After a year filled with numerous albums and even more songs, choosing 100 of the best is an incredibly difficult task. Like with the best albums of 2013, there will be surprises as well as snubs. Sometimes the snubs are oversights while at other items there are just so many notable songs that some just get lost in the mix. Regardless, here are 100 songs I found to be notable in 2013.
“Drunk In Love”
Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z
From album: Beyoncé
Well, since Beyoncé and Jay-Z are husband and wife, it’s probably fine for them to be ‘drunk’ off of each other’s love. That said, some of the personal side of that ‘romance’ is made public on this bold track from the surprise ‘visual’ album. It is what it is…
2 Chainz featuring Fergie
From album: B.O.A.T.S. II: #METIME
You know how fitness trainer Shaun T. says he “don’t do anything but abs”? Well 2 Chainz don’t do anything but stupid. At least he does it like a pro. Making a sex tape and putting it on Netflix may be genius, maybe. LOL!
“Wait For Me”
Kings of Leon
From album: Mechanical Bull
Caleb Followill explains it best: “It’s all better now, it’s all better now / wait for me, wait for me.”
“Who I Am”
Pusha T featuring 2 Chainz & Big Sean
From album: My Name Is My Name
Because Pusha T and his star-studded crew stay true to themselves, they shine on “Who I Am”. “Woo! They said be all you can be / Woo! They said be all you can be / I just wanna buy another Rollie / I just wanna pop another band / I just wanna sell dope forever / I just wanna be who I am.” To each his own… not that I wouldn’t mind a Rollie let alone more than one!
From album: Paradise Valley
“Wildfire” is a folksy/roots/country/pop hybrid that sounds incredibly distinct from anything Mayer has released previously. Vocally, Mayer sounds clear and enthused, shedding with mad skill (as always) on the guitar.
“Do I Wanna Know?”
From album: AM
Ah, drunken confessions of love. Alex Turner is honest on this exceptional opener from Arctic Monkeys’ most recent effort, AM: “Crawlin’ back to you / ever thought of calling you when you’ve had a few? / ‘Cause I always do / Maybe I’m too, busy being yours to fall for somebody new…” You get the idea!
“All American Boy”
Has there ever been a viral hit that was such a ‘hit’ as “All American Boy”? Steve Grand’s country song with a gay love storyline made a gargantuan impact, everywhere. Because homosexuality and country are rarely associated with one another, “All American Boy” like “Same Love” was to hip-hop, breaks down social barriers.
“Take A Fall For Me”
James Blake featuring RZA
From album: Overgrown
At the beginning of “Take A Fall For Me”, James Blake claims that, “You can’t marry her yet…” RZA goes on later to state “I heard through the grapevine that great love, it takes time / sex shapes the body, truth shapes the mind…” So basically, this track seems to be about a relationship that is incomplete of all the necessary facets, or something along those lines.
A$AP Ferg featuring A$AP Rocky
From album: Trap Lord
Ferg and Rocky are on that “Sha-Sha-Shabba Ranks”… rings, change, gold teeth, women… Sound so appealing, doesn’t it?
Janelle Monáe featuring Miguel
From album: The Electric Lady
Sometimes, a great R&B duet doesn’t have to be oversexed or completely stripped of its romance. “Primetime” is a perfect example of this. The vocal chemistry between Janelle Monáe and Miguel is magnificent.
“Kisses Down Low”
From album: Talk A Good Game
Ooh Kelly, you so nasty! “I like my kisses down low / makes me arch my back / when you give it to me slow / baby just like that…” When the word ‘arch’ is used in a song, it’s rarely referencing the ‘arch’ of the foot… just sayin’!
From album: Overgrown
“Retrograde” finds Blake channeling his urban side superbly, accompanied initially by piano. Blake’s initial vocal runs sounds indigenous to R&B or gospel, making “Retrograde” all the more unique. Things truly grow epic on pivotal line “Suddenly I hit,” where excitement reaches a lofty peak.
“Almost Is Never Enough”
Ariana Grande featuring Nathan Sykes
From album: Yours Truly
Duet “Almost Is Never Enough” should be incredibly sappy but it isn’t! Grande and boyfriend Nathan Sykes (of The Wanted) sport sound vocal chemistry on this enjoyable track. A musical oxymoron of sorts, “Almost Is Never Enough”, is soulful, yet contemporary, and old school, yet fresh.
“Made Up Mind”
Tedeschi Trucks Band
From album: Made Up Mind
If one was unconvinced just how resolute Susan Tedeschi was, listening to her gritty, passionate performance on the bluesy “Made Up Mind” erases all doubts. She can S-A-N-G!
Fantasia featuring Kelly Rowland & Missy Elliott
From album: Side Effects Of You
Guys are totally in the ‘doghouse’ on this jam from Fantasia and friends, but even they can’t resist the nodding of head or the tapping of foot.
From album: Appreciation Day
Jaheim spent most of Appreciation Day ‘appreciating’ women, but he took a detour to go socially conscious on the phenomenal “Florida”, a track questioning the controversial Treyvon Martin verdict. Sure Jaheim sounds inspired when he’s singing of pleasure, but he sounds equally, if not more powerful, singing of pain and repercussions here.
