Top Ten R&B Albums 2017
Written by Jennifer Alfaro
Music has become more and more unorthodox throughout the years. Professing my love for the top 10 R&B albums of 2017 was difficult, but had to be done. Here they are:
- Jhene Aiko “Trip”
Released: September 22
“I haven’t written anything good since he left”. Five years after the passing of her brother Miyaki, Jhene Aiko continues to cope through her music. She decides to take listeners on an emotional and “psychedelic” trip, expressing the gratitude she has for Big Sean who has filled the void in her heart after losing her brother. With a moody tone throughout the album, tracks transition seamlessly into the next. Although having a rather “trippy” album cover, she steers away from sonically stimulating listeners. Experiencing her trip in its entirety would not be accomplished without watching her short-film“Trip (The Movie)”.
- Sabrina Claudio “About Time”
Released: October 5
This year, Sabrina Claudio’s hypnotizing presence has swept listeners away. With her intimate lyrics and sensual charisma, it is hard to not fall in love her! After dropping her first EP “Confidently Lost” in March, we had an opportunity to see what the then 20 year old had to offer. Her follow up mixtape, “About Time” reveals Claudio’s versatility. She is well-rounded, giving us her take on dance and afrobeats. While accompanying 6LACK on his Free 6LACK tour, Claudio’s enchanting presence lured audience in. With two EPs under her belt in one year the Miami sweetheart is just getting started!
- Brent Faiyaz “Sonder Son”
Released: October 13
He is half of the group Sonder, Sonder’s Son if you will…ironically the name of his debut album.While taking over Soulection Radio for episode 324 a few months ago, Dpat (other half of Sonder) and Brent Faiyaz curated a mix which consisted of their influencers. Varying from Missy Elliot to Sade to Boyz II Men, it is evident how late 1990’s / early 2000’s contributed to Sonder’s sound. Sonder’s son channeled his inner old-school R&B in songs like “Gang Over Luv” and “Needed” while putting a unique twist. Although Sonder’s “Into” is one of the best R&B albums of the year, Brent Faiyaz does a successful job setting himself apart from the group. Layered textures and personal lyrics highlight Faiyaz’s blooming talent. Without a doubt, the singer/songwriter’s potential is uncanny and the future is in his hands.
- Miguel “War & Leisure”
Released: December 1
Miguel has always been smooth with his word, working his way into our hearts from his first album “All I Want Is You”. In his fourth studio album, Miguel continues to carry that sensual and funky energy, with a few detours on the way. The singer decides to sing romantically sweet Spanish alongside Colombiana Kali Uchis. With maturity, comes a change in perspective. For Miguel, his songwriting ability as well as sonic approach has grown with him. His fearlessness earns him a spot, executing alongside his contemporaries such as Rick Ross, Travis Scott, and J. Cole. The return of that sexy tone while channeling his inner Prince.
- dvsn “Morning After”:
Released: October 13
After being signed in 2015, Daniel Daley was gifted with a platform to bless the world with baby making music. Thanks to 40 discovering the mysterious man and partnering him with Nineteen85, one of OVO’s most well known producers, dvsn was born. In March of 2016, dvsn released their first album “Sept. 5th” which is still on heavy rotation in my playlists. Although the album did not get as much recognition as it should have, dvsn’s distinct sound About a year after their debut album, the duo released “Think About Me”, their first single off their sophomore album, following “Don’t Choose” a month later. It was in October when October’s Very Own did it again. The evolution and growth of dvsn is what makes this album one of the best of the year. The sensual soul never left, it just got stronger. They picked up the tempo in songs like “and “”.. “Conversations in a Diner” is the epitome of a perfect outro to another album which will be the reason of the Baby Boom of 2018. Thank you dvsn and see you on tour next year!
