Ranking the Best Anthony Hamilton Albums

If you hang out in this space often, you know one of my biggest criticisms of the past decade – well, besides too much autotune, and singers trying to be rappers, and rappers trying to be singers, and celebrating social media stunts over quality music (*COUGH*LilNasX*COUGH*) – is that artists no longer seem able to convey emotion.

And no, mumbling softly into a microphone over moody beats is not “conveying emotion.”

Listen to my man Anthony Hamilton, who for two decades has blended his raspy, church choir vocals with Southern sensibilities to create some of the most memorable R&B tracks of the 2000s. It’s the passion in his delivery, the imperfect crackling of his voice and the soul-wrenching production that truly hit home.

I mean, who didn’t want to give that man a hug after hearing his first hit, “Charlene?”

Well today, we’re giving the homie all the love and flowers he deserves as we look back on his discography, ranking it from bottom to top. As usual, I’ll skip any holiday albums BUT in this case I’ll be adding his two compilation albums to the list, mainly because there’s one that’s too good to ignore.

8. Southern Comfort (2007)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: So back in 2005, Anthony opened the vault and dropped a stellar compilation of unreleased tracks. That one was so nice, he did it twice with Southern Comfort, a batch of songs recoded years before his breakout LP. Unlike that earlier compilation, though, this set isn’t nearly as cohesive and few tracks don’t feel ready for prime time. That said, there’s more than enough gems here for Anthony completists to dive into. It’s a nice listen.

Forgotten favorites: “Don’t Say What You Won’t Do,” “Why,” “Magnolia’s Room”

7. Back to Love (2011)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: There’s no harm in switching your style up a bit. Back to Love has Anthony feeling much more optimistic and upbeat than some of his more noteworthy releases. Even when he’s talking about heartache, he’s more likely to shrug off the sadness than wallow in misery. Of course, there are melancholy moments – and those tend to shine brightest – but the slight change in direction doesn’t throw him off course. It’s a bit unmemorable but far from a disappointment.

Forgotten favorites: “Pray for Me,” “Best of Me,” “Mad”

6. XTC (1996)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Yes, you read that date right. While Anthony’s 2003 album is fondly remembered as his breakout release, XTC is in fact his debut album! And you thought the most shocking thing about this album was Anthony’s Ninja Turtle fingers on the cover. On one (three-fingered) hand, XTC feels very much like a product of its time, lacking a lot of his trademark sullen Southern soul. That said, Hamilton sounds pretty freaking good over the production, especially the album’s second half. The main issue is that most of the beats sound like clones of bigger hits of the time. But if you enjoy it for what it is, and not the sound Anthony is currently known for, there’s a lot to appreciate here.

Forgotten favorites: “It’s Only You,” “I Wanna Be With You,” “Special Kinda Love”

5. What I’m Feelin’ (2016)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Anthony’s most recent release drips with his trademark brand of soul and funk, and I’m here for every scratchy Southern Baptist note. It might not have the sizzle of some of his most renowned releases but across the board this one is quite solid. And hey, we get our first sighting of the Hamiltones – Anthony’s background singers turned terrific trio. That’s always a treat.

Forgotten favorites: “Amen,” “What I’m Feeling,” “Walk In my Shoes”

4. Ain’t Nobody Worryin’ (2005)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Anthony’s third album (and second proper release after his big breakout) is still fondly remembered today. His musings about life feel downright spiritual and feature a couple of this biggest and most celebrated hits – “Can’t Let Go” and “Sista Big Bones,” respectively. While it couldn’t quite top its predecessor, it was a respectable follow-up that helped grow the Hamilton legacy.

Forgotten favorites: “Southern Stuff,” “Ain’t Nobody Worryin,” “Never Love Again”

3. Soulife (2005)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Man, this release had me so confused back in the day. When I first copped it in 2005, I thought this was Anthony’s sophomore album. OH NO. Actually, his “debut” was the sophomore album and this isn’t even a proper LP! Anthony had us all twisted in 2005. Here’s the real story: After Anthony departed from MCA Records following the release of his true debut XTC, he landed at the indie Soulife Records. That label folded before he could release an album, so Soulife is a collection of unreleased material from that era. And what an era. This may only be a compilation but certainly feels like a fully-formed album, serving as sort of a test run for his 2003 breakout LP. It’s an incredible snapshot of the great artist he would become.

Forgotten favorites: “I Used to Love Someone,” “Day Dreamin’,” “Last Night”

2. The Point of It All (2008)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Listen, you knew Anthony was getting serious when cut off the struggle beard for this one. Look at the album cover – poor guy looks like he’s still not over it. As always, Anthony’s pain is our pleasure, standing to date as his best balance of soul-wrenching heartbreak, social commentary and Southern romance. It’s by far his most underrated album.

Forgotten favorites: “Soul’s On Fire,” “Her Heart,” “The Day We Met”

1. Comin’ From Where I’m From (2003)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 4.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: I talked earlier about the lost art of conveying emotion in R&B. Anyone who needs a crash course in how to display pain needs to listen to Comin From Where I’m From, Anthony’s defining release. From the sorrowful pleas of “Charlene” to the soul-bearing desperation of “I’m a Mess” and the harrowing storytelling of “Lucille,” the listener FEELS every note. Countless female artists have made their mark by personifying heartbreak but Anthony is one of the very few brothers to capture the male perspective. And beyond the sadness, Comin From Where I’m From is also a picturesque look at Southern life. I’ve called it one of the greatest albums of the 2000s for a reason – and it’s for sure Anthony’s greatest work.

Forgotten favorites: “Since I Seen’t You,” “I’m A Mess,” “My First Love”

What’s your favorite Anthony Hamilton album? Have you heard XTC? Which albums got shortchanged? Let us know in the comments.

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2 Comments

  1. could you rank some legendary artists like Marvin Gaye, tp, Stephanie Mills, Diana Ross

  2. and also prince

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