As we prepare to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Love Jones on March 14, there will be much ado about the film's genius, from the first-rate performances by Nia Long and Larenz Tate to the brilliance of the storyline, which trades in the typical and straightforward they-live-happily-ever-after ending for a less conventional, more complicated and more realistic conclusion.
We've made quite a bit of well-deserved noise about Love Jones since its release, but what is often less celebrated is the film's sound track, which is arguably one of the best albums of the 1990s. Forget that it boasts the decade's most ridiculously gifted R&B acts (Maxwell, Lauryn Hill and Meshell Ndegeocello all lent their talents). Its splendor lies in the fact that its songs somehow manage to feel timeless and a bit ahead of their time all at once.
The sound track was released just as the so-called neo-soul movement was taking flight. If we were attaching our seat belts while listening to Erykah Badu's debut album, Baduizm, then we were whizzing down the runway, bracing for takeoff, with Love Jones: The Music.
The sound track is easily a just-press-play-and-listen compilation, but here are five songs that are just as memorable and masterly as the cult classic.
Xscape, "In the Rain"
Memorable lyric: "Once the rain starts falling on my face/Then you won't see a single trace"
What's a good sound track without a good cover? R&B group Xscape did justice to the Dramatics' 1972 hit, introducing a new generation to a '70s favorite. For that we give it several snaps.
Dionne Farris, "Hopeless"
Memorable lyric: "They say I'm hopeless/as a penny with a hole in it"
Farris, the former Arrested Development vocalist, delivered the standout track for the film in an intelligent ballad that seemed to tell the Darius-and-Nina love saga. Stuck in a despairing situation, Farris sings about the difficulty of moving on without really wanting to. The poetic lyrics are fitting, and their beauty is matched only by Farris' deep, bluesy vocals. (Plus, the 17 "bahs" she sings between the chorus and the verses are insanely catchy.)
Groove Theory, "Never Enough"
Memorable lyric: "Look in your heart, and tell me baby/tell me if you want to play the part"
Fans couldn't get enough of the R&B duo Bryce Wilson and Amel Larrieux after the 1995 release of their best-selling single "Tell Me." They didn't disappoint with this track, with Larrieux singing angelically about unrequited love.
Maxwell, "Sumthin' Sumthin' "
Memorable lyric: "Honeydewsugachocolate dumplin' yeah/Sista with a certain sumthin' sumthin' "
The ballad, which is basically about Maxwell's attempt to spend time with a certain young lady, is as sexy as it is soulful. With this one, big-haired Maxwell reminded us of his silky, signature falsetto — which we became even more acquainted with in his 2001 remake of "This Woman's Work." And who doesn't like a made-up word every now and then?
Lauryn Hill, "Sweetest Thing"
Memorable lyric: "Sweetest thing I've ever known/was like a kiss on a collarbone"
With just the first five words, hip-hop's beloved songstress tugged on our heartstrings with one of her most epic recordings. Hill's warm vocals against the hip-hop-inspired acoustic backdrop, produced by the Refugee Camp All-Stars, make for music magic. This song, of course, served as the prequel to what we could expect to hear on Hill's indisputably classic debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. In short, "Sweetest Thing" is charming but intense, and so is its video.
Akoto Ofori-Atta is The Root's assistant editor. Follow her on Twitter.