From album: Modern Vampires of the City
Someone’s not been going to church lately… “Ya Hey” is a play on the word “Yahweh”, which refers to God. Can you say blasphemous? Religious stance aside, “Ya Hey” is another creative song courtesy of everyone’s favorite vampires. They sure know how to bite!
Ace Hood featuring Future & Rick Ross
From album: Trials & Tribulations
I rarely compliment Future (I’ve been pretty critical), but “Bugatti” sports Future’s best hook of the year/perhaps ever… “I woke up in a new Bugatti!”
Daft Punk featuring Paul Williams
From Album: Random Access Memories
On the warm and beautiful track “Touch”, Paul Williams delivers a superb vocal performance against an excellent neo-disco styled backdrop. There’s not a thing wrong with that retro swag!
“Hold On, We’re Going Home”
Drake featuring Majid Jordan
From album: Nothing Was The Same
“Hold On, We’re Going Home” has nothing at all ‘hip-hop’ about it. Despite this, this 80s-styled R&B/pop cut is nothing short of a pleasure to partake of. It’s like the most delicious dessert ever… Scrumptious!
Panic! At The Disco
From album: Too Weird to Live, To Rare to Die
“Miss Jackson” (featuring Lolo) finds Panic! At The Disco front man Brendon Urie using his contemporary R&B chops, with some emo-pop swag of course! Catchy and manic, “Miss Jackson” is nothing short of pop gold. And as “nasty” as Miss Jackson is, “…[he] love her anyway!”
“All of Me”
From album: Love in the Future
The thoughtful, radiant “All Of Me” strips down to piano, vocals, and ‘robots’, with sensational results. Legend sings chivalrously: “‘Cause all of me loves all of you / love your curves and all your edges / all your perfect imperfections.” Aww!
From album: Bankrupt!
“Entertainment” is quite exhilarating, characterized by its use of oriental sounding synths and its superb, unifying chorus. “Entertainment, show them what you do with me / when everyone here knows better / what I once refused to be / is everything they long together / I’d rather be alone”, front man Thomas Mars sings enthusiastically.
“Suit & Tie”
Justin Timberlake featuring Jay-Z
From album: The 20/20 Experience
Interpreting what it means to be “on that suit and tie sh*t”: Basically ole boy is looking like one dapper mother [shut yo mouth!] and he’s going to do any and everything he can to impress this girl. “Let me show you a few things…”
“We No Who ‘U ‘R”
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
From album: Push The Sky Away
Well written, mysterious, and diverse from many other songs in 2013, “We No Who ‘U ‘R” is alt-singer/songwriter, alt-rock at its best. The sound is reminiscent of a 60s blue-eyed soul hit.
It truly saddens me to see R&B, a personal favorite style of music, in a state of uncertainty. 2013 found the numbers of R&B down considerably, a trend that is consistent year in and year out. Save for a select few commercial bright spots (led by an unexpected Beyoncé album), R&B only dented the charts. Even so, finding 25 albums with some significance wasn’t difficult to do. Sure, some of the lowest ranked albums have their flaws, but each has some reason for being selected. Enjoy!
The Electric Lady
In a world where R&B and soul music have cooled off considerably, one incredibly talented Janelle Monáe is still ‘on’ so to speak. Monáe balances the retro with the contemporary and alternative like a champ on her brilliant The Electric Lady, my pick for the best R&B album of 2013. Simply put, this album kicks some serious… watch yo mouth! Consistent, fresh, retro, and captivating, Monáe paves her own way and has it going on in a big way. All hail “Q.U.E.E.N.” Janelle!
“Givin’ ‘Em What They Love”; “Q.U.E.E.N.”; “Primetime”; “We Were Rock and Roll”; “Ghetto Woman”; “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes”
Love in the Future
G.O.O.D. / Columbia
John Legend may take some risks on Love in the Future, but ultimately, his formula is the same as it always has been. Love in The Future not only has the goods to challenge for the best R&B album of the year, but it also challenges Legend’s own discography as his best album yet. With five years between solo albums, Legend sounds riper than ever on this top-notch work. Rock on John!
“In The Beginning”; “Made to Love”; “Who Do We Think We Are?” featuring Rick Ross; “All of Me”; “Stay The Night”; “Tomorrow”
Beyoncé shocked the world by keeping her fifth studio album Beyoncé a secret. Her rollout wasn’t the only shock; the album itself is alluring because of its cutting edged approach. No longer does Beyoncé show herself as a suggestive R&B diva – she’s now an unapologetic, fierce one unafraid to state her emotions or intentions. At her most naughty, ‘Yoncé is at her best.
“Pretty Hurts”; “Haunted”; “Drunk in Love” featuring Jay-Z; “Blow”; “Rocket”
Victim of Love
65-year old soul singer Charles Bradley represents for the retro-soul veterans atop these rankings. Bradley isn’t nearly as ‘decorated’ as his colleagues of similar age because his ‘chance’ didn’t arrive until late in his life. Regardless, Bradley does it like a pro, delivering a compelling, soulful tour de force on Victim of Love. The young bucks can learn plenty from Bradley, who is on autopilot throughout the course of Victim of Love – no misses to speak of.
