A few months ago, Idolator’s Michaelangelo Matos sent out an email to a handful of his associates with a proposition: Give me a list of your 100 favorite R&B songs. While there were some basic guidelines regarding chronology (nothing before a certain date) and genre (no hip-hop, no house, etc.), the request was pretty simple–just 100 great R&B songs to be later compiled together and ranked into a master list. Well, those months went by and the only person to turn in a completed list was…my mother. Needless to say, she was not pleased and has been persistently nagging me to publish the list ever since, even going so far as to write capsule reviews of each entry (at my request). And so, after the jump, I present the first installment of Kathleen Turner’s 100 Greatest R&B Songs of All Time (with bonus YouTube links):
My mother basically raised my sister and me on a steady diet of soul, R&B, and funk, possibly to counteract the effects of my dad’s love of Yes and Genesis. (Just to give you some idea of her total obsession with R&B: When she recently professed a newfound love for Joni Mitchell, she noted how outré it was for her.) As you’ll see, she’s a child of the ’70s, with her grade school years spent listening to Motown. As the ’80s rolled on, her taste swerved a little too far into slick, biz R&B for me–maybe I’m just bitter from how often we had to listen to Anita Baker–but she’s still buying records today, with a deep neo-soul jones (and the requisite Idolator love for R. Kelly, of course). She occasionally fantasizes about being reincarnated as Chaka Khan, especially when she’s a couple glasses deep into the box wine.
As is her wont, she gleefully trampled all over the guidelines that Matos (who has some experience dealing with an unruly family of budding rock critics) established for the list. (There’s some hip-hop, as you will see.) And some of her opinions may be contentious (the woman really dislikes Kool and the Gang for some reason, despite including them) or even opaque. But aside from cleaning up the spelling and grammar here and there (and the occasional editor’s note where applicable), I have left her musings mostly intact. Despite having only the vaguest idea of what a blog is, let alone why her son gets paid to write one, I think she’d make a fine addition to the music blogosphere. New updates will appear weekly as we count down to No. 1. And without further ado:
Sent: Monday, April 09, 2007 6:45 PM
Subject: JESS’S SONGS.WPS
Well here it is. It is my blood and soul! No pun intended! And I hope I will win the Pulitzer Prize for this one! Love you! Please let me know that you received this! Love you!
100. George Clinton – “Atomic Dog”
Okay if I had my way I would change this pick in a heartbeat to “One Nation Under a Groove.” Can I? As an ex-funkateer? (Editor’s note: No.) Some say that George is a fake. You decide. He is not James Brown nor Sly Stone. But I still want those pink locks!
99. Sugarhill Gang – “Rapper’s Delight”
Gave a resurgence to staying at the Holiday Inn at least. The start of rap? Slightly infectious: “hip-hop a hippie…” We all know the words.
98. Stevie Wonder – “So What the Fuss?”
So many to pick from!!!! Picked this at 98 because it is off his relatively new CD. Wanted something current. And loved the fact that Prince was popping on it!
97. Montell Jordan – “This is How We Do It”
Well I picked this one because when my girls and I were all getting divorced and such, this is what we danced to. And besides, you have to love a guy that is almost 7 feet tall.
96. Heather Headley – “He Is”
This is how I felt about an ex-boyfriend…what was I thinking? Heather has one of the greatest voices I have heard in a long time and considering I have been around for a long time, that is saying something. Just listen to the lyrics, okay?
95. Ready For The World – “Oh Sheila”
I have no idea why I picked this. I think I was having one of my “I Love Lucy” moments. Thought it was Prince when I first heard it. Kind of like the whole “Love in an elevator/Loving a man like Rita” thing!
(Editor’s note: For well over a year, my mother thought the lyrics to the popular Aerosmith hit “Love in an Elevator” were “Loving a Man Like Rita.” She seemed genuinely confused when corrected.)
94. Digital Underground – “The Humpty Dance”
Thought this was the next P-Funk. And how can one artist have so many aliases? Just love that nasal voice!
93. Prince – “I Wanna Be Your Lover”
(No YouTube clip available. If you can find one, please let us know.)
OH PRINCEY! Pure sex! That is it. Pure and simple!
92. Anthony Hamilton – “Ain’t Nobody Worryin’”
What happened to Anthony Hamilton from North Carolina til now? He sounds awfully like Bill Withers…I love Bill Withers. “Started getting high cause the job train kind of slow.” Tell me about it!!!!
91. Alicia Keys – “You Don’t Know My Name”
Oh my goodness, Alicia Keys! And the lyrics! What a song! What a remarkable woman at such a young age. If I come back in another life, well, my first choice would be OF COURSE Chaka Khan. Then I guess maybe Tina. Then Alicia!
90. TLC – “No Scrubs”
You know, these kids really don’t know how good they have it. And Left Eye’s mother was not as mean as I am obviously. They could have done really better [with men] with guidance. That is why I am glad I am such a NAG! And the real reason I picked this one is because I know a SCRUB! Oh no!
89. Angie Stone – “I Wanna Thank Ya”
As Erykah [Badu] puts it: “Get in the zone with Angie Stone.” And if my kiddies don’t let me down, I’m going to get to see her SOON! Just remember: “Your love is gangsta.” Snoop Dogg!!!!
88. Bill Withers – “Lovely Day”
Okay, so Bill Withers was smokin’ while I was in high school. Wait, did I just give away how old I was? Anyway, while the other hippies I went to school with were listening to Led Zepplin and the Eagles, I was hidden away listening to Bill and Bobby Womack!
87. Next – “Too Close”
Only comment is that I want to hear someone say, “See that’s why you’re my wifey”! Wrong cut but right sentiment!
86. Kool and the Gang – “Hollywood Swinging”
This is the only song by Kool that I would even honor with a listing. Way too bubblegum a group to even consider! But have to give them some kudos.
85. Maxi Priest – “Close To You”
This is the only Jamaican-born, British, Rastafarian on the list. Love his sound! Very smoooooothhhhhhh!
84. Average White Band – “Cut the Cake”
These boys have more soul in their pinkies than most will ever have! Truly rocking with Sinbad. Summer Jams. Remember those?
(Editor’s note: My mother has VHS taped copies of all of Sinbad’s Summer Jam concert specials that she still pulls out when she’s doing housework. And drinking box wine.)
83. Blackstreet – “No Diggity”
Well, Dr. Dre to me equals hip-hop. (Not doo-wop Susan.*) “Ain’t you getting bored with these fake-ass broads.” I am. Come to West Chester, PA to see the Paris Hilton look-a-likes!
(Editor’s note: I really have absolutely no idea what the sentence in parentheses means.)
82. Lakeside – “Outrageous”
No, not Britney’s “Outrageous.” NEVER! Lakeside–one of the GOOD R&B party bands! Great dance music!
(Editor’s note: this clip was actually recorded at Sinbad’s Summer Jam. Perhaps my mother uploaded it.)
81. Michael Jackson – “Rock With You”
I am laughing so hard right now as I write this because all I can think of is MJ’s “Ben”–a song about a rat! Okay everyone laugh now.