Deborah Cox and Tamia are two of the only vocalists in the game who regularly come up in conversations about who can actually hang with Whitney THEE Houston. To have the two of them singing together is a blessing I always want and need, and here they are covering a classic Whitney duet (with CeCe Winans, another Whitney contemporary). They’re not even in the same room and it’s the best thing you haven’t heard.
Since we’re here, I’m always primed for an Underrated R&B Vocalist moment, so here are my top five songs by each of these under-known greats. (Note: My top five for artists I love regularly changes with my mood, so ask me again next month and it might be different.)
Tamia doesn’t sell the records she used to, but she still has the pipes, even though you can hear more of the grit with age. “Deeper” is a huge ballad off her last album that gave me goosebumps.
Deborah “Same Script, Different Cast” with Whitney
When I said Deborah Cox is one of the only women who can hang with Whitney, I meant that. There’s a reason why she was tapped to do all the covers of Whitney’s songs for the Lifetime biopic. At times it’s hard to tell their voices apart — and that’s the highest praise.
Tamia “Officially Missing You”
There’s not a lot to say about this song. It’s just smooth R&B with a great voice. You can put it on for a Saturday night drive, Sunday cleaning, or Weeknight wine.
Deborah “Things Just Ain’t The Same” (Remix)
Deborah accidentally became somewhat of a dance diva due to THAT remix of “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here,” but any true fan of dance music knows, the best tracks are anchored by a big R&B voice. This is that kind of track and one of my favorite dance remixes of an R&B song.
This song from Tamia’s 2015 album came out of nowhere to become my favorite bop of the moment for a good 6 months. Tamia has a big voice, but I actually like when she reigns it in and gives a Quiet Storm vocal.
Deborah “Where Do We Go From Here”
Speaking of big voices, this is the ballad I thought should have had the success that “Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here” had. This is a classic lockjaw ballad that you scream from the rafters.
Tamia “You Put A Move On My Heart”
Tamia recorded this cover when she was 19 years old for Quincy Jones, but you can’t tell. This is grown woman phrasing and this was the first of 3 Grammy nominations she managed to nab before she even released her debut album.
Deborah “Absolutely Not”
An underrated bop! The production definitely has that Atlanta Turn of the Century feel, but you a lie if you say this comes on in the club and you don’t give a shoulder shimmy.
Tamia “The Way I Love You”
This has been one of my top twenty favorite songs since the first time I heard it. It’s the best song to make you feel like falling in love in the summertime — only second to Amerie’s debut single — and it is, by a longshot, my favorite song to sing. If I auditioned for American Idol, this would be the bridge I’d choose.
When Deborah Cox came on the scene, people called her the Canadian Whitney Houston. She had the poise, the beauty, and the voice. She showed all that on “Sentimental,” but I still think it was an odd choice for a debut single. It didn’t really sound like anything else on the radio, and even today it still feels unique within the pantheon of R&B radio singles. It’s my favorite Deborah Cox song because it doesn’t sound like everything else and she sang the mess out of it.
If you just wanna play these in the background and go about your business, here’s a short Spotify playlist.