We’re goin’ crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy thinkin’ about the memories.


Your early teens were a hot mess of braces, bras and dumb decisions. Between 13 and 20 years ago, about the time we began to smell and get curves/muscles, our hormones were turbo-charged with the emotions that came with sexual self-discovery. And that discovery had a soundtrack.

Welcome to your middle school dance…where self-discovery crashed into self-loathing, and you faced a choice between hiding by the chicken nuggets at the buffet or putting your arms around some skinny pubescent’s neck and swaying. When you dared, you swayed. And you swayed to the erotic powers of these R&B jams. So without further ado, here is your “Wonder Track to the Wonder Years,” aka the R&B songs that made your heart race and your palms sweaty.

19. “At Your Best (You Are Love)”

Artist: Aaliyah
Album: Age Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number
Year: 1994

Soft, simple, Aaliyah. Frank Ocean may have improved upon this song with his cover a few years ago, but it’s still a slow-jam classic.

18. “Anytime”

Artist: Brian McKnight
Album: Anytime
Year: 1997

His voice is legend, and so is this song. The lyrics felt especially relevant to a dramatic, middle-school-mess of a kid: “Do I ever cross your mind… anytime?” I remember once locking eyes with a boy I had a crush on during this song?—?while dancing with someone else. Brian McKnight was like the speed-dial on my teen crisis hotline.

17. “Never Gonna Let You Go”

Artist: Faith Evans
Album: Keep the Faith
Year: 1998

“Love me, hold me, touch me down deep in my soul.” Great song. Just don’t sing the lyrics out loud to your dance partner. Not like I would know how awkward that can be…

16. “Crazy”

Artist: K-Ci & JoJo
Album: X
Year: 2000

K-Ci’s voice is everything. I think only 5% of us had ever even attempted “dating” by this point, but we loved to pretend we knew what that level of “going crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy thinking about you baby” heartbreak meant.

15. “Untitled (How Does it Feel)”

Artist: D’Angelo
Album: Voodoo
Year: 2000

IT STILL GETS ME GOIN’. I might have been cramming chicken nuggets in my face at the buffet at 13, but I KNEW a sex jam when I heard one. His voice is just like Prince’s (first win)—and D’Angelo had a six-pack of abs Tom Hardy would kill for.

14. “Un-Break My Heart”

Artist: Toni Braxton
Album: Secrets
Year: 1996

Every girl ended up belting this under her breath by minute three. Could I hit those low notes? Damn straight. This was my power-ballad of the night. And when that Spanish guitar hit around 2:30, I had my air guitar ready.

13. “Every Time I Close My Eyes”

Artist: Babyface, Mariah Carey
Album: The Day
Year: 1996

Their harmony is perfection.

12. “Fallin’”

Artist: Alicia Keys
Album: Songs in A Minor
Year: 2001

Intensity of beat, lyric and vocals = slow-dance perfection. The perfect dance to share with a crush. How many times can you two hear “fallin’” without…fallin’?

11. “I Wanna Know”

Artist: Joe
Album: My Name Is Joe
Year: 2000

Iconic and swanky intro. Joe gave your crush all the right words to say, should this be the moment Mike from Science class decided to, erm, “get real” about “catchin’ feelings for you.” Mike just wanted to know how to please you and light up your life. Thumbs up for givin’ him that chance, Joe. Thumbs up.

10. “Kiss From a Rose”

Artist: Seal
Album: Seal
Year: 1994

Need I say more? No.

9. “One Sweet Day”

Artist: Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men
Album: Daydream
Year: 1995

Classic Mariah. Sure, the song is about deceased loved ones. But at age 13? “One sweet day” = one sweet day Derek on the basketball team gonna ask me OUT.

8. “I’ll Make Love To You”

Artist: Boyz II Men
Album: II
Year: 1994

Boyz II Men. SWOON. Their voices are pure, masculine honey—rich, deep, intoxicating…Everyone got their first ass-tap to this song.

7. “On Bended Knee”

Artist: Boyz II Men
Album: II
Year: 1994

Ongoing love affair with Boyz II Men aside, their voices are God’s gift to every woman. How does love go wrong with these guys?! I don’t know, but I’m glad one of ’em was hurting enough to write this babe of a ballad. “Can we go back to the days our love was strong? How does a perfect love go wrong?” HOW?!

6. “I Can Love You Like That”

Artist: All-4-One
Album: And The Music Speaks
Year: 1995

All-4-One, ladies and gentlemen. They made us grow up dreaming of our Romeos, of the men or women who would make us their whole worlds and “love us like that.” All-4-One promised us a fairy-tale ending, and imma find it, goddamnit! “Hold nothing back, hold out for love everlasting.” #PREACH

5. “Hero”

Artist: Mariah Carey
Album: Music Box
Year: 1993

If you can make it through this song without sobbing, or journaling, we may not have as much in common as I thought. But whatever, this hits the track and you just start feeling good about everyone around you. Thanks, Mariahhh.

4. “I Swear”

Artist: All-4-One
Album: All-4-One
Year: 1994

The first two seconds are the most captivating of any song, I Swear. 😉 Your eyes are already hunting for Mr. Right to share this dance. You just wanna hold somebody and fantasize about the day you’ll find someone worth “swearing” to love—“a love that will never age.”

3. “End of the Road”

Artist: Boyz II Men
Album: Cooleyhighharmony
Year: 1991

Back to my Boyz II Men obsession. DIS SONG, DOE. That crisis-moment when you reach the LOWEST point in your relationship and wonder, “Is this it?” We knew nothing about that at age 13. But feeling the pain of Boyz II Men’s unrequited love is enough to send you on a fantasy journey of what a love that powerful can feel like.

2. “Back at One”

Artist: Brian McKnight
Album: Back at One
Year: 1999

Brian McKnight might possibly be the only singer who can list to you what a dream you are and have you fully convinced without even being there in person. This love list will have you counting back to one the whole night.

1. “All My Life”

Artist: K-Ci & JoJo
Album: Love Always
Year: 1997

“All my life I’ve prayed for someone like you, and I thank God that I finally found you.” Oh man. 13 years may be a tad on the youthful side to make an “all my life” type of pledge, but at any age, we all know a special and meaningful relationship when we feel it. At 13/14, we were beginning to recognize romance and feel the weight of desire for lasting love. It’s just intoxicating to imagine the day when you will look at someone else and feel THIS consumingly grateful for him or her. To feel THIS sure that God was the only force powerful enough to make your love happen.

Now that you’ve relived the most wondrous, awkward years of dance-floor self-discovery, grab those DJ reins and go ride that…oh, okay, there is ONE more song I have to add to this list. You already know what it is…