NAACP Image Awards: 10 Maxwell Songs That Still Make Us Swoon

He is scheduled to perform at the 2021 awards show in honor of the 25th anniversary of his debut album.

Break out your fans, everyone! Maxwell, the smooth R&B singer once-classified as part of the neo-soul movement, is scheduled to perform at the NAACP Image Awards on Saturday, March 27 in honor of the 25th anniversary of his debut album, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite.

"So excited to perform on the 52nd @NAACPImageAwards,” the singer tweeted Thursday (March 11).

The 52nd NAACP Image Awards, airing LIVE on BET and simulcast across ViacomCBS, is an annual celebration of the accomplishments of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature, and film. The awards also recognize individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors.

The 47-year-old Brooklyn-based crooner previously won an Image Award for Outstanding Male Artist in 2010 and again in 2017. But his 1996 debut album, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite, paved the way for a remarkable career, which has stood the test of time. The album reached #8 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart, featuring singles, “Sumthin' Sumthin,’” and “Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder)” among others.

Here are 10 Maxwell songs that still make us feel warm inside in the best of ways. 


    After a ten-year hiatus from recording, he returned in 2009 with a #1 album, BLACKsummers'Night, and a Grammy Award winning smash single,“Pretty Wings.” The single peaked at No. 1 in 2009 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. In an interview with MTV News, he described the single as “a bittersweet love song about meeting the right girl at the wrong time." He won his first Grammy in 2009 for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "Pretty Wings'' and Best R&B Album for Blacksummers' Night. He made his Grammy stage debut at the 52nd GRAMMY Awards in 2010, performing "Pretty Wings" and "Where Is The Love'' with Roberta Flack.

    Check out the official video of "Pretty Wings" below:


    The single is the first track on his 2009 #1 album, BLACKsummers'Night. He broke down the lyrics in an interview with NPR’s Michel Martin, but refused to reveal the name of the person for whom he wrote the song. He explained that the song is about “an addictive sort of fatal attraction.” Here is a snippet of the lyrics: “This is the highest cost. Take you and make you off. Live you and leave you lost. Will you forgive me? Asked out all over town. Drags you and keeps you down. Two times and I take a round. Will you forgive me?”” Whew, check out the video:


    It’s easy to mistake this song from Maxwell’s 2009 #1 album, BLACKsummers'Night, for one of his love songs. But he told VH1 the single, which peaked at No. 11 in 2010, was actually inspired by the United States' wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The fact that we're fighting a religious war is crazy to me," Maxwell tells the entertainment outlet. “I mean, everyone should believe whatever they want to believe in, just don't mess with me. If your god is named this and my god is named that, it's cool.” Check out the music video below:

  4. ‘LOVE YOU’

    Love you” is another beautiful love song from the singer’s 2009 BLACKsummers' Night album. It was not released as a single, but it was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. Maxwell sums up his soul music experience perfectly in a quote on the Grammys website: "Soul music is soul music. It can be wrapped up in a neo soul package; it can be called hip-hop soul. But soul is soul, and it's been around; it will never go away."


    The moving single about a man’s love for a woman was composed and produced by R. Kelly for the soundtrack of the movie Life, starring Eddie Murphy. The single won a 1999 Billboard Music Award for R&B Single of the Year, and a Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul Single, Male. It was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. The song was certified gold, and it was Maxwell's first number one single, staying at the top of the Billboard R&B chart for eight weeks. It was also number one on the Urban Adult Contemporary charts. Check out the video here:


    Maxwell, who was born Gerald Maxwell Rivera on May 23, 1973, in the East New York section of Brooklyn and whose first job was as a dishwasher at Pizza Hut, scored his first Top 40 hit with 1996's "Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder)." The smooth single also won a Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul Single, Male. Check out the music video below:


    From Maxwell's 2001 Now album, "Lifetime" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. It reached number five on the Billboard R&B chart, and Now became his first No. 1 album. He was raised as a devout Baptist by a Puerto Rican mother after his father, of Haitian origin, died in a plane crash when Maxwell was just three years old. Despite his early exposure to church, Maxwell did not participate in the choir. But the congregation noticed his voice as they sang hymns. “[P]eople heard me humming and said ‘Boy, you better go do something,’”he said, according to “But I never wanted to be in front. One of my biggest fears was … maybe I should just put what’s inside of me someplace deep. I’m madly private. I’m a very private individual.” Maybe that explains the passion of his music. Check out the music video for the song below:


    If you’ve seen Love & Basketball, a seminal Black love story starring Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps, then you have heard Maxwell’s super sexy single, "This Woman's Work." The song was released as a studio version on his Now album in 2001. It was also released in 1997 for an MTV Unplugged live album, “when he expanded his horizons through an intimate, ethereal version of ‘This Woman's Work,’ a ballad originally recorded by artsy rock performer Kate Bush,” writes “Singing with subtlety and passion, Maxwell is movingly vulnerable on lines such as, ‘I should be crying but I just can't let it show.’” Check out the music video below:


    Maxwell and Alicia Keys reached No. 1 on the Billboard Urban Contemporary chart with "Fire We Make" from her 2013 album, Girl On Fire. According to, women are Maxwell’s greatest muse, which underscores the appeal of his love songs. “I think creativity is innately feminine,” he says in an interview recorded by the site. “Obviously women at 12 or 13 get either cursed or blessed with the fact that they’re vessels for human life to come through. And that’s what music—what creativity—is to me. I guess being a man is a truly physical state and mentally it’s a little bit limiting. But what I’m talking about is not a person’s ‘female side’ or ‘male side’. The only way I can pay homage to that feminine thing—not necessarily women but to what they represent as creative forces—is by getting artistic and making music.’” Check out the music video below:


    The single is romantic gold. It appeared on the track of the 1997 film Love Jones, starring Larenz Tate and Nia Long,which is regarded as a Black cult classic and one of the best romantic movies of recent history. The third single from Maxwell's 1996 debut album, Urban Hang Suite, "Sumthin' Sumthin,'" peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard Dance Music chart, and reached number ten on the Urban Contemporary chart. Maxwell’s “emotive power seduced not only significant numbers of both the urban and pop audiences but critics as well,” a reviewer writes. Urban Hang Suite reached platinum certification in America in March of 1997. Later that year, he released the Unplugged album.

  11. Watch the 52nd Annual NAACP awards on BET on Saturday, March 27, 2021 at 8/7C

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