Best R&B Artists: Top 5 Singers, According To Music Experts

The best R&B artists could never be one-hit wonders because their voices carry on for decades. Their velvety-smooth vocals and lyrics that tug at your heartstrings have the power to outlast their physical lives. From love ballads that make you swoon to anthems of empowerment that make you feel invincible, they’ve got it all covered and so do we. StudyFinds presents the best R&B artists of all time, according to the experts, of course.

R&B is the ultimate mood-setter. Whether you’re getting ready for a night out with friends or having a cozy night in, there’s an R&B track for every occasion. It’s like having a musical chameleon that adapts to your feelings. Feeling romantic? Cue the slow jams. Ready to hit the dance floor? R&B’s got you covered with infectious beats that make you move like nobody’s watching.

But what really makes R&B music shine is its ability to tell stories. These songs are like mini movies with a soundtrack that hits you right in the feels. They capture the highs and lows of life, from love and heartbreak to empowerment and self-discovery. It’s like having a conversation with your best friend, and they just get you.

With the hundreds of amazing artists that have taken the R&B stage, it can be hard to know where to start when diving into the genre. StudyFinds compiled the best R&B artists that have defined eras, set golden standards, and changed the game in the music industry. Who is your favorite? Leave a comment to let us know!

The List: Best R&B Artists, According to Fans

1. Whitney Houston

The late Whitney Houston appears on every single list of the best R&B artists of all time. “There are few accolades Whitney Houston didn’t manage to achieve during her three-decade-long career,” writes a reviewer from Sound of Life. “According to The Guinness Book of World Records, Houston has won more awards (over 600 in total) than any other female artiste in history. ‘The Voice’ burst onto the scene with her self-titled debut album in 1985, boasting classic tracks like ‘Saving All My Love For You’ and ‘How Will I Know’. Houston continued to experience phenomenal success with her famous rendition of ‘I Will Always Love You’ for The Bodyguard soundtrack. The song became the best-selling single by a female artiste, selling 20 million physical copies.”

Whitney Houston performing
Whitney Houston performing (

Outstanding beauty and one of a kind talent places Whitney Houston at the top of our list. “She became the first woman to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart, and she made history as the first artist to simultaneously secure the #1 spot on the music charts in both the United States and the United Kingdom,” shares Hello Music Theory.

Music Grotto offers Houston a definitive distinction. “Not only is she one of the top-selling R&B artists of all time, with over 200 million albums sold, but she is also rated one of the best singers ever, period.”

2. Aretha Franklin

There could never be a credible list of the best R&B artists without a mention of this icon. “Aretha Franklin’s exclusive talent and heartfelt performances make her stand out. Her power to move people with her songs was felt globally. As a songwriter, pianist, and vocalist, she left an everlasting imprint on the industry,” writes Singers Room.

Aretha Franklin Rolling Stone magazine cover
OCTOBER 9, 2018: Rolling Stone magazine in a hand over a stack of magazines with Aretha Franklin on the front cover. (Credit: dennizn on Shutterstock)

Before she was a household name, Aretha Franklin was already making waves in every venue she stepped into. “Aretha Franklin started singing in her father’s church at a very young age,” adds Rolling Stone. “Her debut album, 1956’s Songs of Faith, came out when she was just 14. It wasn’t until the mid-Sixties, however, that the rest of the world learned of Aretha’s brilliance after she signed to Atlantic and began an incredible run of hits that included ‘I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You),’ ‘Respect,’ ‘(You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman,’ ‘Think’ and many, many others. In 2008 Rolling Stone named her the greatest singer of all time.”

Known widely as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin continued to perform until a year before her death in 2018. “Her profession is over sixty years, during which she delivered various gospel, R&B, pop, and jazz collections,” shares Discover Walks. “She also fundamentally affected social equality movements, and was the first lady to be enlisted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She won 18 Grammy Grants, was regarded with a Grammy Lifetime Accomplishment Grant, and got an Official Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was known for her strong and emotive vocals, and her famous tunes, for example, ‘Respect’, ‘I Say a Little Prayer’, and ‘Chain of Fools’.”

3. Mariah Carey

We have to jump ahead a decade or two until we reach Mariah Carey’s debut on the music scene. It does not matter who decides to debate her skills, no one can deny that Mariah Carey is legendary. She “has an enormous six-octave vocal range, with both sweet and sultry undertones. She is capable of producing sounds that no one else can, as well as using the melisma technique,” shares Get Muzeek.

