Rock and Soul
The Temptations are an iconic music group from Detroit formed during the 1960s and stayed active throughout the 1970s and 1980s under the Motown Record’s Label. Their music was experimental, soulful, and ultimately influential.
Consisting of five male vocalists and dancers, the classic or original members were David Ruffin, Melvin Franklin, Otis Williams, Eddie Kendricks, and Paul Williams. These five men would become staples of soul, rock, and psychedelic soul in the music industry in the US and the world at large.
Their impact is seen today in the songs that have either been remade or sampled—often sampled by other music groups who cite The Temptations as their inspiration.
To say that The Temptations have “hits” is an understatement, and if we were to name all of them, we would never run out. Selecting the best temptation songs was genuinely challenging but worth it.
Although they have a lot of hits, there has to be a ranking. Below are the top 20 best Temptations songs, not in order of importance, time, or charting position, but sorted according to my preference. I’m sure you would agree I am pretty spot-on as well.
1. My Girl
There are none any more significant than the classic “My Girl” by The Temptations when it comes to great songs. It’s so good. I will admit I placed it on top of the list because I think it is one of the 20 best temptation songs of all time.
The story behind it even makes it more amazing; Smokey Robinson and Ronald White wrote it for their music group, The Miracles. The Miracles took The Temptations on tour, and that’s where they heard the song in its unfinished state and fell in love with it. They convinced Smokey to let them have it instead, and I think it wouldn’t have been performed any better.
2. Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone
“Papa Was a Rolling Stone” is an age-old classic and one of my personal favorites, and I’m sure you’ll agree, it is arguably one of the 20 best Temptations songs.
It was an innovative song and, frankly, a new challenge for the group. It is innovative because it introduced a new kind of sound, something bold and experimental. The song was a pioneering sound, making it the first of its kind in a genre it created, known as “Psychedelic Soul.”
It was so profound and unique that there’s no other band that could perform it just as good as the Temptations would.
3. Ain’t Too Proud to Beg
Another addition to our list of top 20 best temptations songs is “Aint Too Proud To Beg.” It is a smash hit, peaking at number one on the Billboard’s RnB charts and 13 on the Billboard charts.
It was such a great song that there are a lot of music groups that are as well-considered “greats” in their rights that have made covers, paying homage to the magnitude of the song.
Fun fact, Motown Records, which is the parent label under which the temptations released music, usually holds quality reviews before putting music. The song that would later become a masterpiece was rejected twice! Can you imagine that?
4. Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)
If there’s one thing the temptations were good at, it brought the most compelling emotions onto every song they made.
“Just My Imagination” finds itself on our top 20 best temptation songs because it does one thing perfectly. It affords singer Eddie to captivate listeners and force them to listen and feel the emotions in the words and the feelings he too felt as he sang those very words.
It is a soulful, quintessential love song for the ages, committed to taking you on a sensory journey, awakening your ears and mind to something you and you alone can access, a world of wonder just beyond the boundary of imagination.
5. I Can’t Get Next to You.
The temptations have a select group of songs that have attained the status of number one on the Billboard, “I Can’t Get Close To You” is the second one to earn this spot. For this, it certainly deserves a place on the list of 20 best temptations songs.
As a single, it was something of a big deal for it to make such a wave on its own, replacing strongly charting songs from big names like Elvis and The Archies, cementing itself as a major rock hit.
Its switch in tempo makes it such a great song, adding a bit of a groove to the psychedelic soul style we have come to expect from the temptations.
6. Since I Lost My Baby
The divine voice of David Ruffin anchors this song. He does an excellent job of conveying the message of the song with as much solemnity as possible. The sheer quality of his performance helps place “Since I Lost My Baby” among the 20 best temptation songs of all time.
The song tells of the feeling of losing a lover. It tells about the struggles of living without them and the sadness that comes with them. Another song was written by The Miracles member Smokey Robinson, an incredibly talented writer who wasn’t a stranger to writing music for the temptations.
7. The Way You Do the Things You Do
Yet another product of the fantastic and fruitful collaboration between fellow Motown music groups, “The Way You Do the Thing You Do” is another smash hit lovechild from The Miracles member Smokey Robinson.
This collaboration became necessary when the two groups were on tour; it gave them the time to listen to each other’s work, letting their respective talents rub off on each other and making beautiful music.
It is another song that became such a massive hit that it got a lot of remakes in honor, as an homage, and by music groups who also have a claim to the title of “greats” as well.
8. Cloud Nine
The Temptations are an iconic music group, with many hot singles tearing up the Billboards at their release. They’re also credited as the musical group to give Motown Records its first grammy. The song to do that? One of the 20 best Temptations songs, Cloud Nine.
It is a song that showcases the healthy and very fruitful collaboration between the temptations and their producer, Norman Whitfield. Cloud Nine is an excellent example of how good the Temptations were and how bold their style choice was.
At a time when the genre was entirely in its infancy, the temptations were blazing trails with songs that spoke to your soul with sonically pleasing tunes, lyrics, and delivery.
9. I Wish It Would Rain
In what we can comfortably call one of the 20 best temptations songs, we hear the sad and hurt voice of David Ruffin deliver an extraordinary musical rendition of the temptations catalog.
