Watching Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke dominate the VMAs and rack up hits on both pop and urban radio, it’s easy to forget that the R&B game rarely embraced white artists throughout the ’90s. But things clearly changed in the 2000s (2000 - 2009), a pivotal era for white musicians experimenting with so-called rhythm and blues music.
The massive, unprecedented crossover of hip-hop and R&B into the mainstream during the late ’80s and ’90s had produced a generation of white children reared on music by black artists. Corny teen pop artists grew up, and looked to contemporary R&B as a way to express themselves as adults. British singers raised on neo-soul embraced retro ’60s R&B sounds in compelling ways. Pop producers across the world took black music and fused it with everything from electro to country. You could call the songs on this list “blue-eyed soul,” but the truth is that they’re too musically diverse to fit under one umbrella, just like R&B music at large. And yet they are all somehow distinctly R&B songs.
Genres of music are a lot like race—if you look too closely, you realize the categorization doesn’t really exist. It’s all a human construct, and focusing on the blurred lines between borders makes everything seem like one in the same. And while race may be a myth, it’s scientific fact that we’re all African if you trace your DNA back far enough. And really, all modern American pop music is rooted in blues and jazz music.
So what’s R&B? It’s not just all pop music, because there is most certainly a lot of terrible pop music that R&B would never claim as its own. But the answer is simple: R&B is pop music done so right that everyone recognizes themselves in it. You can just feel it.
With that said, here are the The Best R&B Songs by White Singers in the 2000s.
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