Sad R&B Songs; The Saddest Ever

Every genre of music has sad songs, but R&B might have the saddest. There is something about an R&B crooner pining for love or lamenting lost love that tugs at our hearts. Here are the saddest R&B songs.

“Unbreak My Heart” by Toni Braxton

Song year: 1996

“Unbreak My Heart” by Toni Braxton is one of the most successful songs ever, topping Billboard for 11 weeks, selling millions of copies, and winning a Grammy award.

In the song, Braxton pleads with a former lover to come back to her because her heart is broken without him. Anyone who has gone through a difficult breakup can relate.

“I Can’t Sleep Baby (If I)” by R. Kelly

Song year: 1995

R. Kelly might be known more for his sexy, raunchy lyrics and party songs, but the R&B singer made one of the saddest R&B songs ever. He released “I Can’t Sleep Baby (If I)” in 1995.

“I Can’t Sleep Baby (If I)” is another breakup anthem. In the song, Kelly sings about how he can’t sleep, think, or live without his former partner. In a spiral of depression, he says that he can’t go on without his lover.

“I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston

Song year: 1992

“I Will Always Love You,” the 1992 power ballad by Whitney Houston from “The Bodyguard” soundtrack, is her signature song. It is one the best – and saddest – R&B songs of all time. It was originally a Dolly Parton song, but Houston’s cover of it became legendary.

The lyrics tell the sad story of a relationship ending, and how Houston will never stop loving or thinking about her partner. The song topped the Billboard charts for 14 weeks, won a Grammy Award, and became Houston’s best song before her untimely passing.

“Without You” by Mariah Carey

Song year: 1994

Mariah Carey is on the shortlist of the greatest singers of all time. We were just getting to know her when she released a cover of “Without You” in 1994.

Carey belts out the lyrics in her signature spectacular voice, pleading with a former lover that she can’t live without him. The song references the night her lover left, and how she cannot forget the details of the devastating experience.

“End of the Road” by Boyz II Men

Song year: 1992

We can hear the pain in their voices as Boyz II Men sing their 1992 smash hit “End of the Road.” Lamenting the end of a romantic relationship, the singers acknowledge that the relationship is over but plead that they can’t go on and that they were meant to be together.

“End of the Road” belongs on every list of sad R&B songs, and it left an indelible mark on music and pop culture. The song broke Billboard records and won Grammy Awards.

“Water Runs Dry” by Boyz II Men

Song year: 1995

Three years after “End of the Road,” the iconic Boyz II Men returned with another of the saddest R&B songs of all time. “Water Runs Dry,” the 1995 single from their album “II.”

In “Water Runs Dry,” the singers take us into a failing relationship where the couple argues, doesn’t talk anymore, and no longer says they love each other. The song is a type of sad warning to their lover, saying it will be a big mistake if they allow the relationship to fail.

“Back for Good” by Take That

Song year: 1995

British group Take That released “Back for Good,” from their album “Nobody Else,” in 1995.

In the song, the British crooners plead with a lost love that they want her back, and they apologize for whatever they did or said that caused the relationship to fail. They promise that if they repair the relationship and get back together, this time it will be for good.

“Nobody Knows” by The Tony Rich Project

Song year: 1995

Anyone who has ever experienced pain or hurt but kept it to themselves can relate to “Nobody Knows” by the Tony Rich Project.

The sad R&B song from 1995 sees singer Tony Rich sing about how he is dying on the inside, but chooses not to tell anyone about it. Rich is struggling over the end of a relationship – and like many other sad R&B songs – he misses his lover.

“I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy featuring Faith Hill & 112

Song year: 1997

Legendary rapper Notorious B.I.G. died in a tragic act of gun violence in 1996. His friend, mentor, and colleague Puff Daddy recruited Faith Hill and the R&B group 112 to create the 1997 tribute song “I’ll Be Missing You.”

On “I’ll Be Missing You” Puff reminisces about the good times with Biggie, while Faith Hill sings the chorus and 112 provides backup vocals.

“Not Gon Cry” by Mary J. Blige

Song year: 1995

Mary J. Blige, the Queen of R&B, released “Not Gon Cry” in 1995. The song is from the “Waiting to Exhale” soundtrack. Blige sings about a failed relationship and how she refuses to cry thinking about her former lover.

She loved her partner and would do anything for him. But now he’s not worth her thoughts or tears.

“Cry for You” by Jodeci

Song year: 1993

The R&B group Jodeci released “Cry for You” in 1993 on their album “Diary of a Mad Band.” The song tells the story of a recently failed relationship. Only one hour passed since the relationship ended, and Jodeci is already sad and struggling.

“Without You” by David Guetta featuring Usher

Song year: 2011

French DJ David Guetta called up Usher for the assist on the classic from 2011 “Without You.” The R&B crooner pours his heart out to an ex-lover that he cannot live anymore without her, virtually paralyzed in every facet of his life. Usher is blind, feels lost, and he lost his mind after the relationship ended.

