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20 Best R&B Male Singers of All Time

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23 Oct, 2023

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During this period of music, many exceptional male R&B singers emerged, contributing to the genre’s distinct identity. These artists are known for their strong vocals, often infusing jazz, blues, hip-hop, and soul elements into their performances. Over time, R&B has evolved as experts blend classic R&B with modern rhythms.

R&B’s soulful singers infuse emotion into every note, crafting timeless melodies that resonate deeply.

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What is R&B music?

R&B is a common name for the popular musical style known as “rhythm and blues,” which began in African-American neighborhoods in the 1940s. It speaks of a post-World War II musical genre that mixes aspects of pop, gospel tunes, blues music, and jazzy with a powerful backbeat. The vocal arrangements are effortless and lush, and the music has a particular recording production technique.

Top 20 Best Male R&B Singers

Male R&B artists have undeniably penned some of the most iconic songs in musical history. This list of prominent figures in the genre encompasses recognizable names, from classic R&B pioneers like Ray Charles and Lionel Richie to 1970s chart-toppers like Curtis Mayfield. These icons transcended their roots in the genre to achieve super-stardom, setting a benchmark for upcoming artists.

Stevie Wonder

 Stevie Wonder
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Born as Stevland Hardaway Judkins on May 13, 1950, in Saginaw, Michigan, Stevie Wonder displayed musical talent from a young age. As he grew older, his singing voice changed, leading to a temporary hiatus in his music career. After dropping “Little” from his stage name, he pursued piano lessons at the University of Michigan School for the Blind. His comeback came in 1965 with the release of “Uptight,” marking his transition to being widely known as “Stevie Wonder” and establishing himself as a seasoned musician.

Popular songs:

1962 – A Tribute to Uncle Ray

1972 – Talking Book

1973 – Innervisions

1974 – Fulfillingness’ First Finale

1976 – Songs in the Key of Life

1973 – Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing”

1970 – “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)”

Awards:

1977, 1975, 1974 – Grammy Award for Album of the Year

1985 – Academy Award for Best Music (Original Song)

1999- Kennedy Center Honors

1996 – Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

1996, 1975, 1974 – Grammy Award for Best R&B Song

1985 – Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song

1987 – Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals

Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical – 1977

Marvin Gaye

 Marvin Gaye
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Marvin Pentz Gay Jr., known professionally as Marvin Gaye, was an influential American singer, songwriter, and record producer. Born on April 2, 1939, in Washington, D.C., Gaye’s soulful voice and poignant lyrics earned him a prominent place in the Motown and R&B music scene. With a career spanning over two decades, Gaye’s music resonates with audiences worldwide, making him an enduring legend in the realm of soul and R&B. Tragically, Marvin Gaye passed away on April 1, 1984, leaving behind a profound musical legacy.

Popular Songs

1973 – Let’s Get It On

1967 – United

1977 – Live at the London Palladium

1971 – What’s Going On

1968 – You’re All I Need

1968 – In the Groove

Awards

1996 – Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

1988 – NAACP Image Award – Hall of Fame Award

1971 – NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Album

1983 – Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance

1983 – Grammy Award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance

1983 – American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Single

Lionel Richie

Lionel Richie
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Lionel Brockman Richie Jr. was a multi-talented artist known for his versatility as a singer, composer, album producer, and media personality. Proficient in various musical genres, including funk, soul, rhythm, and blues, he was particularly adept at seamlessly blending them. Richie’s education and unique background played a pivotal role in shaping his ability to craft emotionally resonant pop songs and heartfelt ballads. He stands as a prominent figure among the icons of male R&B singers.

Popular songs:

1985 – We Are the World

1983 – Hello, Can’t Slow Down

1981 – Endless Love

1986 – Say You, Say Me

1978 – Three Times a Lady – Natural High

1977 – Easy – The Commodores

Awards:

1986 – Grammy Award for Song of the Year

2022 – American Music Awards Icon Award

1985 – Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical

1985 – Grammy Award for Album of the Year

1986 – Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song

2014 – BET Lifetime Achievement Award

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson
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Michael Joseph Jackson was a musician, composer, dancer, and humanitarian who challenged racial stereotypes, shattered records, and revolutionized the music industry. Often hailed as the “King of Pop,” he stands as one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. Michael Jackson’s songs and groundbreaking creativity fundamentally transformed the production and promotion of music.