Singers Mariah Carey (left) & Whitney Houston at the MTV Video Music Awards
Singers Mariah Carey (left) & Whitney Houston at the MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, September 1998. (Photo by Featureflash Photo Agency on Shutterstock)

If Mariah Carey’s beautiful voice isn’t distinctive enough, this R&B diva single handedly defines a national holiday. “The queen of the late 90s and early aughts remix, her classic albums Daydream and Butterfly laid the groundwork for the modern sound of female-led R&B. And that’s not even to mention her still reigning crown as the Queen of Christmas,” writes Essence.

Although many speculate that her being discovered was just a stunt, her longevity has proven to be nothing short of a musical miracle. “Her career began in the late 1980s when she was discovered by Tommy Mottola, the head of Columbia Records,” adds Hello Music Theory. “Her self-titled debut album was released in 1990 and became an instant success, yielding four consecutive #1 singles, including ‘Vision Of Love’ and ‘Love Takes Time.’ Boasting an impressive musical career spanning three decades, Carey has released numerous chart-topping hits, including ‘Always Be My Baby,’ ‘Hero,’ ‘One Sweet Day,’ and ‘Fantasy.’ Apart from her music, Carey has also ventured into acting. She made her film debut in 1999 in the movie The Bachelor and later starred in Glitter in 2001, which also featured the soundtrack album of the same name.”

4. Luther Vandross

The ability to break barriers as an R&B artist isn’t just for women as Luther Vandross has proven time and time again. “A backing vocalist for Chaka Khan, Diana Ross and Bette Midler as well as a featured singer with studio group Change, Luther Vandross broke through in 1981 with his first solo No. 1, ‘Never Too Much.’ His silky tenor branded him the unofficial ambassador of sophisticated soul as his love-themed singles (‘Stop to Love,’ ‘Here and Now,’ ‘Dance With My Father’) and duets (‘If This World Were Mine’ with Cheryl Lynn, ‘The Best Things in Life Are Free’ with Janet Jackson) became fixtures on the R&B chart through 2003, two years before his death,” writes Billboard.

Vandross came a long way from being a backup singer, didn’t he? “Vandross sold over 30 million singles and albums, including 13 platinum or double platinum albums and seven No. 1 singles. He won eight Grammys and also composed and produced albums for Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick and Cheryl Lynn,” shares an expert from Live About.

When you think of classic music, you think of music that has the ability to capture a special moment in life that somehow defines that moment and Luther was the best at that. Discover Walks elaborates, “Luther Vandross is known for his famous heartfelt voice and his capacity to make immortal records. His vocation started during the 1970s, when he composed and sang reinforcements for different specialists, including David Bowie and Chaka Khan. He delivered his presentation solo collection in 1981, and from that point on he delivered a line of hit collections and singles that made him one of the best R&B/soul vocalists of the period. He won eight Grammy Grants for his work and sold north of 25 million records in the US alone. He tragically died in 2005, yet his music stays an immortal work of art.”

5. Mary J. Blige

Mary J. Blige had us all sick and searching for love from the moment she burst into the music scene. “In 1992, at the age of 21, Blige released her debut album, What’s The 411? The album was a massive success, blending hip-hop beats with soulful vocals. The seminal album included hit singles like ‘Real Love’ and ‘You Remind Me,” shares Hello Music Theory.

Mary J. Blige is no pretender. Her music echoes the pain from her heart and millions of women worldwide relate. “Her gritty, arresting vocals and refreshing fusion of soul and hip-hop earned her the nickname Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Influenced by Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan and Gladys Knight, Blige has forged a singular connection with female fans with music that relates inspirational tales of joy and pain,” writes Billboard.

We won’t be tiring of Mary J. Blige anytime soon. According to an expert reviewer at Essence, “Her sound bridged the soul of the 70s and 80s with the rap wave of the 90s and created the most modern iteration of female R&B. Her classics ‘Real Love’ and ‘All I Need’ helped solidify the union between R&B and Hip-Hop that gave way to the sing-rap of today and crooners declaring love and lamenting loss over bass-heavy beats. With 9 Grammys so far and currently on a sold-out tour for her latest effort Good Morning Gorgeous, Mary is still letting us know What the 411 is and defining contemporary R&B.”

Which R&B artist helped you through a tough time in your life? Leave a comment!

You might also be interested in:


Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

Follow on Google News

About the Author

Te-Erika Patterson

Te-Erika is the Publisher of The Feisty News for Women, the only full-service news source for women. Te-Erika is also the author of How To Love a Powerful Woman, Leave Your Baby Daddy and Loving Female Led Relationships: Relationships that Empower Women. A graduate of The University of Florida, Te-Erika enjoys a thriving career as a digital content creator that has spanned more than a decade. She enjoys chocolate, wine and solitude, and she is currently living a quiet life in Montgomery, Alabama. Follow her @Te-Erika

The contents of this website do not constitute advice and are provided for informational purposes only. See our full disclaimer