“I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston

Song year: 1992

Whitney Houston is one of the greatest singers ever, and some of her best work came from the 1992 soundtrack to “The Bodyguard.” The song “I Have Nothing” is a classic, sad R&B song where Whitney pleads with her lover not to walk away and end their relationship.

The song title is a reference to Houston feeling that her lover is so important to her, that without him she feels like she has nothing left to live for.

“You Got It Bad” by Usher

“You Got It Bad” by Usher

Song year: 2001

Usher describes being stuck in a funk in his 2001 sad R&B song “You Got It Bad.” The song is about how a failed relationship can permeate your entire life, making you not want to leave the house, have fun, or think about anything else.

“Hello” by Adele

Song year: 2015

In the 2015 song “Hello,” Adele contacts a former romantic partner to see if – just maybe – he would like to meet and discuss how their relationship failed. She explains that she is still struggling with the relationship’s end, and that time has not made things better. Expressed through Adele’s impressive vocal range, this is one of the saddest R&B songs of all time.

“Song Cry” by August Alsina

Song year: 2015

In “Song Cry” by R&B singer August Alsina, he laments that society frowns upon men expressing emotions and crying. A loved one in his life passed away, and Alsina wants to shed physical tears for emotional release. However, he decides to hold in the tears and express his emotions through the song – i.e. he will let the song cry for him.

“Take a Bow” by Madonna

Song year: 1994

Pop star Madonna took an R&B turn on the 1994 hit “Take a Bow” from her album “Bedtime Stories.” In “Take a Bow,” Madonna sings of unrequited love and how the object of her affection took her for granted and ignored her feelings.

Whatever window was open for a possible relationship closed, and Madonna sadly tells the man who scorned her to take a bow and get lost.

“I Still” by the Backstreet Boys

Song year: 2005

Like so many other sad R&B songs, “I Still” by the Backstreet Boys tells the story of a man with a broken heart who is not coping well with the end of a relationship. The Backstreet Boys sing that they can’t let their feelings go and still want and need their former romantic partner.

“Tearin’ Up My Heart” by N’Sync

Song year: 1997

Sometimes people get stuck in bad relationships but are afraid to let go because it hurts too. N’Sync sings about this scenario on the sad R&B song “Tearin’ Up My Heart,” the 1997 song from their album “N’Sync.” In “Tearin’ Up My Heart,” the boys explain that they have emotional pain whether with or without their lover.

“I Don’t Ever Want to See You Again” by Uncle Sam

Song year: 1997

Uncle Sam had us all on the verge of tears in 1997’s “I Don’t Ever Want to See You Again,” a sad R&B song about finding out his lover was cheating on him with his best friend.

Uncle Sam has to cope with the end of a romantic relationship and the sting of his partner cheating on him.

“Officially Missing You” by Tamia

Song year: 2004

In the 2004 song “Officially Missing You,” Tamia admits that her efforts to get over a past relationship are failing. She tries to move on but realizes she misses her former romantic partner and doesn’t know what to do about it. We can hear Tamia trying to hold it together, but her sadness is apparent.

“Like I Want You” by Giveon

Song year: 2019

Giveon is trying to hold his feelings in on “Like I Want You,” but his sadness becomes overwhelming. The 2019 sad R&B song sees Giveon explain that he’s trying to appear happy, but deep down he can’t stop thinking about his former lover and their relationship.

“Breathe Again” by Toni Braxton

Song year: 1993

Three years before Toni Braxton released one of the saddest R&B songs ever (Unbreak My Heart), she released “Breathe Again” from her album “Toni Braxton.” In the song, Braxton promises her romantic partner that if their relationship ends she will not be able to breathe again.

“Let It Burn” by Usher

Song year: 2004

Usher flips the script on 2004’s “Let It Burn,” sadly apologizing to a lover that he cannot continue the relationship. In the song, from his album “Confessions,” Usher laments that trying to hold onto the failing relationship is not going to help, and he needs to just let it burn away before she gets hurt.

“Tell Me” by Smilez and Southstar

Song year: 2002

Smilez and Southstar set the tone for their 2002 song “Tell Me” by dedicating it to all the women who mistreated them in previous failed relationships. They proceed to discuss these relationships, how good they were, and how sad they are that the relationships failed.

“So Sick” by Ne-Yo

Song year: 2006

Ne-Yo takes us deep into his personal life in 2006’s “So Sick,” describing how he is struggling to get over a failed romantic relationship. Instead of letting go, he’s been listening to sad love songs (like the one he’s singing, ironically) on the radio to remind himself of the relationship.

“Could’ve Been” by H.E.R. featuring Bryson Tiller

Song year: 2018

H.E.R. recruited fellow R&B singer Bryson Tiller for the 2018 song about a relationship that could have been great. She sadly realizes that the relationship will never work, especially since the man she wants is already in another relationship.

Sad R&B Songs, Final Thoughts

Sad R&B songs can be the perfect medicine for someone going through a breakup or difficult time. When our hearts break, or we pine for lost or unrequited love, it helps to hear R&B crooners sing about their situations so we know we’re not alone.

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