Between 1985 to 1995, a plethora of young divas that would become the leading ladies of modern R&B as we know it rose to prominence. Acts like Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton and others dominated that era. However, the middle of the decade became a period of transition, with those superstars being joined on the charts by an emerging crop of new talent – a few of which would help usher the genre into the new millennium. One R&B artist that made a big splash during the late ’90s was Mya, who put the world on notice that a new starlet was in town with her eponymous debut.
A native of Washington D.C., Mya first gained attention for her skills as a trained dancer, earning a gig on BET’s Teen Summit from 1996 to 1998. Despite this exposure, Mya decided to pursue her passion for music during her stint and recorded a demo that landed her a record deal with Haqq Islam’s label, University Music, also home to platinum-selling R&B quartet Dru Hill. After inking a major label deal with Interscope Records through University Music, Mya released her debut album on April 21, 1998, which became one of that year’s more popular R&B albums and solidified her as a breakout star.
With production handled by Darryl “Day” Pearson, Daryl Simmons, Alex “Cat” Cantrall & Myron, and Nokio the N-Tity, and guest appearances from Dru Hill member Sisqó, No Limit rapper Silkk the Shocker, and Missy Elliott, Mya resonated with teenagers and adults alike, scoring three hit singles and earning platinum-certification with more than 1.4 million copies sold in the U.S. alone. Accolades aside, Mya remains one of the definitive R&B albums of its era, is regarded as a certified classic and will always be remembered as the music world’s introduction to its creator.
In celebration of its 20 year anniversary, VIBE checked the tale of the tape and ranked the songs on Mya’s self-titled debut from worst-to-first to determine which one stands the test of time.
12. “Bye Bye”
Missy Elliott rides shotgun on “Bye Bye,” one of the few collaborative efforts from Mya’s debut and one that slightly misses the mark. While Mya holds up her end of the bargain, Missy’s own contribution doesn’t hold up as well in hindsight, making “Bye Bye” one of the more pedestrian inclusions on the album.
11. “Keep On Loving Me”
“Is it really real, the love that you feel for me?” Mya questions on “Keep On Loving Me,” which finds her flexing her vocals amid adlibs from Sisqo and Larry “Jazz” Anthony of Dru Hill fame. Producers Darryl Pearson and Sisqo rework a sample of “It’s All About the Benjamins (Remix)” for “Keep On Loving Me,” one of Mya’s multiple forays into the hip-hop/soul side of things, and with effective results.
10. “What Cha Say”
Producer Darryl Pearson provides the backdrop on “What Cha Say,” the introductory salvo from Mya’s debut, and one which sets the tempo on a lively note. Crooning over guitar riffs and digitized percussion, Mya turns in a solid performance on “What Cha Say,” which fails to wow the listener, but proves effective in getting the album in the groove of things.
9. “We’re Gonna Make You Dance”
Being the prolific dancer that she is, it was only right that Mya include a song inspired by the art on her debut album, which comes in the form of “We’re Gonna Make You Dance.” Produced by Pearson & Nokio, “We’re Gonna Make You Dance” also includes Mya’s own lyrical contributions, as she flexes her skills as a songwriter in her own right on this funky selection.
8. “If You Were Mine”
Mya professes her desire for the man of her dreams over delicate keys and tumbling percussion on “If You Were Mine,” a quality offering that contributes to the magic of her introductory long player. Written and produced by Alex Cantrall and Myron, “If You Were Mine” ranks among the most sentimental moments on the album and is indicative of Mya’s effectiveness as a balladeer.
7. “Don’t Be Afraid”
Easing a potential lover’s fears with her sultry vocals, Mya gets persuasive on “Don’t Be Afraid,” a slow-burning number that ranks among the album’s best deep cuts. “I know it never felt so good, I know it never felt so right/I know you never thought I would be alone with you tonight,” she purrs over guitar strings and steady percussion on one of the more suggestive ditties on this long player.
6. “My First Night With You”
Mya ends off her debut with “My First Night With You,” an impassioned ballad that was serviced as the album’s third and final single. Written by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and Diane Warren, “My First Night With You” was originally recorded by R&B singer Deborah Cox for her self-titled debut in 1995, but Mya would call in producer Daryl Simmons to put his own spin on the song, which peaked at No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100.
5. “If You Died I Wouldn’t Cry Because You Never Loved Me Anyway”
“We started out so perfect, something God could only create/A union of both you and me on this special day,” Mya reminisces on “If You Died I Wouldn’t Cry Because You Never Loved Me Anyway,” a number from her debut that addresses a former love lost. Produced by Nokio, with background vocals provided by Dru Hill, the melody is a guitar-laden composition that is equally impassioned as it is superb.
4. “Anytime You Want Me”
“Anytime you want me just say so,” Mya croons on this mid-tempo standout. Alex Cantrall and Joe Priolo share writing and production duties, pairing guitars and strings with digitized percussion and scratches and gifting Mya with one of its more addictive compositions.
3. “It’s All About Me”
There’s nothing quite like the first time and Mya’s introduction on her introductory single “All About Me” was one of those moments in which you’re left feeling as if you just witnessed the future. Written by Sisqo and Pearson and produced by the latter, “All About Me” would be a big hit, as Sisqo and Mya’s chemistry would prove to be undeniable. The collaboration became a signature selection in her discography and her most memorable duet to date.
2. “Baby It’s Yours”
Out of all of the album’s deep cuts, “Baby It’s Yours” is a tune that finds Mya hitting on all cylinders. Assuring her lover that his place in her life is secure, Mya delivers a standout track which remains a fan favorite and one of the more endearing contributions to the album.
1. “Moving On”
Mya’s self-titled debut reaches its climax early on with “Movin On,” a song that finds her fed up with her lover’s foul and inconsiderate ways and ultimately serving him his walking papers without an ounce of regret. Accompanied by a remix featuring No Limit soldier Silkk the Shocker, “Movin On” peaked at No. 34 on the Billboard Hot 100 and minted her as more than a one-hit wonder, but one of R&B’s hottest rising stars, making the song the album’s crown jewel and a pivotal moment in her career.