2021 has been a bit of a quiet year in terms of R&B, but while we wait on drops from some of the bigger names like The Weeknd and Brent Faiyaz, some strong up and comers and slept on veterans came through with their best work. Here are what we believe are some of the strongest R&B albums of the year!
Apollo Brown and Raheem DeVaughn – Lovesick
Prolific Detroit hiphop producer and member of Mello Music Group Apollo Brown finally locked in the one piece missing from his stellar discography: An R&B album. In the tradition of DJ Premier and D’Angelo, J Dilla and Erykah Badu, or Knxwledge and Anderson .Paak, Apollo matches perfectly with veteran crooner Raheem Devaughn. Despite some classics in the 00’s, it has admittedly been awhile since Raheem dropped a truly great project. On Lovesick, we get a concise and varied collection of love anthems. Ranging from pimpish to heartbroken to horny, Raheem delivers plenty of smooth ear worms. Apollo delivers something notably different from his typical soul samples, with lots of distinct drums and vintage, understated beats.
Anthony Hamilton – Love is the New Black
Anthony Hamilton has always seemed like more of a singles artist than an album guy; Every project had a few really standout songs but overall fell a bit flat, regardless of his smooth, seductive voice and plain talent. Love is the New Black is certainly a standout in his discography. There is some clear and intentional growth given the variety of production, subject matter, and styles. There are of course some sex songs, but also upbeat hiphop cuts with Rick Ross and even Lil Jon, anthems of mature love and heartbreak, like the standout “You Made a Fool of Me”, and the sprawling “Superstar”. “Mama Don’t Cry” is an apt, mature closer. Anthony Hamilton has clearly grown a lot as an artist.
Snoh Aalegra – Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies
Sweden’s own Snoh Aalegra, perhaps best known in the past for her feature work, truly came into her own on Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies. Off kilter, almost frozen sounding production (some courtesy of The Neptunes & Tyler the Creator) make for a truly unique and immersive listen where Snoh shows a lot of personality. With a commanding tone, she tackles her emotions from a broad perspective; As Apple Music describes it, she is “at once sensual and wounded”. Overall, Snoh delivers one of the most unique and touching albums of the year, showing a lot of promise for the future.
Bruno Mars & Anderson .Paak – An Evening With Silk Sonic
One of the biggest and most anticipated albums of the year, Silk Sonic delivered a smash tribute to the R&B of the old days. Complimenting each other perfectly – Bruno with his operatic, poppy hooks and Anderson with a gruffer, more hiphop mentality – An Evening With Silk Sonic is full of the most charming and catchy hits of the year. Truly delivering on the old school image, this is not a simple imitation; A lot of care and love was put into this project. With an assist from legendary Bootsie Collins and immaculate production, Paak and Mars seem to have established Silk Sonic as a household name on the radio for the foreseeable future.
Fousheé – Time Machine
On Time Machine, Fousheé delivers a beautifully dreary yet light listen. Over very subtle production, often full of acoustic guitars and soft keys, she whispers high, dreamy verses which are so drawn out they are often hard to even decipher. It actually has an almost intentionally amateur sound, as though it were recorded on a lonely night in her bedroom, and it brings a lot of personality to a rather monotone, lowkey project. Fousheé also has some hiphop sensibility, shining on the song “Shine” and collaborating with Lil Yachty. She definitely has room to grow and deliver something more fleshed out, but the overall nostalgic themes and unique delivery make for a memorable listen.