Popular songs:

1982 – Beat It – Thriller

1982 – Billie Jean

1982 – Thriller Megamix

1991 – Heal the World

1991 – Remember the Time

1979 – Rock With You

1991 – Will You Be There

Awards:

2010 – Lifetime Achievement Award

1996 – Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals

1983 – Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program

1994 – Performance in a Music Special or Series

1996 – Artist of a Generation Award

1989 – British Video of the Year

Steve Lacy

Steve Lacy
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Steve Thomas Lacy-Moya is a singer, lyricist, musician, and recording composer who gained fame through his online presence. He became well-known for his guitar skills and is celebrated for his solo work. His track “Bad Habit,” a melancholic, spacey song characterized by a subtly unconventional guitar, has skyrocketed in popularity since its release on online streaming platforms.

Popular songs:

2018 – Hold On, Hive Mind

2022 – Bad Habit

2020 – Infrunami

2017 – Dark Red

2022 – Static

2015 – C U Girl

2022 – Give You the World

2015 – Special Affair

2023 – Grammy Award for Best Progressive R&B Album

2023 – Grammy Award for Best Progressive R&B Album

2022 – New Artist of the Year

2023 – Outstanding Breakthrough Music Artist

2023 – UK Music Video Awards for Best R&B/Soul Video – International

2023 – Grammy Award for Best Pop Solo Performance

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Prince

Prince
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Prince, born Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was an iconic singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer. He was a prolific artist known for his innovative music style that blended various genres, including R&B, funk, rock, and pop. With hits like “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry,” and “Kiss,” Prince became a global sensation and a cultural icon. He was renowned for his virtuosic musical abilities, flamboyant stage presence, and boundary-pushing creativity. His contributions to music and his impact on the industry continue to be celebrated worldwide. Prince passed away on April 21, 2016, leaving behind a legacy of timeless music.

Popular songs:

1984 – Purple Rain

1979 – I Wanna Be Your Lover

1999 – Little Red Corvette

1986 – Kiss

1984 – When Doves Cry

1995 – The Most Beautiful Girl in the World

1987 – U Got the Look

Awards:

1991 – ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards

2010 – BET Award

2016 – Boston Society of Film Critics Awards

1996 – Brit Awards

2017 – Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical

2008 – Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance

2006 – Webby Lifetime Achievement

Smokey Robinson

Smokey Robinson
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William “Smokey” Robinson Jr. is an American R&B music and jazz singer, composer, music producer, and former recording manager who has penned over 4,000 melodies, including numerous Top 40 hits. According to the celebrity wealth report, Smokey boasts a total assets value of $150 million.

Popular Songs

1965 – Tracks Of My Tears

1975 – The Agony And The Ecstasy

1981 – Being With You

1987 – Just to See Her

1967 – The Tears Of A Clown

1973 – Baby Come Close

1978 – Daylight & Darkness

Awards:

2023 – MusiCares Person of the Year

1999 – Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

2015 – BET Lifetime Achievement Award

1997 – Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award

1988 – Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal

1991 – Soul Train Music Award for Heritage Award

1991 – Grammy Legend Award

Ray Charles

Ray Charles
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Ray Charles Robinson Sr., known universally as “The Genius,” was a seminal figure in music history. Born in New York, he left an indelible mark as a singer, songwriter, and pianist. Ray Charles’s groundbreaking work spanned genres, seamlessly weaving jazz, blues, and gospel elements to create music that continues to captivate audiences worldwide. His innovative approach and unmistakable voice solidify his legacy as one of history’s most influential and powerful musicians.

Popular Songs

1958 – Get on the Right Track Baby

1978 – Give The Poor Man A Break

1959 – Rockhouse

1959 – What’d I Say, PART 1

1980 – Kissa Me Baby

1961 – I’ve Got News for You

1966 – Crying Time

Awards

2005 – Grammy Award for Album of the Year

2005 – Grammy Award for Record of the Year

2005 – Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album

1987 – Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

1991 – Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award

1994 – World Music Legend Award for Outstanding contribution

1961 – Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance

Babyface

Babyface
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Babyface, the stage name used by singer-songwriter-record producer Kenneth Brian Edmonds, originates from the United States. During his entire career, he wrote and recorded more than 26 R&B hits that reached the top of the charts. He has also received 12 Grammy Nominations.

