Sunday, January 5, 2014

Top 10 R&B Projects of 2013


  • The Weeknd - Kiss Land
  • Bilal - A Love Surreal
  • Robert Glasper - Black Radio 2
  • Terrace Martin - 3ChordFold
  • SZA - S
  • Kelly Rowland - Talk A Good Game

  • Inc. - No World
  • Tamar Braxton - Love and War
  • Laura Mvula - Sing to the Moon
  • Kelela - Cut 4 Me
  • Ty$ - Beach House 2

10. Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines

A bit different than traditional Robin Thicke albums, Blurred Lines is his foray into a more dance and electronic type of R&B. Though across the board this wasn’t necessarily the most effective or most successful Robin work, it was kind of based off of the prominence of the single with the title the same as the album. I would not be being honest if I said there are many other reasons other than the song itself that Sir Thicke lands on our list but hey, it was as big a hit we had last year.. (Literally). I would also be doing you an injustice by telling you that there’s nothing on the album other than the song. There’s still some good sprinkled in which also gave Rob the boost.

- L. Reels @Lreels_919

Notable Tracks: Blurred Lines (feat. T.I. & Pharrell Williams), Give It To U (feat. Kendrick Lamar), Top of The World

9. Various Artists - Saint Heron

Solange Knowles made her humble mark on R&B last year by keeping the indie trend respectfully advancing towards the forefront. After founding her own Sony imprint Saint Records, she gathered 11 independent artists for her label’s debut compilation album that was meant to, “celebrate these awesome, sometimes overlooked, incredibly gifted R&B artists and have them come together and celebrate the art form and the diversity of the art form” (via Billboard). Saint Heron achieved just that, executing an eclectic concept with all of its separate (and in some cases unknown) pieces. Knowles did employ more familiar figures Cassie, Jhene Aiko, and Sampha to contribute with singles, as well as pitch in her own “Cash In”, but refreshing is the reality that the indie talents BC Kingdom, India Shawn, Kelela, Jade J, Kingdom, Starchild, and Iman Omari provide the experimental girth to earn Saint Heron a bid as one of the most artistically impressive listens of 2013.

- Martin @marley_mcfly

Notable Tracks: Lockup, Faded, Bank Head, I’m Alive

8. Jhene Aiko - Sail Out

I have been a pretty big Jhene fan for some time now, so when she had a huge 2013 capped off with an excellent piece of work, I was elated. She’s not a household name yet but if she continues at the pace, that won't hold up for much longer. Her EP Sail Out was extremely refreshing and she was able to successfully stick to her sound and what she’s good at, while evolving as both a singer and a songwriter. From her openness and emotionality on “Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle)” to her playful attractiveness on “Bed Peace”, she showed a wide versatile range. The future is extremely bright for young Jhene.

- L. Reels @Lreels_919

Notable Tracks: Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle), 3:16 AM, Wth (feat. Ab-Soul)

7. John Legend - Love in the Future

Our beloved veteran voice gives us his fourth album and first solo project since Evolver in 2008. John Legend is one of a privileged handful of vocalists who can practically never dissatisfy due to the sheer presence and strength of his baritone. The deluxe edition 20-track Love in the Future is exact in its purpose. Legend flourishes at every corner in his cherished context of love ballads, with moments of more forward production concepts courtesy of Dave Tozer and Kanye West, both credited on more than half of the album. Love in the Future kept the emphasis on contemporary romanticism, which assuredly keeps John Legend in the same upper echelon we’re accustomed to placing him in.

- Martin @marley_mcfly

Notable Tracks: Made To Love, Who Do We Think We Are (feat. Rick Ross), Wanna Be Loved, Asylum

6. Majid Jordan - afterhours

This summer, Drake dropped his second single off of his NWTS album entitled “Hold On, We’re Going Home” to critical acclaim. Getting a feature credit on this song was who I now know to be singer/producer combo based out of Toronto, Majid Jordan. My colleague Martin followed up on this lead and we found that they were the real deal. They seemed to have mastered their down-tempo, electronic inspired sound which executed their debut EP Afterhours flawlessly. The work is filled with substantial lyricism while maintaining a minimalistic easily accessible sound. The album ended up being one of my musical highlights of the year based on its quality of music. Afterhours is the perfect scene setting music for your after hour endeavors.

