The 20 Best Songs from 1996

Toni Braxton

The year is 1996, and the music industry has just experienced major milestones. Tupac Shakur has released the first ever rap double album, Phil Collins has left Genesis to pursue a solo career, and Michael Jackson has begun the HIStory World Tour. A lot more happened during that year, including the death of Tupac Shakur but let’s focus on the good. Beautiful music was released, and among the best songs from 1996, here are a few.

20. If Your Girl Only Knew by Aaliyah

The track serves as a great reminder to men who want to cheat on their partners that not every woman will give in to their philandering ways. The narrator is pissed off that a man who is clearly in a relationship with another woman is trying to lure her. Aaliyah sings that she wonders what the man’s lover would do if she found out he was cheating on her. The late singer concludes that the lover would probably leave, and for her to put up with the man, the woman must be crazy. It is a song produced by Timbaland, so it is no surprise that it found its way to the Billboard charts.

19. Sittin’ Up in My Room by Brandy

This track was so good that it was nominated for an MTV Award in 1996. Brandy got her chance to work with Babyface, and the singer thought it was the ripe time to prove to him that she was talented. Her excitement was so high that even Babyface noticed it and advised Brandy to keep her vocals simple. Brandy’s voice is mellow throughout the song and perhaps that is what makes it great. She loved the song from the first time she heard it and delivered the lyrics beautifully.

18. All the Things (Your man Won’t Do) by Joe

With the lyrics Joe keeps unleashing, he can make men insecure, and this song is no different. He sings that he is ready to do all the things that this particular woman’s boyfriend won’t do for her. The narrator does not mind taking the woman on a cruise, gifting her pearls, and making love to her all night long on jet-black sand. All he needs is a chance to do it all and even prove his sexual prowess to her because she seems to be lacking intimacy from her current man.

17. Last Night by Az Yet

It is safe to say that Babyface has the Midas touch because everything he touches is sure to turn into gold. He penned the lyrics to this song that describes lovemaking. Az Yet was formed in 1989, but it was not until 1996 that the group got their big break thanks to “Last Night.” The quintet became an overnight success, with the song topping the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

16. I’m Still in Love with You by New Edition

When it comes to love songs, New Edition set itself apart with songs like “If It Isn’t Love” and “Can You Stand the Rain.” This is yet another hit song that talks about the reassurance men need to give their women. The narrator assures the woman that he is still the man for her no matter what her friends say. He reasons that the negativity they keep dishing out is due to jealousy because his only aim is to keep her happy.

15. Give Me One Reason by Tracy Chapman

Chapman sang this song for the first time in 1988, not knowing if she would ever record it. As she told Rhino, she was almost giving up on her music career because after being in the business for years, there was nothing to make her stay. Maybe it was her decision to even title the album “New Beginning” that helped the universe conspire in her favor. “Give Me One Reason” indeed turned out to be her new start as it became her first US hit, peaking at No.2 on Billboard Hot 100. It remains her biggest hit in the US.

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

Heartbreak is a great motivator, and it encouraged Kelly to pen down his hurt in this song. After breaking up with his girlfriend, Kelly wrote that he could not sleep because thoughts of the girl kept him awake. He wrote the lyrics but wanted Braxton to sing. Unfortunately, they disagreed over how it should be sung; thus, Kelly ended up singing it himself.

13. Nobody Knows by Tony Rich Project

Joe Rich and Don DuBose wrote this song which was destined to be a hit across several countries. With Tony Rich being tasked with delivering it to the audience, it was easy for “Nobody Knows” to be the winner it eventually turned out to be. It was so good that he was even against Eric Clapton for the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance Grammy award. It peaked at No.1 on Billboard US Rhythmic Chart and was also on other charts.

12. Twisted by Keith Sweat

It is Sweat’s biggest hit of his music career, seeing that it featured in various charts, going as far as peaking at No.2 on Billboard Hot 100. The narrator is captivated by a woman who is not interested in him. However, he is convinced that with time she will come to her senses and be with him. The song’s video tells the story, with Sweat acting as a detective who cannot apprehend the female culprit because he has fallen for her charms.

11. Because You Loved Me by Celine Dion

The song is a heartfelt dedication to anyone who has been the pillar in your life. While most people believe it is about a lover, Diane Warren, the songwriter, disclosed that she wrote it with her father in mind. Since Warren began writing songs as a teenager, her father took her to different publishers. Her father’s faith in her talent would never be forgotten and she immortalized it through the lyrics in this track.