Popular songs:

1987 – Two Occasions

1993 – Never Keeping Secrets

1997 – I Care About You

1989 – Where Will You Go

1996 – Every Time I Close My Eyes

1989 – Whip Appeal

1993 – For the Cool in You

Awards:

1998 – American Music Award for Favorite Male Pop Artist

1998 – NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Album

1994 – Grammy Award for Album of the Year

1995 – Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal

1998, 1995 – American Music Award for Favorite Male

1997, 1995, 1993 – Grammy Award for Best R&B Song

R. Kelly

R. Kelly
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Robert Sylvester Kelly, known as R. Kelly, is a transformative American artist. Born on January 8, 1967, in Chicago, Illinois, Kelly earned the moniker “the King of R&B” for his groundbreaking work in blending hip-hop and R&B. He is not only a remarkable singer but also a prolific songwriter and accomplished music producer with a collection of over 200 songs for himself and other artists. However, Kelly’s career is also marked by controversy and legal issues, sparking crucial conversations about art, artists, and personal conduct.

Popular songs:

2013 – Legs Shakin’

2003 – Step In the Name of Love

2005 – Trapped in the Closet

1993 – It Seems Like You’re Ready

1993 – Your Body’s Callin’

1993 – Bump n’ Grind

1998 – I’m Your Angel

Awards:

1998 – Grammy Award for Best R&B Song

2001 – Billboard Music Award for Top R&B Song

1998 – Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media

2003 – BET Award for Best Male R&B/Pop Artist

2000 – Soul Train Music Award for Best Album of the Year

2001 – Billboard Music Award for Top R&B Album

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Curtis Mayfield

Curtis Mayfield
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Curtis Lee Mayfield, born on June 3, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois, was an influential American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and music composer. He rose to prominence as a member of the R&B vocal group The Impressions, where his distinctive falsetto and socially conscious lyrics symbolized the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

Mayfield’s innovative songwriting and production techniques paved the way for a new era of soul music. His solo career flourished with albums like “Curtis” and “Super Fly,” showcasing his remarkable musical talent and addressing pertinent social issues of the time. His enduring legacy lies in his musical contributions and his dedication to using his art as a vehicle for positive change.

Popular songs:

1970 – Move On Up

1972 – Freddie’s Dead

1971 – Superfly

1972 – Pusherman

1970 – If There’s a Hell Below We’re All

1971 – Keep on Keeping On

Awards:

Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award – 1995

Grammy Legend Award – 1995

Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award for Individual Artist – 1991

Soul Train Music Award for Heritage Award for Career Achievement – 1997

Luther Vandross

Luther Vandross
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Luther Ronzoni Vandross Jr. was an accomplished American jazz and R&B musician celebrated for his songwriting and record production. Luther Vandross is an iconic figure in American music history known for his mastery of blues and rock. His rich, velvety voice and emotionally charged performances garnered him numerous awards and a devoted fan base. Vandross’s music resonates with audiences worldwide, solidifying his legacy as a true R&B legend.

Popular songs:

2003 – Dance with My Father

1981 – Never Too Much

1981 – A House Is Not a Home

1994 – Endless Love

1979 – Good Times

1978 – I Want Your Love

Awards:

1992 – Grammy Award for Best R&B Song

2004 – Grammy Award for Best R&B Album

1992, 2003 – American Music Award for Favorite Album

2003, 2002, 1996 – American Music Award for Favorite Male Artist Soul/R&B

1970, 2011 – Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance

James Brown

James Brown
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James Joseph Brown, often hailed as “the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business,” was an American musical trailblazer known for pioneering funk genre contributions. He revolutionized the live performance experience in American music, leaving an indelible mark on 20th-century entertainment. His electrifying stage presence set new standards and continues influencing generations of performers. James Brown’s groundbreaking music and dynamic stage presence earned him the enduring title of the “Godfather of Soul,” solidifying his legacy as an icon in the history of popular music.

Popular songs:

1964 – I Got You

1976 – Get Up Offa That Thing

1970 – Get Up Sex Machine

1973 – The Payback

1958 – Please, Please, Please

1973 – The Boss

1958 – Try Me!

Awards:

2003 – Kennedy Center Honors

1966 – Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance

1992 – Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

1992 – American Music Award of Merit

1987 – Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance

2003 – BET Lifetime Achievement Award

Aaron Neville

Aaron Neville
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Aaron Joseph Neville, a distinguished R&B and soul vocalist, has achieved remarkable success with four platinum records and four U.S. top-ten hits. His 1966 single “Tell It Like It Is” not only secured the top spot on the Adult Current list on Billboard but also dominated the Soul list for an impressive five weeks.

