For each week leading up to the 2016 ESSENCE Festival, taking place in New Orleans June 30-July 3, music critic Chuck Arnold will get you pumped with a mix of tunes from this year’s artist lineup.
Mariah Carey, “Dreamlover” One of MC’s 18 No. 1 hits—more than any other solo artist, okay?—this is guaranteed to send you into a state of romantic reverie every single time, whether or not you have a boo.
Faith Evans, “Love Like This.” One of the biggest hits of Evans’ career, this 1998 hip-hop-soul joint never fails to get the party started with that roller-skating bounce courtesy of a Chic sample.
Maxwell, “Sumthin’ Sumthin’” Off his 1996 debut, the neo-soul classic Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite, this mellow-smooth groove turns up the heat without breaking a sweat. You, on the other hand, may need a church fan.
Lion Babe, “Wonder Woman.” Rocking an Erykah Badu-esque vibe, this neo-soul duo—fronted by Vanessa Williams’ daughter, Jillian Hervey—bring the freaky funk on this single from their debut album, Begin.
Andra Day, “Forever Mine.” The opening track off her debut, Cheers to the Fall, takes a soulful stroll back to the doo-wop era, with Day making the kind of heartfelt declaration you thought was long gone.
Leon Bridges, “Brown Skin Girl.” Showing that he’s a real chocolate lover, the retro-soul man pays tribute to the beauty of brownness on this two-stepping standout from his debut album, 2015’s Coming Home.
Babyface, “When Can I See You.” This finger-snapping, acoustic-guitar-strumming ballad showcases the Tender Lover at his tenderest, aching for a lost love with a creamy croon that will turn you to mush.
New Edition, “Can You Stand the Rain.” Can it really be that this quiet-storm classic came out way back in 1988? With Ralph Tresvant and then-new member Johnny Gill sharing lead vocals, this makes those stormy days sound all worth it.
BJ the Chicago Kid featuring Kendrick Lamar, “The New Cupid.” On this old-school slow jam, cowritten by Raphael Saadiq, the Chicago soulster gives you some ‘70s R&B feels with a little help from K-Dot.
Kendrick Lamar, “King Kunta.” This To Pimp a Butterfly track thumps and bumps to a funky bass line that just won’t quit, sounding like a Parliament-Funkadelic jam that your parents used to turn up to back in the day.