Ranking the Best Jon B Albums

A few days ago in the Soul In Stereo Cypher on Facebook, I ran an informal poll asking readers which album ranking I should tackle next. I thought for sure Mya or maybe Cam’ron would pull away with the win but, NOPE. Jonathan David Buck – aka Jon B – won in a crushing landslide.

Instead of throwing public tantrums or wasting time on endless recounts like a soon-to-be-evicted orange infant, you gotta roll with the will of the people. And it’s certainly not like I’m turning down an opportunity to talk about talent.

Jon B’s mid-90s run is still fondly remembered today but best believe that his career extended well beyond the 20th century. He’s spent nearly two decades releasing solid LPs. While fans patiently await a new album, last year he delivered “Understand,” which we named alongside YouKnowIGotSoul.com as the best R&B track of 2019. He’s still got it.

Today, we’re running back Jon’s entire career, ranking his LPs from bottom to top. As usual, we’ll be skipping holiday albums and compilations, which means we’re excluding his 2006 Christmas album, as well as his 2013 B-Sides collection of unreleased tracks. Sorry, Jon B stans, I know how much you love that one. Check it out here if you haven’t heard it already, it’s very good. As always, quality, impact, consistency and legacy all factor into these rankings.

6. Helpless Romantic (2008)

Soul In Stereo rating: 3 stars out of 5

Edd said: This project served as a literal love letter to Jon’s wife and with R&B devoid of love songs these days I appreciated revisiting this one. However, while great in theory, Helpless Romantic is not always the strongest in execution. Things gel a bit better on the second half of the album but overall the production and songwriting just don’t reach the level of his better works.

Forgotten favorites: “Drops of Rain,” “Say Yeah,” “Everybody Here Wants You”

5. Comfortable Swagg (2012)

Soul In Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: This title always made me laugh. It sounds like the R&B version of a Snuggie. Remember Snuggies? Once y’all started wearing those oversized bathrobes to the gas station it was over.

Anyway, Comfortable Swagg, Jon’s last album to date, was his first project to go without marketing, promotion and distribution from a major label, which pretty much set the tone for many R&B artists in the 2010s. Jon still made the most of it. The EDM-infused numbers and more experimental production may have been typical for the era but weren’t the cleanest fit for the homie. What worked much better are the smoothed-out album cuts. Jon’s at his most, ahem, comfortable, when he’s sticking to the script.

Forgotten favorites: “Amnesia,” “Do U Miss Me,” “Only One”

4. Stronger Everyday (2004)

Soul In Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: They say you can’t go home again, but that’s exactly what Jon went for with Stronger Everyday – recreating his incredible chemistry with mentor Babyface as well as reuniting with with the spirit of 2pac. He also finds a new muse in Tank, resulting in some very solid work. While the highs are high, Stronger Everyday struggles to maintain that level of consistency throughout. But when it’s good, it’s really good.

Forgotten favorites: “Lately,” “What I Like About You,” “Before It’s Gone”

3. Bonafide (1995)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Ah, where it all began. Bonafide’s mellow singles may have put him on the map but the upbeat album cuts are equally worthy of praise. It’s not quite as rock-solid as the LPs that followed it but is still a strong debut brimming with promise.

Forgotten favorites: “Overflow,” “Isn’t It Scary,” “Mystery 4 Two”

2. Pleasures U Like (2001)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: As a fan, Pleasures U Like is frustrating, and I’m sure it frustrated Jon too in 2001. I remember a lot of hype for this one leading into its release – including Jon linking up with old collaborators Babyface and Tim and Bob – but due to poor promotion this one flew under the radar. That’s a shame – way too many fans missed out on some of Jon’s best work. Sure, first (and only) single “Don’t Talk” is, as the kids say, a bop, but dig deep into the album cuts and you’ll find the brightest gems. The album could use a trim (it starts to feel its length about two-thirds through) but it’s by far Jon’s most underrated body of work. This deserved way more love.

Forgotten favorites: “Lonely Girl,” “Overjoyed,” “A Boy is Not a Man”

1. Cool Relax (1997)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Wanna know why we old heads praise the 90s so much? We were blessed with incredible, game-changing albums on an almost weekly basis. Sure, Cool Relax is widely recognized as Jon B’s greatest and most celebrated work but due to the fiercely competitive landscape of the era, I don’t think we celebrate this one ENOUGH. It’s every bit as good as the heavy hitters of the time. Unforgettable singles stand shoulder-to-shoulder with impressive album cuts that are expertly sequenced and masterfully sung. You probably already knew that Cool Relax is Jon B’s best album but it’s more than that – it’s one of the best albums of an incredible era for R&B.

Forgotten favorites: “Let Me Know,” “Can We Get Down,” “Pride & Joy”

What are you favorite Jon B albums? Let us know below.



  1. Pleasures U Like is a rare modern R&B album that is without filler and for a 20 track, almost 80 minute opus, that is unparalleled.

  2. I’d take Helpless Romantic to Pleasures U Like anyday..latter cited set unintentionally places Bucks limited (but normally more enjoyable) vocals on trial. Jon’s My Guy though…and a Super “under” rated songwriter at this.

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