“I Wish It Would Rain” is quite a melancholy song, telling the story of a man mourning the separation from his lover, and he wishes it would rain, so his tears get hidden in the downpours. The belief is that men do not cry, and this makes the song even much sadder.
David tries his best to portray a man trying to hide his pain, same as he wishes the rain would hide his tears. It is a masterpiece of melancholy melody married with a thrilling voice that tells us a story of pain.
10. You’re My Everything
“You’re My Everything” is one of the songs with critical acclaim as the greatest songs from the temptations. Frankly, I can see why they might think so.
The power of the vocals, the pronunciation, the emotion are all astounding. One vocalist does not lead it but two, the familiarly divine voice of David Ruffin and Eddie, who sing seamlessly, weaving in and out creating a symphony of sounds.
However, It is not a sad song; it is a tune telling the story of a man acknowledging and stating the importance of his lover, calling her his everything.
11. I Want a Love I Can See
This single by the temptations is arguably one of the best singles from the group; although not charting in the US, it has a solid regional charting record.
It is the first track on the A-side of their album written by their favorite collaborator, Smokey Robinson.
It is a love song, but not the conventional one. It speaks volumes on the issue of demanding the kind of love we think we deserve. Lead-singer, Paul Williams does a great job on the narration, and his sultry voice helps drive the point home to the listeners.
12. (I Know) I’m Losing You
David Ruffin of the temptations is simply a staple of their soulful and powerful music, delivering yet another solid and memorable performance in this track, “I’m Losing You.”
It is yet another melancholy song led by David on our list of 20 best temptation songs, and yes, it is that good. The song admits that no matter what the man does, how he does it, or when he does it, he will still lose his lover. Talk about a sad love story.
13. Treat Her Like a Lady
The Temptations are notorious for making love songs, and this is yet another installment to their fantastic catalog. It is the group’s most considerable success on R&B since 1975, peaking at number 2 on the R&B charts and just nearly entering the Pop top 40, peaking at 48. It also peaked at number 12 on the “UK singles” chart.
14. Get Ready
Throughout this ranking of the 20 best temptations songs, we have sung the praises of singer and songwriter Smokey Robinson for his impeccable work and massive contribution to the stunning catalog of temptations.
“Get Ready” signifies the coming to an end of a beautiful partnership as it would be the last song Smokey Robinson would write for the group.
The song was successful in its rights but not as expected, leading to the partnership ending.
15. Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)
The Temptations didn’t always make songs about love and heartache; sometimes, they made socially conscious songs.
Finding its way into our top 20 best temptation songs, “Ball of Confusion” is an excellent breakdown of the social climate at the time it was released, and strangely enough, it’s not so far off from the state of things today either.
The Funk Brothers’ original instrumentals would have made the song 11 minutes long, but the version recorded for The Temptations was much shorter at 4 minutes.
16. Lady Soul
“Lady Soul” is a track that may be among the most recent songs, released in 1986, when music was evolving and moving away from Soul and Rock. The Temptations still proved that they could remain relevant even in such a trying period for their genre.
“Lady Soul” charted at number 4, a testament to the continued talent of the group and the quality of their production and management. This feat alone earns it a spot in our 20 best temptations songs.
17. This is My Promise
I don’t know if I’m allowed to call it this, but “This Is My Promise” is a hit song from the “new” temptations, comprising new members since the older ones had left due to contract issues or personal ones.
Released in 1998, The Temptations continue to prove critics wrong by making what can only be termed as “Timeless,” staying relevant even in the more funky and hip-hop-themed 90s.
This continued relevance and ability to reinvent themselves and come back stronger with this song is why it is among the 20 best temptations songs of all time.
18. Silent Night
Remember that we said earlier that although the temptations made songs themed around love, heartache, and romance, they also sometimes strayed to do something out of their lane but beautiful nonetheless.
“Silent Night” might not be an original, but it sure sounds like the temptations wrote it before anyone else. An all-time classic Christmas carol sang by an equally class music group, a match made in heaven.
19. Some Enchanted Evening
This addition to our top 20 best temptations songs shows that even the greats also have groups or artists they consider greats as well. The Temptations, who are often the beneficiary of their songs getting remade as an homage, also paid tribute to a great, Ezio Pinza.
“Some Enchanted Evening” was released in 1995 as part of a collection album of sorts known as “For Lovers Only.”
As a fitting addition to our 20 best temptations songs, “Masterpiece” was named so because Whitfield became thoroughly convinced it was a perfect song. He was right.
It is a divine union of crisp vocals and a funky orchestra. It is chock full of tension and excitement, all in perfect harmony, truly a masterpiece.
I enjoyed compiling this list; it helped remind me of just how impactful the musical endeavors of the Temptations have been on music today, decades after they were made. That kind of longevity is of legendary status undoubtedly.
The Temptations made music so good that they occupy a good chunk of the top 100 greatest songs of all time, and the rest might even be inspired by them as well. That’s a testament to their unrivaled influence and their immense talent and quality.
These twenty songs are my personal favorites, and if I’m lucky, some might be yours as well. But don’t let that stop you; The Temptations have an impressively large catalog of hits that you can enjoy as well.