2021 was a year defined by R&B’s dominance. Summer Walker’s Still Over It broke Apple Music’s record for the biggest 24-hour debut of an album by a female artist; H.E.R. became the first R&B artist this century to win an Oscar for Best Original Song; Silk Sonic turned vintage funk into a modern-day obsession; and SZA scored her biggest hit on Spotify, Apple Music, and the Billboard Hot 100 all off the strength of a re-released SoundCloud track.
To celebrate a banner year for Black music’s most soulful genre, VIBE compiled 21 of the best R&B songs from 2021. Whether they’re about making love, losing love, or professing love, all of these songs were chosen with the wonders of that four-letter word in mind.