“Strictly Reserved For You”; “Victim of Love”; “Confusion”
No Beginning, No End
Distinctly voiced jazz/soul singer José James joins a list of incredibly underrated, super talented artists. His Blue Note January release No Beginning, No End was nothing short of a critical smash, consistent through and through. Sure James is refined like any jazz musician, but he also allows for his sensual, soulful side to shine on tracks like “It’s All Over My Body.” His best moment, however, comes by way of instant jam “Trouble”.
“It’s All Over My Body”; “Trouble”; “Vanguard”
Side Effects of You
Over the course of four albums, former American Idol winner continues to captivate vocally. Sure, sometimes the material doesn’t always match up with her prodigious pipes, but more often than not, Fantasia makes up for it with her heart-wrenching, soulful vocals. Side Effects of You overall is well put together featuring some enjoyable songs showcasing ‘Tasia at her best.
“Supernatural” featuring Big K.R.I.T.; “Ain’t All Bad”; “Without Me” featuring Kelly Rowland & Missy Elliott; “Change Your Mind”; “Lose To Win”; “End of Me”
A Love Surreal
Bilal has been captivating alt-soul fans’ hearts years before Frank Ocean, Miguel, or The Weeknd came along. He continues to shine on his fine A Love Surreal, where his vocals remain powerful and soulful. Eclectic and consistent, A Love Surreal is easily one of the year’s top R&B efforts.
“Westside Girl”; “Back To Love”; “Winning Hand”; “Slipping Away”; “Butterfly”
Underrated and under-appreciated, Alice Smith is an exceptional artist by all means. On She, Smith delivers magnificent vocals coupled with magnificent songwriting and production. Among her most triumphant moments is a fierce cover of Cee-Lo Green’s “Fool For You”, which she makes her own. A tight album with only 11 tracks and 36 minutes in duration, She is that exceptional album you definitely shouldn’t be sleeping on.
“Cabaret”; “Another Love”; “Loyalty”; “Fool For You”; “Be Easy”
Sail Out (EP)
Don’t let Jhene Aiko’s chill delivery discourage you – the girl can pack a knockout punch without sweating once! Sail Out provides an excellent picture of what the singer’s full length will sound like, embracing elements of pop and alternative R&B.
“The Vapors”; “Bed Peace”; “Stay Ready (What A Life)”; “Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle)”
Chrisette Michele just might be R&B’s most underrated female. While commercial success has only been so-so for Michele, she’s been rock-solid where consistency is concerned. Better is a sensational and eclectic R&B effort that shows Michele’s range as an artist. Nothing is better here than promo single “A Couple of Forevers”, which was easily among the year’s best.
“A Couple of Forevers”; “Let Me Win”; “Love Won’t Leave Me Out”; “Visual Love”; “Charades”
Jaheim has cleaned up his act since his excellent ‘Ghetto’ days, but don’t get it twisted, he’s still an edgy R&B singer. Jaheim appreciates the female throughout, perhaps most specifically on “***** Appreciation”… gasp. But he’s most impressive on his socially conscious turn on “Florida”, written about the Treyvon Martin controversy down south.
“Age Ain’t A Factor”; “He Don’t Exist”; “Morning”; “Baby X3”; “Sexting”; “Florida”
A Place Called Loveland
Raheem DeVaughn is one of the most underrated R&B artists, but he’s also one of the best and most consistent. A Place Called Loveland may lack the flash to appeal to a new audience, but it is exceptionally put together.
“Love Connection”; “Wrong Forever”; “Complicated”; “Cry Baby”; “Make A Baby”; “Make Em Like You”
Is she pop or R&B – that is the question? Not from my perspective, as Ariana Grande cements herself as Mariah Carey’s successor on her fine debut Yours Truly, which debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200. Quality from start to finish, Grande has a promising career ahead of her.
“Honeymoon Avenue”; “Baby I”; “Right There”; “You’ll Never Know”; “The Way” featuring Mac Miller; “Almost is Never Enough” featuring Nathan Sykes
One True Vine
You could argue this album is ‘Americana’ as the Grammys suggest, but the Mavis Staples I know and love has gospel and soul roots. Album One True Vine may be a genre bender, but Staples sounds incredibly compelling as a 74-year old. “Age ain’t nothing but a number” Mavis.
“Holy Ghost”; “Every Step”; “Can You Get To That”; “I Like The Things About Me”
I’m not sure if its cool for guys to listen to K. Michele, but ole girl definitely keeps it real. Early cuts like “Kiss My A$$” and “I Just Wanna” don’t even grace the set… If you are a woman scorned, K. Michele is who you should listen to for reassurance or a ‘pick me up’. Brash but honest, K. Michele soulfully executes on her debut, Rebellious Soul.
