talking about solo albums here, so you Danity Kane fans chill out.
Enough talk, let’s look back at the 10 women who led R&B to prominence in the 2000s.
Honorable mention: India.Arie, Amy Winehouse, Erykah Badu, Amerie, Fantasia
10. Toni Braxton
Albums: The Heat (2000, 2x platinum); Snowflakes (2001, gold); More Than A Woman (2002, gold); Libra (2005, gold)
No. 1 singles: “He Wasn’t Man Enough” (2000, R&B)
Edd said: Toni was one of the stalwarts of ’90s R&B but quietly remained just as consistent in the following decade. Solid albums and decent sales equaled continued success.
9. Jill Scott
Albums: Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1 (2000, 2x platinum); Experience: Jill Scott 826 (2001, gold); Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. 2 (2004, gold); The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3 (2007, gold); Live in Paris (2008, gold)
Edd said: In 2000, Jill marched into the game, took her earrings off, demanded some Vaseline, and captivated audiences with her soothing soul and trademark sass. She’d go on to become one of R&B’s biggest players throughout the decade.
Albums: Aaliyah (2001, 2x platinum); I Care 4 U (2002, platinum)
No. 1 singles: “Try Again” (2000, pop); “Miss You” (2002, R&B)
Edd said: Gone much too soon. Aaliyah released some of her best work early in the decade before tragically leaving us. Her main contribution to the decade was her legacy, which continued to influence young, emerging acts.
7. Keyshia Cole
Albums: The Way It Is (2005, platinum); Just Like You (2007, platinum); A Different Me (2008, platinum)
No. 1 singles: “Let It Go” (2007, R&B); “I Remember” (2008, R&B); “Heaven Sent” (2008, R&B)
Edd said: Plenty of R&B sirens made their name in the ’90s with aching vocals depicting stories of heartbreak. Keyshia used that formula to reach a new generation of fans in the ’00s.
Albums: Goodies (2004, 3x platinum); Ciara: The Evolution (2006, platinum); Fantasy Ride (2009)
No. 1 singles: “Goodies” (2004, pop and R&B); “Promise” (2006, R&B)
Edd said: At her peak, Ciara was one of the most successful artists of the decade. Although she enjoyed some success in later years, it paled to her explosive popularity circa 2004-2005. That earned her a spot on this list.
Albums: Ashanti (2002, 3x platinum); Chapter II (2003, platinum); Concrete Rose (2004, platinum); The Declaration (2008)
No. 1 singles: “Foolish” (2002, pop and R&B)
Edd said: The Princess of Hip-Hop & R&B was one of the decade’s most polarizing artists. Love her or hate her, you can’t front on her success – she had the platinum touch. For the first half of the decade, she reigned supreme on radio and TV playlists.
4. Mariah Carey
Albums: Glitter (2001, platinum); Charmbracelet (2002, platinum); The Emancipation of Mimi (2005, 6x platinum); E=MC2 (2008, platinum); Memoirs of An Imperfect Angel (2009, gold)
No. 1 singles: “Thank God I Found You” (2000, pop and R&B); “Loverboy” (2001, R&B); “We Belong Together” (2005, pop and R&B); “Don’t Forget About Us” (2005, pop and R&B); “Touch My Body” (2008, pop)
Edd said: Four words: The Emancipation of Mimi. One of the biggest albums in recent memory was a callback to Mariah’s massive success in the ’90s. But that wasn’t her only victory, MC blessed us with many more hits throughout the decade.
3. Mary J. Blige
Albums: No More Drama (2001, 2x platinum); Love & Life (2003, platinum); The Breakthrough (2005, 3x platinum); Growing Pains (2007, platinum); Stronger With Each Tear (2009, platinum)
No. 1 singles: “Family Affair” (2001, pop and R&B); “Be Without You” (2005, R&B)
Edd said: MJB was crowned queen of hip-hop soul in the 90s, but she cemented her legacy in the ’00s. She almost effortlessly dropped multiplatinum releases at her leisure, continuing to add to her unprecedented resume.
Albums: Dangerously In Love (2003, 4x platinum); B’Day (2006 3x platinum); I Am … Sasha Fierce (2008, 2x platinum)
No. 1 singles: “Crazy in Love” (2003, pop and R&B); “Baby Boy” (2003, pop and R&B); “Check On It” (2005, pop); Deja Vu (2006, R&B); “Irreplaceable” (2006, pop and R&B); “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” (2008, pop and R&B)
Edd said: Any ’90s music fan could have predicted this. Ever since the early days of Destiny’s Child, Beyonce Knowles was groomed for solo stardom. That destiny was fulfilled in the 2000s, when she stepped into the solo spotlight and unleashed dozens of ballads and girl-power anthems upon fans. Amazingly, King Bey was just beginning to buzz. Her greatest successes were yet to come.
1. Alicia Keys
Albums: Songs in A Minor (2001, 6x platinum); The Diary of Alicia Keys (2003, 4x platinum); Unplugged (2005, platinum); As I Am (2007, 3x platinum); The Element of Freedom (2009, platinum)
No. 1 singles: “Fallen” (2001, R&B and pop); “You Don’t Know My Name” (2003, R&B); “If I Ain’t Got You” (2004, R&B); “My Boo” (2004, R&B and pop); “No One” (2007, R&B and pop); “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” (2007, R&B)
Edd said: Alicia and her ever-present piano personified R&B in the 2000s. While many of her peers on this list gained success leaning toward pop sounds, Alicia’s best works were firmly rooted in the fundamentals of R&B. Just when the critics thought R&B was being fazed out, Alicia ushered in a new era.