12 Greatest Sophomore R&B Albums Ever

The second time’s the charm.

Last time we hung out, we named the 12 best sophomore albums in rap history — second albums that were so good they surpassed their predecessors.

Peep game if you haven’t already.

This time, let’s look at 12 times R&B artists not only bested their debut albums but, in some cases, created works that have become all-time classics.

the diary of aliciaAlicia Keys, The Diary of Alicia Keys

Debut: Songs in A Minor

In all honesty, I found Alicia’s debut to be slightly overrated. Songs in A Minor was certainly promising, but the album had its share of few holes. Those holes were quickly filled by its follow-up, a phenomenal showcase of Alicia’s writing and vocal skills. It still stands as one of the best R&B releases of the 21st century.


my lifeMary J Blige, My Life

Debut: What’s the 411?

How do you follow up a groundbreaking debut? You, somehow, drop an album that’s even MORE groundbreaking. My Life isn’t just Mary J’s signature work, it’s one of the signature albums of the 1990s — a sobering portrayal of  the struggles of womanhood.


never say neverBrandy, Never Say Never

Debut: Brandy

When Brandy emerged in the mid-90s, she soon became America’s newest sweetheart. But her sophomore album proved that she was more than the cute girl with braids. Never Say Never was a shockingly mature project that exhibited tons of growth and depth. It remains her most celebrated project.


je heartbreakJagged Edge, J.E. Heartbreak

Debut: A Jagged Era

JE’s introduction to the world of R&B was solid, but ultimately forgettable, despite several strong singles. But it was their second effort that truly showcased their range, proving they could be both balladeers and party-starters. It’s the album that put them on the map.


room 112112, Room 112

Debut: 112

A few weeks ago, I boldly challenged Twitter to find a three consecutive albums — from debut entry to round three — that were as consistently good as 112’s triumvirate. The gem of that collection is Room 112, which deftly glides from radio hits to smooth bedroom burners. The 112 boys were at the top of their games here.





IIBoyz II Men, II

Debut: Cooleyhighharmony

Unless you were hiding under a rock and/or a fetus in the mid 90s, you know just how monumental Boyz II Men’s second album was in the world of music. The singles were anchored to the top of the Billboard charts seemingly for eternity, and the album cuts themselves were masterful. This is the album that ushered R&B into the mainstream in the ’90s.


bdayBeyonce, B’Day

Debut: Dangerously In Love

While the Beyhive is typically fixated on Beyonce’s most recent albums, her second album still stands as her most complete effort. An effective mix of uptempo jams and power ballads, it showcased all the tools at Bey’s disposal. The themes might not be as sophisticated as those in Lemonade, but the tracks here speak for themselves.


the writings on the wallDestiny’s Child, The Writing’s on the Wall

Debut: Destiny’s Child

Destiny’s Child’s 1998 debut was sorely underrated at the time, with most praise focused on the lead single and little else. The Writing’s on the Wall, though, commanded MUCH more attention. The brash mix of R&B, pop and hip-hop transformed DC from overlooked soul singers to pop megastars.


comin from where Im fromAnthony Hamilton, Comin’ From Where I’m From

Debut: XTC

Yep, you read that right — Anthony Hamilton’s debut album actually dropped way back in 1996, seven years before he hit big with his soul smash Comin’ From Where I’m From. Hamilton’s gritty, pleading vocals were a throwback to a bygone era — but it was the relatable lyrics that really drove the themes home. An underrated gem.


where i wanna beDonell Jones, Where I Wanna Be

Debut: My Heart

This is the dark horse of the list but, trust me, it earns its place among these giants. Donell’s debut was strong — especially from a vocal standpoint — but the stakes were raised the second time around and Jones stepped up to the challenge. Where I Wanna Be is Donell at his zenith and stands as one of the most overlooked albums of its era.


one in a millionAaliyah, One In A Million

Debut: Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number

It may sound like blasphemy in 2016 but I never expected Aaliyah to be the superstar she became. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed her debut but it did little to distinguish her from her peers. That all changed with One In A Million, an album that pushed R&B’s sonic boundaries into a new era. With one album, Aaliyah rewrote the rules for R&B.


crazysexycoolTLC, CrazySexyCool

Debut: Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip

Yep, this one was a given. TLC’s impressive, albeit uneven, first album established them as young women who unabashedly embraced their sexuality. Their second album was a portrait of their maturation — in both themes and sounds. It’s a coming-of-age project that would inspire strength and feminism in scores of young listeners. And, of course, the album is home to some of the most memorable songs of the 1990s.



Which sophomore R&B albums do you think beat their predecessors? Let us know below. And while you’re at it, check our list of the 12 Greatest Sophomore Rap Albums Ever.



  1. Yes to all of this! Well, most of this list because I haven’t followed solo Beyonce at all:/ I still have Writing’s on the Wall, Never Say Never and Diary on my ipod. I’d add Xscape’s “Off the Hook” as well. Their debut was hot and I think more cohesive than say, TLC’s, but like TLC the sophomore album was more mature but still soulful and fun. Oh, and I’m thinking maybe Tony Toni Tone’s “Sons of Soul”

    • To me, Whitney Houston’s Whitney is her best work. I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Didn’t We Almost Have It All, Where Do Broken Hearts Go, and So Emotional are my favs.

  2. Let’s not forget one of the greatest sophomore albums ever and that’s the ’80s mega Bobby Brown’s DON’T BE CRUEL.

  3. Other HONORABLE sophomore mentions: RAPTURE (Anita Baker)….TENDER LOVER (Babyface)….SECRETS (Toni Braxton)….PROMISE (Sade)…I’M READY (Tevin Campbell)…I’LL GIVE ALL MY LOVE TO YOU (Keith Sweat)

  4. Every song album on this list swerved the hell away from the sophomore Jinx…..I own every last one of them…….

  5. Other HONORABLE sophomore mentions: “ITS ON TONIGHT” SAM SALTER….. “MIRACLE”Puff Jonson …..”YOU” Jesse Powell….”Days like these” Kenny Lattimore….”you mean the world” Toni Braxton…Xolani soweto South Africa

  6. Great List but you missed arguably the greatest sophomore alongside TLC… Jodeci – Diary of a Mad Band! Glad you put it as you #1 on your Jodeci album list though! Props

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