Popular songs:

1966 – Tell It Like It Is

1993 – The Grand Tour

1996 – Yellow Moon

1993 – Don’t Take Away My Heaven

1991 – Everybody Plays the Fool

1986 – Pledging My Love

Awards:

Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo/Group with Vocals – 1991, 1990

Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals – 1995

Grammy Award for Best American Roots Performance – 2023

NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Gospel Singers Artist – 2001

Chris Brown

Chris Brown
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Christopher Maurice Brown, an American musician, songwriter, rap artist, dancer, and filmmaker, is also recognized for his acting prowess. Among his peers, he is hailed as the “King of R&B,” solidifying his status as one of the finest male R&B singers of all time. With a career spanning over two decades, Chris Brown has consistently delivered chart-topping hits, showcasing his exceptional talent and versatility.

Popular songs:

2019 – Under The Influence

2011 – Look at Me Now

2021 – Go Crazy

2023 – Summer Too Hot

2022 – Superhero

2023 – How We Roll

2005 – Gimme That

Awards:

2012 – Grammy Award for Best R&B Album

2011 – BET Award for Video of the Year

2008 – American Music Award for Artist of the Year

2011, 2020 – BET Award for Best Collaboration

2006, 2008 – Billboard Music Award for Top Artist

2012 – MTV Video Music Award for Best Choreography

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Usher

Usher
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Usher Raymond IV, a versatile artist from the United States, has left an indelible mark on the R&B music scene. His eponymous debut album catapulted him to fame, and releases like “My Way” solidified his position as a prominent figure in the late 1990s music landscape.

Popular songs:

2014 – I Don’t Mind

2010 – DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love

2001 – U Got It Bad

2004 – My Boo

2004 – Superstar

2008 – Love in this Club

Awards:

2005 – Grammy Award for Best Melodic Rap Performance

2005 – Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Song

2005 – Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo/Group with Vocals

2013 – Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance

2004 – Billboard Music Award for Top Hot 100 Song

2004 – American Music Award for Favorite Pop Album

Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars
An image credit example from a The Guardian

Bruno Mars, born Peter Gene Hernandez, is a versatile American artist known for his prowess in various musical genres, including R&B, reggae, disco, soul, pop, and rock. His live performances are renowned for their electrifying energy and classic showmanship

Popular songs:

2010 – Talking to the Moon

2012 – Locked Out of Heaven

2010 – Just the Way You Are

2016 – That’s What I Like

2012 – When I Was Your Man

2012 – Treasure

Awards:

2018 – Grammy Award for Album of the Year

2014 – Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album

2018, 2012 – Grammy Award for Song of the Year

2013 – MTV Europe Music Award for Best Song

2018, 2022 – Grammy Award for Best R&B Song

2017 – American Music Award for Artist of the Year

The Weeknd

The Weeknd
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The Weeknd, born Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, is a Canadian musician, songwriter, and artist celebrated for his innovative musical style, boundary-pushing reinventions, and unique utilization of the operatic vocal range. He has become a trailblazer in contemporary music with a string of chart-topping hits.

Popular songs:

2020 – Blinding Lights

2016 – Die for You

2020 – Save Your Tears

2018 – I Was Never There

2016 – Starboy

2022 – Is There Someone Else?

Awards:

Grammy Award for Best Melodic Rap Performance – 2022

Grammy Award for Best Progressive R&B Album – 2018, 2016

MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year – 2020

Billboard Music Award for Top Artist – 2021

Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance – 2016

John Legend

John Legend
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John Legend, the stage name of American singer-songwriter John Roger Stephens, initially entered the music scene as a studio musician, providing piano accompaniment for Lauryn Hill’s “Everything Is Everything” and making uncredited cameo appearances on Jay-Z’s “Encore.” His musical prowess would later propel him to international stardom.

Popular songs:

2022- On Time

2013 – All of Me

2017 – Beauty and the Beast

2022 – Nervous

2021 – In My Mind

2012 – Who Did That to You?

2022 – Minefields

Awards:

2015 – Academy Award for Best Music (Original Song)

2020 – Grammy Award for Best Melodic Rap Performance

2011 – Grammy Award for Best R&B Song

2015 – Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song

2015 – BET Award for Best Collaboration

2016 – Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media

2006, 2011, 2021 – Grammy Award for Best R&B Album

Trey Songz

Trey Songz
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Trey Songz, born Tremaine Aldon Neverson, emerged as a prominent new R&B male artist when he signed with Atlantic Recordings in 2005. His debut studio album, “I Gotta Make It,” was introduced to the world by music producer Troy Taylor in July of that same year, marking the beginning of his influential musical journey.

