“Black Cat” — Janet Jackson
With the sixth single from her record breaking “Rhythm Nation” album, Janet Jackson silenced any haters who doubted her prowess as a vocalist. The multi-talented artist seamlessly transitioned into the rock genre with this self-penned hit. “Black Cat” became a number one for Jackson on Billboard’s Hot 100 and earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal performance.
She has the distinction of being the only artist to have been nominated for a Grammy in five different genres: Rap, R&B, Dance, Pop, and Rock.
“Beat It” — Michael Jackson
Released as the third single for Michael Jackson’s iconic “Thriller” album, “Beat It” earned Jackson an award for both Record of the Year and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the 1984 Grammy Awards. Aiming to write the type of Rock song he would want to buy, both the song and video continued to help him break down barriers for Black artists.
“The Way We Were” — Beyoncé
At the 2008 Kennedy Honors, Beyoncé honored vocal legend Barbra Streisand —one of the honorees that year — by performing her hit single, “The Way We Were.” Dressed elegantly in black, Beyoncé’s voice took front and center. Her use of control, phrasing, and tone created a stirring rendition of the song that received Streisand’s stamp of approval.
“We Break The Dawn” — Michelle Williams
After two successful Gospel albums, the Destiny’s Child alum was ready to venture into new territory with her third album “Unexpected.” The Solange Knowles penned first single, “We Break the Dawn,” ushered in a new sound and image for the singer and reached the top spot on Billboard’s Dance Airplay chart.
“Impossible” — Whitney Houston & Brandy
When chosen by her idol, the incomparable Whitney Houston, to play the titular role in the classic remake of “Cinderella,” Brandy became the first African-American to play the iconic character on screen. Although this would be the last time the two would work together professionally, they remained close until Houston’s untimely passing in 2012.
Aside from being a huge hit with viewers when it aired in 1997, the film’s versions of the classic Broadway tunes has endured through the years. And arguably, this duet between Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother as she prepares to go the ball, could be the most popular.
What do you think of our list? Share examples from your favorite R&B artists below.