“Damn”; “Can’t Raise a Man”; “V.S.O.P.”; “Ride Out”; “When I Get A Man”
For Robin Thicke, it was a career transformative year. “Blurred Lines” was the gift single that kept giving (and perhaps taking), making the former neo-soul singer relevant within pop circles. “Blurred Lines” wasn’t the only shining moment, as Thicke kept his silky, smooth pipes going strong on thoughtful ballad, “For The Rest Of My Life”.
“Blurred Lines”; “Take It Easy On Me”; “Give It 2 U”; “Feel Good”; “For The Rest of My Life”
Super groups are hard to come by these days. TGT, comprised of Tyrese, Ginuwine, and Tank, three of R&B’s finest, come together to deliver one of the finest panty-dropping fests of the year. Just imagine of Trey Songz had somehow made his way in and Three Kings would’ve totally been too hot to handle.
“Sex Never Felt Better”; “I Need”; “Next Time Around”; “Explode”; “Running Back”; “Burn Out”
Where Does This Door Go?
Mayer Hawthorne’s album sadly drifted from the ranks of playlist glory on my iPod, but I couldn’t tell you why. Where Does This Door Go certainly had its skeptics, but I wasn’t one of them. Vocally, one of the hippest bespectacled white dudes can blow and does here.
“Back Seat Lover”; “The Innocent”; “The Only One”; “Her Favorite Song”; “Reach Out Richard”
Even though Ciara received high marks on my end of things, I may have still underrated it. Ciara doesn’t sport a powerful voice like some of her contemporaries, but it sits well contextually within her music. Ciara is both sexy and enjoyable.
“Sophomore”; “Body Party”; “Keep On Lookin’”; “Super Turnt Up”
Talk A Good Game
Kelly Rowland has been consistently patterning herself as a more risqué alternative to her ‘sister’ Beyoncé (well until Beyoncé itself shocked the world). Talk A Good Game comes full circle, intact with parental advisory label to match. It doesn’t supersede the exceptional Here I Am, but it definitely has some shining moments.
“Kisses Down Low”; “Down on Love”; “Dirty Laundry”; “Red Wine”
Doubleback: Evolution of R&B
“Something For You”; “Easy”; “I’d Rather Have A Love”; “Love & Sex” featuring Fantasia; “More”
Love and War
Tamar Braxton makes this list because of the significance of her accomplishments with Love and War. The album has some shining moments, but doesn’t lack flaws. Even so, Braxton has an exceptional voice and when she’s fully invested with superb material to perform, it’s pure fire.
“The One”; “Stay and Fight”; “Love and War”; “One On One Fun”; “Where It Hurts”; “Prettiest Girl”
“Luv Letter”; “Sweet Tooth”; “Love Starved”; “Definition of Down”; “Beautiful”; “The Long Play”
My True Story isn’t a flashy album, but it is a fine retro-soul effort that covers classics from the early era of R&B, the 1950s and 60s. Neville may be long past his prime, but vocally the 72-year old still got it. Bow down!
“My True Story”; “Ting A Ling”; “Under The Boardwalk”
Maybe it’s a stretch to include Black Panties on this list, but part of the reason for its inclusion is because Kelly returns to his true self – edgy, sensual, and just plumb freaky. Sure he overdoes it and seems to think sex supplants sexiness, but there’s some pieces there. Oreos are still tasty…
“Legs Shakin’” featuring Ludacris; “Cookie”; “Genius”; “All The Way” featuring Kelly Rowland
- The best albums of 2013: No 9 – The Electric Lady by Janelle Monáe (theguardian.com)
- Ten Random Songs I’m ‘Thankful For’ From 2013 (brentmusicreviews.com)
R&B just ain’t what it used to be commercially, period. 2013 has not been a great year to be a ‘soulful’ singer not because of the quality of releases, but because the genre suffers with its sales relevance. Yeah, the motto that ‘sales aren’t everything’ still carries weight as there are times when art for art’s sake is notable. However, when it comes to major labels backing an artist who stands little chance to sell, money plays a key role. Below, here are a couple of examples of how R&B stack up between artists previous solo album and the album they released in 2013.
|Year||Album title||Albums Chart Peak||Copies Sold 1st Week|
|2013||Love in the Future||4||68,000|
John Legend managed to keep himself in the top five after a five-year gap between solo efforts, but his numbers dwindled during the hiatus. How telling are the numbers? Well 68,000 copies certainly wouldn’t be considered to have a very high ceiling. In other words, reaching gold certification (500,000 copies) seems a stretch for the platinum/gold-selling artist. Dig deeper in Legend’s past, and even 2008 effort Evolver underachieved.
|Year||Album title||Albums Chart Peak||Copies Sold 1st Week|
|2010||Back To Me||2||117,000|
|2013||Side Effects of You||2||91,000|
Fantasia has a very similar situation to John Legend. Her previous album, Back To Me, sold six figures, good for a no. 2 bow. 2013 effort Side Effects of You didn’t experience quite the drop in sales that Legend’s Evolver experienced, but did bow with under 100,000 copies sold. As of yet, Side Effects of You hasn’t been certified by the RIAA.