10. You’re Making Me High by Toni Braxton

Braxton’s music director decided her fans needed to see the singer in a new light. He wanted to make her relatable on a different level; thus, “You’re Making Me High” was born. The music video portrays Braxton as a sexy woman, throwing away the sophisticated look for which she was known. The song became her first single to be on Billboard Hot 100, where it topped the chart for a week.

9. Pony by Ginuwine

Timbaland has a way of bringing out the best in musicians, and he did so with Ginuwine. “Pony” is Ginuwine’s debut single, and it is seductive. He starts by saying he is a bachelor looking for a partner who has to be compatible, especially sexually. The chorus then uses euphemisms to narrate what he expects from the future partner. The song did so well that Timbaland finally found his break as a music producer with it. The track has been featured in several films, such as “Magic Mike,” since it is a certified sex jam.

8. It’s All Coming Back to Me Now by Celine Dion

According to Mental Floss, Jim Steinman, the song’s composer, was going for a song about resurrection. His focus was the dark side of love, whereby one is obsessed and enslaved. Celine Dion was not even on his mind when he penned the lyrics. Instead, he first recorded it with a girl group, Pandora Box. Steinman was so invested in the song that he used his own money to pay for the recordings that exceeded the budget by over four times. It was a great investment seeing that Dion’s version peaked at No.2 on Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for five weeks.

7. Always Be My Baby by Mariah Carey

While the song appears sweet, if you delve into the lyrics deeply, you might see that it is an unhealthy kind of love. The narrator has broken up with her boyfriend whom she believes is her soulmate. Therefore, even after the split, she is convinced he will be back. She does not even beg him to stay; after all, it is only a matter of time before the lover returns to where he truly belongs.

6. One Sweet Day by Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men

Sometimes, fate has a way of connecting people most mysteriously, and that can be said of the making of “One Sweet Day.” When Carey lost her dear friend, David Cole, to AIDS complications, she wanted to write a heartfelt tribute to him and any other person who had lost a loved one. The singer also planned on having Boyz II Men in her song since they were her idol. Strangely enough, Nathan Morris, the founding member of the boy band, had also lost his road manager and was thinking along the same lines as Carey. Thus, they collaborated, and “One Sweet Day” came to be.

5. Macarena by Los Del Rio

“Macarena” has a beat that makes you want to get on the dance floor. With the film “Hotel Transylvania 3” popularizing it with the famous dance, it has become beloved even by children. However, the lyrics are not as innocent. The song talks about a girl, Macarena, whose boyfriend is deployed in the army, so she cheats on him with his two friends. The girl does not also mind sleeping with anyone who falls for her charms.

4. No Diggity by Blackstreet Featuring Dr. Dre and Queen Pen

This song is arguably the most successful in the career of Blackstreet. However, what you may not know is that it seldom happened because while Teddy Riley thought it was a great song, the other group members disagreed. He even sang the first verse alone because the others were unwilling to get on board. Still, Riley convinced Eric Williams to sing the second verse, and the song came together. It was such a massive hit that it peaked at No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100, a position it maintained for four weeks.

3. Killing Me Softly with His Song by The Fugees

The Fugees took this song to another level with their version. According to Far Out Magazine, the song was originally by Lori Lieberman, a struggling musician looking for her lucky break. She wrote her idea on a napkin and then took it to her songwriter and manager. Her song did not get the success she had hoped, but Roberta Flack, another musician, heard it while on an airplane. Flack tweaked it before releasing it and turning it into a hit. However, The Fugees version is the most popular and successful.

2. Wannabe by Spice Girls

When Spice Girls wanted to record a ballad, “Feed Your Love,” it was rejected because it was too adult for young girls aged between 17 and 21. Therefore, during one of their writing sessions, where the chat gravitated toward boys, the group’s manager settled on a theme about boys. Thus, “Wannabe” was created in a day with the rap part allowing each girl to have an introduction. Although it was recorded in 1995, they did not rush to release it so that it would have the ultimate impact. Indeed the strategy was perfect because it topped the charts in 22 countries by the end of 1996.

1. Un-Break My Heart by Toni Braxton

When Braxton first heard “Un-Break My Heart,” she was determined not to sing it, reasoning that after releasing so many sad songs, it was time for fans to see her from a new perspective. She had been given “Because You Loved Me” and had fallen in love with it, but her record producers advised her it was not the right time to release the song. Consequently, somehow, she ended up recording “Un-Break My Heart” while “Because You Loved Me” found its way to Celine Dion. It was destiny calling the shots because both singers deliver the songs beautifully, and both songs were massive hits.

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