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Looking for love on the Billboard Hot 100: 1999

20 years ago, chart-toppers from Whitney, Brandy and Mariah Carey meant nearly half the songs by black artists were love songs

Where did the love go? Specifically, what happened to popular black love songs?

The year-end Billboard Hot 100 charts are widely regarded as the best measure of America’s most popular songs. We compiled numbers from the Billboard charts for the last five years (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019), and for 10-year intervals over the past 50 years (1969, 1979, 1989, 1999, 2009). These charts show a decrease in love songs by black performers. (To see our story on the reasons behind the change, click here.)

How did we define a love song?

Love songs give voice to humanity’s most powerful emotion, that alchemy of need, companionship and commitment that can include, but also transcends, the physical. Songs that only talk about sex are not counted as love songs. Songs that talk about heartbreak, lost love, etc. are counted as love songs. Our definition of love songs includes those dealing with dysfunctional aspects of love: domestic and emotional abuse, cheating, and other unhealthy or harmful situations. We call these songs “tainted love.”

We recognize the subjective and malleable nature of “black music.” Is the salsa remake “I Like It” by Afro-Latino Cardi B an example of “black music”? What about work by Puerto Rican singer Bad Bunny or the Colombian reggaeton artist J Balvin? Reasonable people can disagree … but Cardi B says “n—a” in the song, so that’s gotta be black music. We include Bruno Mars as making black music because he’s way too fonky.

Songs by white performers that “feature” black artists are not counted as work by black artists on our list. Nor are songs by white artists who perform in a black style (with the non-negotiable exception of Bobby Caldwell). We are analyzing black music. Nothing by Post Malone is black music, even if he has a black artist performing on that particular song. Same for Ariana Grande, Calvin Harris, Maroon 5, Justin Timberlake, etc. We do not count Eminem as producing black music because his fan base is overwhelmingly white. Don’t @ me.

Here are the receipts for 1999, when black love was still big on the charts:

Guide to reading the chart: Black artists are in bold, love songs are all CAPS, and rap songs are in italics. On the year-end Billboard Hot 100 for 1999, there were:

49 songs by black artists.

Of that 49, there were 24 LOVE SONGS BY BLACK ARTISTS


  1. “BELIEVE” (Cher)
  2. “No Scrubs” (TLC)
  3. “ANGEL OF MINE” (Monica)
  4. “HEARTBREAK HOTEL” (Whitney Houston feat. Faith Evans and Kelly Price)

    Mariah Carey performs in Modena, Italy, June 1, 1999.

    Photo by Eric VANDEVILLE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

  5. “… Baby One More Time” (Britney Spears)
  6. “Kiss Me” (Sixpence None the Richer)
  7. “Genie in a Bottle” (Christina Aguilera)
  8. “Every Morning” (Sugar Ray)
  10. “Livin’ La Vida Loca” (Ricky Martin)
  11. “Where My Girls At?” (702)
  12. “IF YOU HAD MY LOVE” (Jennifer Lopez)
  13. “SLIDE” (Goo Goo Dolls)
  14. “HAVE YOU EVER?” (Brandy)
  15. “I WANT IT THAT WAY” (Backstreet Boys)
  16. “I’M YOUR ANGEL” (R. Kelly and Celine Dion)
  17. “All Star” (Smash Mouth)
  18. “Angel” (Sarah McLachlan)
  19. “Smooth” (Santana feat. Rob Thomas)
  20. “Unpretty” (TLC)
  21. “Bills, Bills, Bills” (Destiny’s Child)
  22. “SAVE TONIGHT” (Eagle-Eye Cherry)
  23. “LAST KISS” (Pearl Jam)
  24. “FORTUNATE” (Maxwell)
  25. “ALL I HAVE TO GIVE” (Backstreet Boys)
  26. “Bailamos” (Enrique Iglesias)
  27. “What’s It Gonna Be?!” (Busta Rhymes feat. Janet Jackson)
  28. “What It’s Like” (Everlast)
  29. “Fly Away” (Lenny Kravitz)
  30. “SOMEDAY”(Sugar Ray)
  31. “LATELY” (Divine)
  32. “That Don’t Impress Me Much” (Shania Twain)
  33. “Wild Wild West” (Will Smith feat. Sisqo and Kool Moe Dee)
  34. “Scar Tissue” (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
  35. HEARTBREAKER” (Mariah Carey feat. Jay-Z)
  36. “I STILL BELIEVE” (Mariah Carey)
  37. “THE HARDEST THING” (98 Degrees)
  38. “Summer Girls” (LFO)
  39. “Can I Get A …” (Jay-Z feat. Amil and Ja Rule)

    Brandy performs at the VH1 Divas Live concert in 1999.