|Year||Album title||Albums Chart Peak||Copies Sold 1st Week|
Same shh, different artist? Yep that’s bout the size of it. Jaheim saw a huge sales drop between 2010 effort Another Round and 2013 effort Appreciation Day. Gold never seemed like a possibility for my boy, who debuted the same week with 10,000 less copies than John Legend.
|Year||Album title||Albums Chart Peak||Copies Sold 1st Week|
Ciara is the only artist in this study to show growth between her previous album and present release. That said, Ciara was at the lowest point of her career when Basic Instinct debuted. While the 58,000 copies Ciara sold is an improvement, like Jaheim, the effort looked like it had little chance to go anywhere from the start.
|Year||Album title||Albums Chart Peak||Copies Sold 1st Week|
**The-Dream also released an album under Terius Nash called 1977 that was originally a free album following Love King.
Talk about a come-down (as opposed to a “come-up”), The-Dream has had a horrid career as of late. His 2010 effort peaked at no. 4 with only 58,000 after his previous effort bowed at no. 2 with 151,000 copies. Now his 2013 effort, IV Play brings a new level of underachievement to the talented singer/songwriter/producer: a tepid 23,000 copies sold. Add to those ugly numbers that the album was critically panned (including myself), and The-Dream must do some soul searching in regards to his career as a viable recording artist.
What does this study show? R&B is sinking fast commercially. I should mention that Robin Thicke and Tamar Braxton were among high points for the genre, moving >100,000 copies. No need to end pessimistically.
- Ranking John Legend’s Five Albums (brentmusicreviews.com)
- The 2013 Fourth Quarter Music Releases Underwhelm… (brentmusicreviews.com)
It’s that time… for me to list songs that made me :-) over the past month. 14 of ‘em baby, get ready!
You knew it would take some mega force to unseat Robin Thicke from the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 with the ubiquitous smash “Blurred Lines”. That force came via everyone’s favorite pop star Katy Perry, who shocked with her maturity on “Roar”. Sure, Ms. Perry had a lot of fun in her jungle music video to accompany her number one single, but she goes all inspirational on us as opposed to, um, risqué. I wasn’t one hundred percent onboard at first, but it certainly tickled my fancy after a while.
2 Chainz featuring Fergie, “Netflix”
I wouldn’t call 2 Chainz the most intellectually-stimulating rapper – he goes dumb (and sometimes dumb-er) with the best. Throw in the queen of silliness in Fergie and the resulting cut “Netflix” should be a total bust. Instead, it is one of 2 Chainz’s most triumphant moments from B.O.A.T.S.II:#METIME, which also turns out to be a much better album than it should be. The best line from my perspective? “Let’s make a sex tape and put it on Netflix”. SMH.
John Legend, “All Of Me”
Love In The Future
There may never be another John Legend number as touching as his acclaimed, stripped ballad “Ordinary People” was, but “All of Me” seems to be the closest Legend has came to that Grammy-winning classic. Simplistic sporting a certain innocence about it, part of the appeal of ballad is its sheltered, chivalrous genuineness.
Tamar Braxton, “Love and War”
Love and War
Yeah, I know, I know. “Love and War” has been out for a minute… but it is still arguably the best track on Braxton’s sophomore effort. Sure, the album was kinda so-so at best, but “Love and War” would easily rise to the top of most track lists. Soulful, old-school yet contemporary enough, it’s no surprise that the ‘battling through love’ track helped propel Braxton to number two on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart.
Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball”
A Miley Cyrus song on a Brent Faulkner playlist? Something must be wrong! It’s not, if you can believe it. For as much controversy as Miley Cyrus has successfully stirred up around her hyper-sexual makeover for upcoming studio album BANGERZ, “Wrecking Ball” the song is actually pretty impressive. Honestly, I was onboard from the first time I saw the video, even if I found the video itself to be…um… yeah I can’t think of the word. As for the song and the concept of the song, I’ll give it to ole girl. I’m still no fan though…
Janelle Monáe featuring Prince, “Givin’ ‘Em What They Love”
The Electric Lady
“Q.U.E.E.N.” one killer jam by all means, but Monáe’s promo single has been receiving buzz for a minute. More surprising and equally alluring is her collaboration with Prince, who definitely doesn’t lend his pipes or skills to many… The results, specifically the vocal chemistry between two left-of-center artists is nothing short of brilliant – pretty fly from my perspective.
Drake featuring Detail, “305 To My City”
Nothing Was The Same
Is it just me, or is every Drake album stacked? Nothing Was The Same has a hard act to follow compared to either Thank Me Later or Take Care, but there is still plenty of notable numbers from rap’s softest heavyweight. “305 To My City” benefits from it moodiness, grinding tempo, and honestly its ‘Drake-isms’. Hard choice between this one, “Tuscan Leather”, “Wu-Tang Forever”, or contemporary R&B number “Hold On We’re Going Home”.
