It’s mid-year (or slightly past), and it’s time to catch up with some of the year’s best R&B albums. R&B is not dead, even if the Nielsen Soundscan numbers might lead you to believe otherwise. Previously, in April 2014, an early list of the best R&B albums was published. There are some noticeable changes and reconsiderations (yep we’re talking to you SZA and John Newman), not to mention some new albums joining the fold. Here are the 12 Best R&B albums of 2014.
1) Pharrell Williams, G I R L
Pharrell William’s sophomore album is a pleasure to listen to – fun through and through. #1 hit “Happy” isn’t the sole attraction either, as G I R L is chocked full of gems, including “Marilyn Monroe,” “Come Get It Bae,” and “Gust of Wind.”
2) Trey Songz, Trigga
Trey Songz recorded a truly risqué, unapologetic, contemporary R&B album with Trigga. Songz hits and exceeds all the ‘R. Kelly’ marks – sex, sex, and more sex. Songz has a legit argument for the #1 spot. Highlights include “Cake,” “Foreign,” “Na Na,” and “SmartPhones.”
3) Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour
R&B is all about love and heartbreak. British R&B singer Sam Smith delivers exceptionally throughout In the Lonely Hour about love’s issues, specifically one-sided love. In addition to “Stay With Me,” standouts include “Money On My Mind,” “I’m Not the Only One,” “I’ve Told You Now,” and “Make It To Me” (deluxe edition).
4) August Alsina, Testimony
Why is August Alsina’s Testimony so good? Alsina keeps things real, wearing his emotions on his sleeves. “FML,” “Benediction,” and “I Luv This Sh*t” (featuring Trinidad James) rank among the album’s best moments.
5) José James, While You Were Sleeping
While You Were Sleeping exemplifies José James’ immense versatility as a musician. Featuring a number of styles throughout the album, James offers something for everybody. Highlights include “Angel,” “U r the 1,” and of course EveryLittleThing.”
6) John Newman, Tribute
Perhaps initially Tribute was both rated and ranked a bit high. That said, Tribute still ranks among the best albums of the year. “Love Me Again” and “Losing Sleep” are the crown jewels.
7) Kelis, Food
Honestly, who thought that the “Milkshake”/ “Bossy” singer could deliver a compelling soul album? Food is exceptional, particularly joints “Jerk Ribs” and “Floyd.”
8) St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Half the City
The Alabama collective deliver a captivating, authentic retro soul album, led by front man Paul Janeway. “I’m Tore Up,” ranks among Half the City’s elite moments.
9) Daley, Days & Nights
John Newman Sam Smith may be is the Brit getting the most buzz, but Daley shouldn’t be slept on – dude can flat out blow. Sporting a piercing, soulful tenor, Daley has some sick pipes.
So in essence, Days & Nights ranks among the year’s best and most underrated albums. “Blame The World,” “Alone Together” (featuring Marsha Ambrosius), and “Broken” rank among the album’s best.
10) Mali Music, Mali Is
Another underrated album (yep, I’m guilty of asserting, “a bit more pizzazz and fanfare would’ve provided more distinction”), Mali Is rightfully ranks among the year’s best R&B efforts. “No Fun Alone” and “Heavy Love” are among the best moments of the effort. An additional pro is that Mali Is retains Mali’s Christian/religious messaging.
11) Mariah Carey, Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse
Mariah Carey’s latest album Me. I Am Mariah may have been a chart flop, but the album itself has some magnificent moments. Lengthy and somewhat scattered, moments that make Me. I Am Mariah among the year’s best R&B albums include “Cry,” “#Beautiful,” and a sensational cover, “Heavenly (No Ways Tired / Can’t Give Up Now).”
12) Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Give The People What They Want
Give The People What They Want isn’t an innovative effort, but the retro-soul album refreshes from a tried-and-true soul collective. “Retreat” and “People Don’t Get What They Deserve” rank among the best of the effort.
Aloe Blacc, Lift Your Spirit: Aloe Blacc definitely is “The Man.” Lift Your Spirit isn’t the type of album to just blow you away, but there are some fine moments. “Love is the Answer” is the other ‘big-gun’
SZA, Z: A nice debut from SZA, but I overrated the album.