I remember where I was when I first fell in love with Regina Belle‘s voice. I was standing in front of my radio listening to her golden voice as she belted out the ad libs to “Baby Come to Me.” That wasn’t from her first album, All By Myself (although looking back, the single “Show Me the Way” is a classic). No, it was from her sophomore project, Stay With Me, and it was the first time I remember hearing the Englewood, New Jersey native. And I fell hard. To this day, when I hear that song, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I swoon. It’s love at first listen all over again. Regina Belle will always have a special place in my heart.
Eighteen years old. So vulnerable. So confused. About life. And love. Regina was my first crush. BET had Video Soul, and whenever Donnie Simpson introduced one of Belle’s songs, time stood still until it was over. Honestly, the lyrics were probably over my head. I was too young to know for sure what she meant by some of the things she sang about.
But then came “Make It Like It Was.” A song about turning back time, about asking God for a do over. About giving back the love that might have been lost. The time that had been taken. This woman is singing these songs just for me, I thought. She was singing my 18-year old story. I’d never been in a real kind of love, so I couldn’t comprehend how to write a love song. Listening to Regina was like being a part of a story that I’d one day grow into. I knew I’d be asking someone to come to me. Asking for a do-over with a love gone wrong. Or one that got away.
She released three more singles: “What Goes Around,” “This is Love” and “All I Want Is Forever” with JT Taylor. I dare you to listen to any of those without falling hard for Regina. It’s impossible. It’s everything. This album was everything.
It went certified Gold less than a year after its release (August 22, 1989) and reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. With production from Narada Michael Walden, Walter Afanasieff, Nick Martinelli, and Barry Eastmond, and writing by Carvin Winans, Diane Warren, and Jonathan Butler, “Baby Come to Me” and “Make It Like It Was” both reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard R&B charts.
Stay With Me is a classic album that would still do solid numbers today. I could go on and on about what it meant to me. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll let you all live through it with the videos below. And I’ll say Happy 30th Anniversary to one of the albums that shaped my young adulthood.