We’re wrapping up 2013, so you know what the means – endless year-end lists.
Over the past few days I’ve read quite a few lists highlighting the best R&B albums of 2013.
2013 was an outstanding year for R&B, one of the best in the past decade. And while many folks have given props to the mainstream releases, there hasn’t been much love shown to albums that weren’t shoved down our throats on BET.
Let’s look back R&B in its totality. From chart-toppers to artists who rocked smaller crowds, let’s show love to everyone. They all deserve it.
Honorable mentions: Avant, Face the Music; Joe Thomas, DoubleBack: Evolution of R&B; Lyfe Jennings; Lucid
10. Mayer Hawthorne, Where Does This Door Go
Edd said: “I know what you’re asking – is this really R&B? Yes playa, it is. Hawthorne is more Bobby Caldwell than Backstreet Boys, and Where Does This Door Go is upbeat, energetic soul that even your grandma can appreciate. Don’t sleep.”
9. Ariana Grande, Yours Truly
Edd said: “Easily the most pleasant surprise all year. Don’t be fooled by Ariana’s petite frame, she can be quite a vocal powerhouse. Backed by proven hitmakers like Babyface and Harmony Samuels and producing a steady parade of hit singles, Araina’s debut surpassed all expectations. The kid’s got a future.”
8. Fantasia, Side Effects of You
Edd said: “Talk about a comeback. I, and many others, had written off Tasia long ago. I’m glad she proved us wrong. Her fourth album embraced her struggles, using them as motivation for herself and as a lesson for listeners. That has resulted in the best album of her career. From tabloids to triumph – Tasia earned this victory.”
7. Raheem DeVaughn, A Place Called Loveland
Edd said: “Raheem is one of those artists who regularly releases solid material quietly but consistently. Put A Place Called Loveland near the top of his resume. The set is packed with heartfelt ballads and hip-hop-tinged tunes that nod to R&B’s glory days while forging ahead. Plus, you gotta love him for resurrecting the lost art of the R&B album interlude.”
6. The Weeknd, Kiss Land
Edd said: “Dark, distrubing but totally engrossing. Weeknd’s debut LP is a dreary trip into the mind of man hopelessly searching for love in all the wrong places. What really puts this album over the top, though, is the production, which sounds like a haunting movie score. Think Prince’s Batman album. Weeknd’s nights are dark but they’re thrilling, too.”
5. Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio 2
Edd said: “R&B the way it should be. Black Radio 2 plays out like one big jam session featuring your favorite artists. There’s no attempts at radio play, no tacked-on verses from questionable rappers, no horrible dubstep production. It’s just talented vocalists backed by a tremendous band. The results are so organic and refreshing. “
4. Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience
Edd said: “Fans have been waiting for this album seven years and, thankfully, we weren’t disappointed. JT returned to the game with a newfound maturity and a sound that emulated R&B’s roots. Mellow grooves and danceable cuts showed that JT continues to evolve, keeping his music fresh and exciting.
3. Bilal, A Love Surreal
Edd said: “I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never been much of a Bilal fan. I found it very difficult to get into his music, which often came off sounding like a strained version of Prince’s work. Well, this album made me a believer. A Love Surreal is a tale of a love found and lost, playing out almost cinematically. Bilal blends R&B with elements of rock, hip-hop and country, resulting in a compelling listening experience.
2. Chrisette Michele, Better
Edd said: “Last year, if you asked me what I thought about Chrisette, I’d probably say, ‘oh she’s nice.’ Nice songs, nice voice, nice performances. But on Better, Chrisette ups her game, reaching back to R&B’s 90s heyday to produce arguably her best work. It’s not just nice, it’s spectacular.”
1. Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady
Edd said: “Honestly, I worried about this album. I didn’t think Janelle’s sophomore effort could reach the heights of her landmark debut. I was wrong. Janelle takes the listener on a journey through decades of music. ’70s Motown, ’80s funk, and ’90s R&B all get a futuristic spin, with lessons of self-love, acceptance and empowerment mixed in. It doesn’t try to be like anything else out there. It lives by the individuality it teaches. Not only is The Electric Lady at the top of the R&B class this year, it’s the best album of any genre, bar none.”