There’s a miniscule, niche sub-genre of music that consistently produces great songs. It’s R&B songs about having a crush on someone who doesn’t know you. I see you every day on the street and you don’t notice me. I don’t even know your name but I think about you all the time. You know what I mean. I don’t know what it is about that subject, but many of my favorite R&B songs tackle that exact topic. Here are a few of my favorites
Remember young Tevin Campbell? He had a role in Prince’s Graffiti Bridge. He played Ashley Banks’s adorable young pop star boyfriend Little T and then vanished forever on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Yeah, that kid. He crushed “Can We Talk,” a Babyface track with lyrical content likely more mature than the boy singing it. Poor Tevin Campbell had to be the first teenager to put a track on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart. A cool track, though, and a textbook example of the kind of music I’m talking about.
“Fantasy” has a bubbly, cheerful vibe that a lot of these other songs don’t, but the message is still the same. She sees him “walk by every night” and she has fantasies about him being her “laughing boyfriend.” Check out the video. I’m guessing this guy notices you, Mariah. You’re a grown woman skating around in knee pads and wristguards. Safety first! BTW, I had to post the ODB version. RIP Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
Aaliyah took this genre a step further and was too shy to even approach this dude. She had to send him a 4-page letter and made him promise her he won’t dis her. I wanna meet the guy who would dis Aaliyah so I can smack him across his stupid face. Aaliyah is a queen and he’s an idiot. Four pages seems excessive, though. 1-Page letter sounds lazy, though, and 2-to-3 Page Letter doesn’t fit well in the chorus. RIP Aaliyah.
A more recent and mature take on this genre is “Heaven on the Ground” from incredible José James’s album No Beginning No End. It’s certainly not as popular as the others on this list, but it has a mellower, more adult vibe, and James’s voice is as smooth and silky as ever.
The next three songs are the hands-down best of the genre and you could put them in any order and I wouldn’t argue.
When I think of New Jack-era R&B or 90s R&B Slow Jams this song right here is best in class. “Come and Talk to Me” is Jodeci at their finest. K-Ci Hailey on lead vocals with the rest providing killer harmonies. This song deserves a special spot for me because I was in high school for this one and this was the theme song for all of those girls that I had a crush on but never got up the nerve to approach.
“You Don’t Know My Name” is what it sounds like when angels sing. Alicia belting out passionate verses while vocals and pianos cascade down from the heavens. This song is damn near perfect. I could do without the awkward extended cell phone conversation.
Last but far from least we finally get to today’s song, “Me and Those Dreaming’ Eyes of Mine” from D’Angelo’s 1995 album Brown Sugar. Everything you hear on this track is 21-year-old D’Angelo; writing, producing, arranging, instruments. All of it. I constantly marvel at how anyone, much less a guy that young, can write lyrics so poetic, lay down such melodic, funky music, and then deliver a falsetto as smooth and soulful as Smokey Robinson. This song is so good it makes my heart hurt.
Is it just that you’re the finest little thing that I ever saw?
Or is my imagination running too far?
Is it that my eyes are telling me something you could never see?
Something like me being with you and you being with me
While I’ve said in the past that I think the remixes on the 2014 Brown Sugar Deluxe Edition are mostly unnecessary, one of them that I enjoy is the Def Squad remix of “Dreamin’ Eyes.” D’Angelo’s vocals hardly change, but the beat and melody have a harder edge and Reggie Noble, a.k.a. Redman, delivers two dope verses. I’m not sure Reggie’s verses fit on this track, but it’s fun anyway. Reggie is always going 100MPH and this track is super chill. I still prefer the original album version all day, but if you’re looking for a change of pace, check out the Def Squad Remix.
I’d like to address the “Dreamin’ Eyes” video before I wrap this up. If you get a chance, click one of the links above and check it out. It’s a band of four D’Angelos, which makes sense in this case since he’s playing all of the instruments. However, each D’Angelo in the video takes on a different persona that seems to fit the instrument that he’s playing. Apparently this all-D’Angelo band has a gig in the sexiest hotel lounge of all-time as he’s playing to a room full of supermodels. Each D’Angelo locks eyes with his dream girl and has a brief fantasy. Guitar D’Angelo is apparently into getting tied up and dominated. Drummer D’Angelo likes it in phone booths, which means he’s struggling in the 21st century. Bassist D’Angelo seems to be the classiest and likes his ladies in old timey cars. I can’t watch that video without thinking that a band with four D’Angelos must slay wherever they go. Let’s just say I hope they hosed down the chairs in that place after the performance.
Sorry, that was nasty. Time to move on. “Me and Those Dreamin’ Eyes of Mine” is my favorite song from Brown Sugar and peak neo-soul-era D’Angelo. It’s also the best of the “Can we talk? You don’t know my name.” R&B hits. Any “best of” D’Angelo list must include this song.
And just like that, we’re down to the final ten songs on the D’aily! Where did the time go? Tomorrow we wrap up the week with the last remaining song from D’Angelo’s Live at the Jazz Cafe, London album. Enjoy your Thursday, everyone!