Happy birthday to our 2016 ESSENCE Festival headliner Maxwell. He turns 43 today, and he’s been gifting us with smooth tunes for 20 of those years. Let’s rewind to 10 of his best songs in honor of the birthday boy!
1. “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)”
Maxwell gives us the “highest of the high” with the jazzy flow of this 1996 hit, one of the definitive neo-soul jams.
2. “Whenever Wherever Whatever”
The gentle, acoustic-guitar-laced beauty of this ballad is nothing short of exquisite. Sigh.
3. “Pretty Wings”
Maxwell’s gorgeous, Grammy-winning ballad glides through the heavens, taking us on a blissful flight. Although we don’t understand why any chick would ever fly away from him…
4. “This Woman’s Work”
One of the all-time best covers, Maxwell’s remake of this Kate Bush song is a harp-laced gem that showcases his finest falsetto. It gives us goosebumps every time.
5. “Sumthin’ Sumthin’”
This cool, mellow midtempo forever added to the urban vernacular. It would take uncommon will power to resist Maxwell’s invitation to do “a little sumthin’ sumthin’.”
On this gospel-tinged ballad from 2001’s Now, Maxwell gives us comfort that we can work it all out this lifetime. Take us to church, Max.
One of the rare Maxwell songs that he didn’t have a hand in writing, this hit from the Life soundtrack was wriiten and produced by R. Kelly. It makes us realize how fortunate we are to have Maxwell.
8. “…Til the Cops Come Knockin’”
Maxwell may be a sensitive dude, but on this ode to getting busy, he’s at his most sexual. This is his “Let’s Get It On.”
9. “Lake by the Ocean”
The first single from Maxwell’s upcoming blackSUMMERS’night album (due July 1) floats along a sumptuous groove that’s as refreshing as taking a dip in the ocean.
10. “Submerge: Til We Become the Sun”
“Let your atmosphere surround me,” Maxwell sings on this haunting highlight of the underappreciated Embrya album. But it’s you who will get lost in Max’s ambient soundscape.