Ariana Grande featuring Nathan Sykes, “Almost Is Never Enough”
I’m not one who is into boyfriend/girlfriend duets nor big youthful pop/urban duets. However, every now and again, one comes around that works splendidly. Remember a little hit called “No Air”? Exactly. Sure there is no comparison of Ariana Grande’s fine duet with The Wanted boyfriend Nathan Sykes to the gargantuan Jordin Sparks/Chris Brown duet, but it is so much better than it sounds on paper. Vocally, the chemistry is undeniable, the maturity transcendent of both stars’ age, and the songwriting ‘tried-and-true’ yet relatable. Yeah, “The Way” and “Baby I” might garner more attention, but “Almost Is Never Enough” is a definite sleeper.
Raheem DeVaughn, “Complicated”
A Place Called Love Land
Love is a complicated thing. Just imagine how complicated and complex it is in the context of A Place Called Love Land, Raheem’s DeVaughn’s slept on, exceptional fourth studio album? Basically the premise of this soulful standout is that DeVaughn is in a relationship (or something like it), but doesn’t want to label it. Therefore even if ole boy is “…kinda single” but also in love, it truly is complicated. Nothing complicated or questionable about the strength of this number though.
Kings of Leon, “Wait For Me”
Mechanical Bull was a fine new effort from Kings of Leon overall. Sure, I was looking for another “Sex on Fire”, but maybe the lovin’ has leveled off. Regardless, “Wait For Me” is a brilliant showing offering multiple interpretations (though likely referencing Caleb Followill’s demons) while ultimately delivering a plea of ‘waiting’ for the ‘lost’ to clean up his act. It’s that sort of situation where one went on the wrong pathway and is now back on the straight and narrow.
On his underrated sixth album Appreciation Day, Jaheim spends a good chunk of time discussing the opposite sex, particularly on the incredibly sensual title track. However, he breaks away from the female anatomy on the brilliant, socially conscious “Florida”, which details the infamous Trayvon Martin case. One of the most ‘trill’ songs I have heard in sometime, “Florida” strikes a soulful, chilling chord from an initial listen.
Stalley, “Coupes & Roses”
Self Made 3
Maybach Music Group’s third compilation wasn’t exactly charm. Self Made 3 seemed to lack the same spark as the 2012 compilation which was loaded with the likes of “Power Circle” and “Bury Me A G”. Still, Stalley’s “Coupes & Roses” is a standout that blends luxurious sounds, old-school, and swagger a la 2013 into a winning formula. All bow to rap’s ‘next’.
The Weeknd, “Belong To The World”
I’ll be the first to criticize The Weeknd’s follow-up to mixtape compilation Trilogy. Kiss Land feels pretty blasé for the most part, but this overproduced number has its moments. Particularly, its lyrics are quite alluring: “Ooh girl, I know I should leave you / and learn to mistreat you / cause you belong to the world / and ooh girl, I want to embrace you / domesticate you / but you belong to the world.” Who would’ve thought a song alluding to a stripper Abel Tesfaye wants to ‘domesticate’ could be fascinating?
MGMT, “Alien Days”
You wouldn’t be making an generalization if you said that MGMT’s music is getting weirder and spacier. “Alien Days” is certainly and opener that requires more than one listen to truly digest and understand what’s going through the band’s head. Opening with a child’s voice that eventually is taken of very VanWynegarden’s trippy, nonchalant voice, MGMT is characteristic of the band while continue to stretch (perhaps overstretch) the boundaries. I think it is quite possible to get high of the cut without even smoking.
- Playlist: 5 Favorite September 2013 Albums (brentmusicreviews.com)
Chart Rewind (Highlights), September 04, 2013
Avenged Sevenfold found themselves in a familiar place, no. 1, with 159,000 copies sold of Hail To The King. Hip hop had another showing, but definitely not comparable to the summer trifecta of Kanye West, J. Cole, and Mac Miller. Big Sean debuted at no. 3 with 72,000 copies of Hall of Fame while Juicy J landed right behind him at no. 4 with 64,000 copies of Stay Trippy.
By the way, what about those acts that got no love? Franz Ferdinand debuted at no. 24 with Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. Mandisa’s latest Overcomer landed at no. 29. Goodie Mob’s comeback effort (Age Against The Machine) truly received nada, debuting at no. 30. I suppose you win some and you lose some.
Grande Leads The Charge
Ariana Grande debuts atop the Billboard Albums Chart with 138,000 copies of Yours Truly sold. For most of the week, it seemed that Grande would be dueling with a reintroduced Tamar Braxton for the number one spot. In the end, the young Mariah Carey-favoring singer/actress takes her rightful crown. Tamar Braxton debuts at no. 2 with Love & War selling 114,000 copies. For an adult contemporary R&B album, that ain’t bad at all folks. Honestly, I’m shocked that Braxton moved six figures… you just never know.
Nine Inch Nails debuts expectedly at no. 3 with 107,000 copies of Hesitation Marks sold. Unfortunately, the 107,000 copies is a far cry from Nine Inch Nails’ previous major label efforts. Still, six figures in this day and age is respectable. Maybe these new kiddos just don’t know about Trent Reznor. Sigh.