- L. Reels @Lreels_919

Notable Tracks: Tea & Coffee, The Law (Part I), Give Me a Reason

5. Rhye - Woman

I can still remember the exact moment I first heard Rhye’s first single off the album entitled “Open”. I thought to myself, this girl is way too smooth and whoever her producer is knows what he’s doing. Staying in line with the track, I ended up the fool when I realized that the group consisted of two men. Talk about range. This guy sounds almost eerily similar to R&B legend Sade’ and it sounds like he’s not even trying. Digging further into the album I found great depth; songs about love, heartbreak and everything in between. This was the necessary winter/rainy day album of the year for me. Invoking the spirit of 90’s jazz based R&B, Woman is one of those albums that’s going to be impossible to get tired of.

- L. Reels @L_reels919

Notable Tracks: Open, Shed Some Blood, One of Those Summer Days

4. Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady

Janelle Monae’s sophomore album not only has the look of a modern-day-70’s theatric rendition, it plays as such. Her inventive concept brings multitudes of electric guitars, bass lines, horns, and swing-doo wop elements to 19 different songs of unique flavor. Monae’s range is multi-versal-- able to collaborate seamlessly with the likes of Prince and Erykah Badu, kick brief rap verse segments, and execute the groovy ballads with her bracing vocals. It’s her coherent fusion of rock, jazz, gospel, and funk that make The Electric Lady ultimately one of the more enhanced R&B albums of our time.

- Martin @marley_mcfly

Notable Tracks: Givin’ Em What They Love (feat. Prince), Q.U.E.E.N. (feat. Erykah Badu), We Were Rock & Roll, Can’t Live Without Your Love

3. Partynextdoor - PARTYNEXTDOOR

Drake unleashed another Toronto-based artist on us this summer in the form of singer/songwriter/producer Partynextdoor. The 20-year-old Canadian took it from there releasing arguably the most potent R&B of the year. What surprised me most is the fact that he actually produced the entire project himself. The ten track EP is executed with precision, putting an extremely positive spin on what I would call new wave R&B. From ballads to a wondering lover like “TBH”, to the enticing of lust on “Wus Good/Curious” Party hits the pulse on what was needed in R&B this year. 2013 was a big year for a lot of the R&B mainstays as you can tell by this list but I think we may have also found our next superstar crooner. Partynextdoor hits the nail on the head in my book and in the books of critics abound.

- L. Reels @Lreels_919

Notable Tracks: TBH, Right Now, Break From Toronto

2. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience (Part 1)

I only contend for part one, because I don’t believe part two had nearly the same weight or durability. Justin Timberlake’s return to music after a seven year hiatus didn’t just set the tone for R&B at the top of 2013, but for music the rest of the year. “Suit & Tie” and “Mirrors” were hit singles before the project even dropped in March, certainly contributing to over 900,000 album sales for The 20/20 Experience in the first week. Overall the ten-track experience was able to re-kindle the JT-Timbaland magic with exquisite minimality; lush, layered love songs like "Tunnel Vision" and "Strawberry Bubblegum" and his vintage up-tempo dance fragments on "Don't Hold The Wall" and "Let The Groove In". Timberlake’s return displayed the polar opposite of rust, showing his creativity and value is still timeless in an ever-evolving genre.

- Martin @marley_mcfly

Notable Tracks: Suit & Tie (feat. Jay Z), Don’t Hold The Wall, Strawberry Bubblegum, Spaceship Coupe, Let The Groove In

1. Beyonce - Beyonce

It’s borderline disrespectful to consider how BeyoncĂ© casually swooped in for our undisputed #1 ranking, dropping just weeks before the end of the calendar year. Her unexpected, unpronounced, eponymous visual album presented 14 songs and 17 videos for the female icon’s fifth solo project. After bearing in mind the historical implications of such a feat, it’s even unfair when you encounter the entirety of the singer’s illustrious expressions. With BeyoncĂ© we find Mrs. Carter flossing, bossing, and masterfully appeasing every facet of the genre she has comfortably dominated for a decade. Collaborating with talents such as Timbaland, Pharrell, Drake, Noah Shebib, Frank Ocean, The Dream, Mike Dean and others, nothing else was able to match up with what Beyonce was able to deliver from vocal, conceptual, commercial, and expressive standpoints.

- Martin @marley_mcfly

Notable Tracks: Haunted, Drunk in Love (feat. Jay Z), Partition, Mine (feat. Drake), XO, Flawless, Blue

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