- Syd “Fin”
Released: February 3
Earlier this year, The Internet announced that several of their members would be releasing their own solo projects. Showing fans how their individual tastes contribute to the overall sound was the goal and first up was Syd. From her early years of performing with Odd Future, to The Internet, to finally as a solo act, Syd’s sound has evolved and transcended R&B/Pop, as she likes to also label herself. With effortless falsettos and very promising lyrics, how can she go wrong? Assistance from 6LACK and Steve Lacy felt more than right in “Over” and “Dollar Bills”. The layers and bass drops is what captivates me the most, along with very descriptive and sensual lyrics. She is breathtaking and one thing is certain, Syd’s unique sound will carry her a long way.
- Khalid “American Teen”
Released: March 3
Looks like Lil Yachty passed his crown as King of Teens to 19-year-old Khalid as he put numbers on the board this year. The direction of the youth seems to be in limbo at times. It is worrisome but one thing is certain, artists like Khalid should reassure the industry that pure talent is still around. The singer-songwriter’s infectious songs has earned him 5 Grammy nominations, one of many accomplishments in 2017. His soulful voice paired with organic instrumentals sets Khalid apart from his contemporaries. Although he does admit to write the majority of the album while in high school, he still succeeds in making his concepts relatable.
- Sampha “Process”
Released: February 3
After working with the likes of Drake, Solange, SBTRKT, and more, it was about time Sampha got the recognition that he deserves. His highly anticipated debut album came after the tragic loss of his mother late 2015. “Process” marks a milestone for the singer, finally being able to recount past experiences and obstacles consisting of depression, anxiety, death and more. After losing both parents to cancer, brother who suffered a stroke leaving him physically disabled, and discovering a mysterious lump in his throat which has yet to get a diagnosis, Sampha has channeled his raw emotions into art. It is heartbreaking how much the singer has gone through at 29-years-old. Highlights from this album include “Plastic 100 C”, “Blood on Me” and “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano”. I can admit, I shed a few tears listening and digesting lyrics like “” A man who has been blessed with a talent and platform to speak for those who deal with all sorts of problems, whether that be mental health or physical, has healed souls continuously. He experiments with his sound electronically, while also slowing things down and sticking to his soul which is piano. I can go on and on about how “Process” has impacted my life, but most importantly a healing, meditative self-discovery for Sampha.
- Daniel Caesar “Freudian”
Released: August 25
It seems like Daniel Caesar was put on this world to orchestrate love songs that will be dedicated to every girl at least once in a relationship. The Toronto native’s church influence is evident throughout the album, preaching in his love ballads. With the help of Apple Music specifically, placing “Get You” which features Kali Uchis in their playlists, Caesar’s fanbase skyrocketed, especially this year. “Freudian” is an angelic gospel in its entirety. His range complimented by church-like chords demonstrates Caesar’s poetic justice. Features from Kali Uchis, Syd, and H.E.R. serve as a back and forth narrative between lovers and their thoughts. Sultry, passionate, sensual and effortless. Daniel Caesar’s mesmerizing approach to falling in and falling out of love is captivating and I am a million times here for this.
- SZA “CTRL“
Released: June 9
In October of 2016, SZA tweeted “I actually quit. @iamstillpunch can release my album if he feels like it. Y’all be blessed”. Less than a year later, Solana shook the music industry with her very personal and evolutionary album, “CTRL”. What if SZA was really done with her career after her emotions got the best of her? The singer documented her growth and self- acceptance in a record that hits home for not only myself, but listeners worldwide. Some say its a project for all the “side chicks”, but this is purely a misconception. She begins the album as a dependent woman, needing a man for reassurance. Throughout tracks like “Drew Berrymore” and “Go Gina”, SZA begins owning her own and gaining the control she craved and had trouble grasping. Conceptually and sonically, the album succeeds in what TDE does best, contribute to shaping the culture. Setbacks meant nothing for the singer who scored 5 Grammy nominations. SZA’s down-to-earth personality and versatility will continue to win over hearts for a minute.
H.E.R. “H.E.R” October 20
Kelela “Take Me Apart” October 6
Majid Jordan “The Space Between” October 27