John Legend lands at no. 4 with with Love in the Future. Love in the Future sold only 68,000 copies, down from the 133,000 copies that graced his last solo effort, Evolver (2008). That said, Love in the Future did sell more than Legend’s collaborative album with The Roots, Wake Up! According to Billboard.com. For an artist with such soul and talent, it is sad that 68,000 copies was the ceiling. Better than the 55,000 copies prognosticated originally.
Jaheim doesn’t have his greatest sales week either, as Appreciation Day received little appreciation ultimately moving only 58,000 copies good for a no. 6 bow. Jaheim has never moved gargantuan numbers, but in 2006, Ghetto Classics did debut atop the Billboard 200 with 152,000 copies sold. 2007 effort The Makings of a Man just missed the top ten (it was a December release), but sold a career best 176,000 copies. Even 2010 effort Another Round had little to hold it’s head down about; it sold 112,000 copies good for a no. 3 bow. But 58,000 copies? That ain’t going nowhere.
Katy Perry Roars On
Really, what else is their to say… Katy Perry already told you we’d hear her roar. And she’s roaring at no. 1 a second week. Case closed.
Who’s Got Next?
Several new efforts materialized on Tuesday, September 10. This includes Keith Urban’s Fuse, 2 Chainz’s B.O.A.T.S. II, Janelle Monáe’s The Electric Lady, The Weeknd’s Kiss Land, Sheryl Crow’s Feels Like Home, Goldfrapp’s Tales of Us, Trombone Shorty’s Say That To Say This, Sean Kingston’s Back 2 Life, Kaskade’s Atmosphere, Earth Wind & Fire’s Now, Then & Forever, Gloria Estefan’s The Standards, and Arctic Monkey’s AM. Ones to watch? Keith Urban, 2 Chainz, Sheryl Crow, and possibly The Weeknd. Curious to see how the sales come out for these albums.
- Chart report: Ariana Grande’s ‘Yours Truly’ debuts at No. 1, Tamar Braxton and Nine Inch Nails take the silver and bronze (music-mix.ew.com)
- Ariana Grande Album Debuts At Number One In U.s. (contactmusic.com)
- Will R&B Ever Recover From Sales Inconsistencies? (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Music: TV’s Ariana Grande ‘Truly’ Hits No. 1 (variety.com)
Jaheim maintains the upmost consistency on his sixth studio effort.
Jaheim⎪ Appreciation Day⎪Atlantic ⎪⎪ US Release Date: September 3, 2013
Face it, R&B has seen it’s brighter days. It’s been cooling off considerably for years and 2013 marks some of the lowest commercial numbers for one of my personal favorite genres of music. Just sad. I suppose it was a few years ago I finally came to the realization that neo-soul was dead, even if I held out hope for a resurgence. Or maybe it was when Alicia Keys’ As I Am was less retro than the Diary of Alicia Keys. I dunno. Anyways, Jaheim, one of those more ‘soulful artists’ who straddled contemporary R&B and neo-soul, finds himself fully immersed in the post neo-soul world, but still manages to remain soulful on his sixth studio album, Appreciation Day. It’s not an innovative affair, but in a time where so many R&B artists have went electro or pop (or independent), Jaheim stays true to his roots and ultimately benefits from doing so.
The fine promo single “Age Ain’t A Factor” initiates Appreciation Day, sounding quite ‘Jaheim-like’. Soulful, yet characterized by Jaheim’s ‘hip-hop’ rhythmic lyrics, the pieces all fit together satisfactorily. The most memorable lyrical moment? “The young one that I got, I’m bout to leave her / cause berries sittin’ on the vine, with time a sweeter / if I can be your man, girl, you won’t want for nothin’ / you look better the older you get – Benjamin Button.” How often you hear Benjamin Button referenced in a song, particularly an R&B song? Exactly!
“He Don’t Exist” gives Jaheim a worthwhile adult contemporary R&B ballad that is lush and well sung. The backing vocals further accentuate Ja’s soulful, smooth lead. If there is a quibble, it might be the fast-paced lyrics are, well, too fast paced. But then again, the chorus tickles my fancy: “I think you need the invisible man / so you can never see his flaws and mistakes…” “Morning” brilliantly (if obviously) samples Shirley Murdock’s “As We Lay”, providing a perfect soulful backdrop for Jaheim to paint with his nuanced vocals. Throw in those pure, urban sounding supporting vocals, and Ja is on autopilot. “Do you look fresh, airbrush, magazine? / I’m trin to see if you pretty on me / girl can you keep me callin’ / coming back for just another, another…” Seems like sound inspiration for any lady… course that’s from a man’s perspective.
“What She Really Needs” is in six eight, hearkening back to classic soul, but still embracing the trendy adult contemporary R&B. As always, Jaheim sounds superb, even if the solid, sophisticated cut isn’t his most memorable or best necessarily. “P**** Appreciation Day” is definitely an eye-catcher – at least when you scan the track list and read the title. As a song itself, it features incredibly nuanced and personality-laden vocals from Jaheim, but thematically, it’s incredibly hard to get past the oversexed ode. I mean, homeboy does everything but say what he’s appreciating… Sure, many men feel where Ja is coming from, but it is a bit overindulgent, particularly the “Krispy Kreme glazed in it…” lyric. SMH!