Popular songs:

2010 – Bottoms Up

2012 – Heart Attack

2009 – I Invented Sex

2014 – Slow Motion

2014 – Mr. Steal Your Girl

2007 – Can’t Help but Wait

Awards:

BET Award for Best Male R&B/Pop Artist – 2010

Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul Male Artist – 2014, 2010

MuchMusic Video Award for Best Hip Hop Video – 2010

MuchMusic Video Award for Cinematography of the Year – 2010

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Top 5 Male Lead Singers in R&B Groups

Ralph Tresvant – New Edition

Ralph Tresvant – New Edition
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Ralph Edward Tresvant, known for being the lead vocalist of the renowned R&B group New Edition, is a versatile American musician and composer. Transitioning into a solo career, Tresvant achieved platinum-certified sales with his album “Ralph Tresvant.” With a career spanning four decades as a prominent member of New Edition and a successful solo artist, he continues to captivate audiences with his exceptional talent and musical contributions.

Aaron Hall – Guy

Aaron Hall - Guy
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Aaron Robin Hall III, a singer-songwriter of Caribbean heritage, rose to prominence in 1988 as a member of Guy, an influential R&B and modern jack swing group he co-founded alongside Teddy Riley and Timmy Gatling in the late 1980s. Later, Hall’s brother Damion Hall joined the group alongside them. Aaron Hall, distinguished among 80s R&B male artists, embarked on his solo career with the release of “The Truth” in 1993.

Teddy Riley – Blackstreet

 Teddy Riley - Blackstreet
An image credit example from a billboard pro

The genre of modern jack swing, a fusion of R&B and hip hop, is credited to American musician, songwriter, and album composer Edward Theodore Riley. He founded Guy and Blackstreet’s musical groups and served as their lead singer. In late 1991, Riley initiated a second band called Blackstreet.

Raphael Saadiq – Tony! Toni! Toné!

Raphael Saadiq - Tony! Toni! Toné!
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The American soul and R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné! gained popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s, hailing from Oakland, California. Raphael Saadiq, an American musician, lyricist, multi-instrumentalist, and music composer, rose to prominence as a member of the platinum-selling trio Tony Toni Toné! As the cherished R&B group’s lead singer and guitarist, Saadiq played a pivotal role in their success.

Jason “Jase” – Soul For Real

Jason "Jase" - Soul For Real
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Jason “Jase” Oliver Dalyrimple, formerly known as Jase4Real, remains an active figure in the R&B music scene. As the key member of the platinum-selling R&B group Soul For Real, he is gearing up for the release of another single record. Notably, both the single “Love Again” by Soul For Real and the self-titled track “If You Feelin’ Like Me” by Jase were released in 2016.

FAQs

What is the full form of R&B?

The full form of R&B is “Rhythm and Blues.” It is also commonly abbreviated as R&B or R’n’B. This musical style originated in African-American communities during the 1940s.

What is R&B music?

The post-World War II music genre known as R&B combines a powerful backbeat with popular music, gospel, blues, and jazz elements.

Who is the best R&B male singer?

The “best R&B male singer in all of history” is Chris Brown.

Who are the top 10 R&B male singers?

Here is the top 10 list of male rhythm and blues singers:

  1. Usher
  2. Chris Brown
  3. Michael Jackson
  4. Bruno Mars
  5. Lionel Richie
  6. Stevie Wonder
  7. The Weeknd
  8. Luther Vandross
  9. Prince
  10. Marvin Gaye

Who are the top 20 R&B male singers?

  1. Stevie Wonder
  2. Marvin Gaye
  3. Lionel Richie
  4. Michael Jackson
  5. Steve Lacy
  6. Prince
  7. Smokey Robinson
  8. Ray Charles
  9. Babyface
  10. R. Kelly
  11. Curtis Mayfield
  12. Luther Vandross
  13. James Brown
  14. Aaron Neville
  15. Chris Brown
  16. Usher
  17. Bruno Mars
  18. The Weeknd
  19. John Legend
  20. Trey Songz

Who is the greatest R&B male singer?

The greatest male R&B singers on the list include legendary gold performers like Ray Charles and Lionel Richie and chart-toppers from the 1970s like Curtis Mayfield.

Who is the highest-selling R&B male singer?

As the most popular R&B male performer, Michael Jackson leads the list with 89 million albums distributed in the US.

Who will be the top R&B male singer in the world in 2023?

The Weeknd is a well-known pop performer who is one of the top R&B artists in 2023 for his services to the genre.

Which are the top R&B songs by male singers?

  • Innervisions by Stevie Wonder
  • Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye
  • Heal the World by Michael Jackson
  • Under The Influence by Chris Brown
  • Die for You by The Weekend

Who are the top 5 male lead singers in R&B groups?

  1. Marvin Gaye
  2. Usher
  3. Chris Brown
  4. Lionel Richie
  5. Michael Jackson

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