    Photo by Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

  40. “Jumper” (Third Eye Blind)
  41. “Doo Wop (That Thing)” (Lauryn Hill)
  42. “Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit of … )” (Lou Bega)
  43. “SWEET LADY” (Tyrese)
  44. “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” (Whitney Houston)
  46. “Lullaby” (Shawn Mullins)
  47. “Anywhere” (112 feat. Lil Zane)
  48. “TELL ME IT’S REAL” (K-Ci & JoJo)
  49. “Back 2 Good” (Matchbox Twenty)
  50. “808” (Blaque)
  51. “She’s So High” (Tal Bachman )
  52. “SHE’S ALL I EVER HAD” (Ricky Martin)
  53. “Miami” (Will Smith)
  54. “Hands” (Jewel)
  55. “Who Dat” (JT Money feat. Solé)
  56. “PLEASE REMEMBER ME” (Tim McGraw)
  57. “FROM THIS MOMENT ON” (Shania Twain)
  58. “LOVE LIKE THIS” (Faith Evans)
  59. “YOU” (Jesse Powell)
  60. “TRIPPIN” (Total feat. Diddy and Missy Elliott)
  61. “IF YOU” (Silk)
  62. “Ex-Factor” (Lauryn Hill )
  63. “Give It to You” (Jordan Knight)
  64. “BLACK BALLOON” (Goo Goo Dolls)
  65. “SPEND MY LIFE WITH YOU” (Eric Benét feat. Tamia)
  66. “THESE ARE THE TIMES” (Dru Hill)
  67. “I DON’T WANT TO MISS A THING” (Mark Chesnutt; cover, originally by Aerosmith)
  68. “I DO (CHERISH YOU)” (98 Degrees)
  69. “BECAUSE OF YOU” (98 Degrees)
  70. “I WILL REMEMBER YOU” (Sarah McLachlan)
  71. “Chanté’s Got A Man” (Chanté Moore)
  73. “MY LOVE IS YOUR LOVE” (Whitney Houston)
  74. “All Night Long” (Faith Evans feat. Diddy)
  75. “Back That Azz Up”(Juvenile feat. Mannie Fresh and Lil Wayne)

    Sean “Puffy” Combs performs on MTV 2 Large on New Year’s Eve in MTV’s Times Square studios.

    Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect

  76. “ALMOST DOESN’T COUNT” (Brandy)
  77. “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” (Shania Twain)
  78. “Steal My Sunshine” (Len)
  79. “I NEED TO KNOW” (Marc Anthony)
  80. “So Anxious” (Ginuwine)
  81. “FADED PICTURES” (Case feat. Joe)
  82. “BACK AT ONE” (Brian McKnight)
  83. WHEN A WOMAN’S FED UP” (R. Kelly)
  84. “HOW FOREVER FEELS” (Kenny Chesney)
  85. “AMAZED” (Lonestar)
  86. “SOMETIMES” (Britney Spears)
  87. “Ghetto Cowboy” (Mo Thugs)
  88. “Out of My Head” (Fastball)
  89. “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” (Jay-Z)
  90. “Jamboree” (Naughty by Nature feat. Zhané)
  91. “Take Me There” (Blackstreet feat. Mýa, Mase, and Blinky Blink)
  92. “STAY THE SAME” (Joey McIntyre)
  93. “A LESSON IN LEAVIN’” (Jo Dee Messina)
  94. “IRIS” (Goo Goo Dolls)
  95. “SATISFY YOU” (Diddy feat. R. Kelly)
  96. “Better Days (And the Bottom Drops Out)” (Citizen King)
  97. “MUSIC OF MY HEART” (‘N Sync and Gloria Estefan)
  98. “WRITE THIS DOWN” (George Strait)
  99. “When You Believe” (Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey)

Liner Notes

Source: Chart ranking by Billboard. Categorization by race and subject matter by Jesse Washington and Taylor Thomas for The Undefeated.

Jesse Washington is a journalist and documentary filmmaker. He still gets buckets.