If “P**** Appreciation Day” was too much, the refined “Baby X3” more than atones, delivering signature, lover-man Jaheim at his best. “Baby, baby, baby I’ll do right by you / baby I’ll do right by you / Baby baby tell me what I have to do / baby I’ll do right by you…”, he sings in ultra-gentlemanlike fashion on the refrain. “Shower Scene” and “Sexting” go more overt, but aren’t deal breakers in the least because of the focus on the sensual. “Shower Scene” reminds me of what the late, great Teddy Pendergrass may have sounded like in 2013 (“Turn Off The Lights” was risqué back in 1979). “Sexting” is actually more ‘tasteful’ than expected, certainly more so than the music of Ja’s past. “Sexting” may be most notable because of its dusty drum programming and that rhythmic bass/guitar line. It’s one of the more creative production jobs of the effort.
Again atoning for getting too ‘riled up’, Jaheim throws in a big adult contemporary R&B ballad, this time via “I Found You”. On “I Found You”, Jaheim still very much comes off as an old soul, but sort of like “Hush” (from 2007 effort Makings of A Man), the sound is much more contemporary than we’re accustomed to. Does it work? By all means. “Florida” stands out amongst the best, if not the track to beat. It eschews physical love in favor of referencing the issues in Florida given the famous (or infamous) Trayvon Martin incident/case. Jaheim’s runs are incredibly impassioned, rivaling Ron Isley’s signature cues; his investment into this deep cut is obvious. Emotionally-driven over a six-eight groove propelled by a g-minor piano progression, “Florida” is easily among 2013’s most beautiful R&B numbers.
“Sticks and Stones” proceeds in relaxed tempo with lush production work. Solid as anything else, “Sticks and Stones” doesn’t supersede “Florida”. “First Time” follows with more of driven, soulful groove than “Sticks and Stones”. Something of an updated soul cut or ‘neo-soul’ via 2013, Ja performs it well. After all, he wants you to “remember [him] like [he’s] your first”. Penultimate cut “Blame Me” samples Frank Sinatra’s “It Was A Very Good Year”, which gives the cut a nice subtle, chilled out sound. The restrained palette leaves plenty of room for Ja’s warm, nuanced pipes to shine. “Chase Forever” closes the set decently, but doesn’t bring anything new to the table.
Overall, Appreciation Day is yet another consistent, well conceived Jaheim album. It doesn’t really change the formula (save for “Florida”), but for Jaheim’s most dedicated fans, this should be a pro. Could Jaheim shake up the formula more? Maybe, maybe not. He can be just as effective without the more ‘ghetto’ stylings of his past, but also a few tweaks here and there wouldn’t hurt. Still, it’s a quality R&B album and maybe most importantly is that it is a true R&B album in itself.
Favorites: “Age Ain’t A Factor”; “Morning”; “Baby X3”; “Sexting”; “Florida”
New music is upon us all! Here’s some highlights:
- Vampire Weekend are returning! YAY! Modern Vampires of the City drops May 14. After a 3-year hiatus (since 2010 no. 1 debuting Contra) everybody’s favorite Paul Simon/Peter Gabriel loving Ivy Leaguers have returned. I mean, who does “give a f*** about an Oxford Comma” right?
- Jaheim released a new single entitled “Age Ain’t a Factor” (May 7)! Cheers! Mr. Hoagland, who happens to be one of my very favorite R&B singers has been on hiatus since 2010′s Another Round, which featured the old-school, chilled vibe of single “Ain’t Leaving Without You“. This über fan happens to own every album and is personally happy to see Ja carrying on with his mix of Luther Vandross and Teddy Pendergrass with a little street savvy added in. When’s the release date Ja? LOL
- My gal Chrisette Michele, one of today’s classiest R&B females, releases Better on June 11! After making me fall more in love with her… voice of course, she’s releases second single “Let Me Win“. Girl, you have already won in my eyes. I know 2010′s Let Freedom Ring wasn’t the commercial hit it should’ve been, but I thought it was another strong effort.
- OK, I already have Alicia Keys‘s album Girl On Fire which didn’t sell like her previous albums, but I am happy one of the better tracks is being released as a single. I don’t think “Tears Always Win” is the perfect single for todays pop-driven radio, but it was one of my favorites from the album itself. I have always loved Keys, particularly when ‘she didn’t think I knew her name’ (he he), but she has lost some of her appeal like so many R&B singers, which is unfortunate. Hopefully people feel the message of “Tears Always Win” and decide to go pick up a copy of Girl On Fire. Don’t let her be a girl who is lukewarm!
- Other new releases are coming! Daft Punk may have many new fans after the über addictive single “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams when Random Access Memories bows on May 21. Harry Connick, Jr. returns quicker than expected on June 11 with his new solo album Every Man Should Know. What about some love for the old school? George Benson returns June 4 with Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole. Let’s not leave out John Fogerty, who Wrote A Song for Everyone. So don’t sleep on summer’s upcoming albums!