Best R&B Albums of 2010

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Dez 30 2010, 18h23

On the very last day of the year, I finally finished my fifth straight "Best R&B Albums" list. Now I don't feel like saying much here to explain it, because I would like you to just check out my list, and then it will sure be my brief statement of what I love about R&B music and what I love R&B music for. At least, the year 2010 was again so abundant with the new R&B releases that I fully enjoyed it and hope you did too.


10. All About You (Jeremih)
I think that this is like a singer's answer to the success of those rappers with melancholic, introspective styles such as Kanye West, Kid Cudi and Drake. Some cuts on this album are off the point and even sound like fillers to me, but the subtle beauty of such songs as "I Like," "X's & O's", "Take Off," "Waiter/The 5 Senses," "Sleepers" and "Love Don't Change" are just irresistible. Also, just as on the previous (debut) album by Jeremih, producer Mick Schultz is single-handedly responsible for the entire sound production and he did a great job again here.

9. Still Standing (Monica)
Yes, she's still standing! As not a single album from her ever disappointed me, Monica's latest effort Still Standing has again turned out to be a rich, strong and consistent one. Mainly based on beautiful, emotional ballads like "One In A Lifetime," "Superman," "Love All Over Me" and "Believing In Me," but the album is also given a good variety from Ludacris-assisted majestic tune "Still Standing" to retro-soul classic "Everything To Me" and '80s-influenced funky track "If You Were My Man," which were both produced by Missy Elliott and co-written by Jazmine Sullivan. If only it were extended with a few more songs, though I think that all the songs are nicely put together.

8. Stronger With Each Tear (Mary J. Blige)
This entry is quite exceptional, because Stronger With Each Tear was actually released in December of 2009, but it was too late to be chosen to my last year's list and nevertheless it is too good to be ranked nowhere, so I decided to award it right here and now. Even though some of the songs are average or/and mediocre, the whole album is well-produced, and of course well-performed, and have a great variety throughout from rugged hip-hop soul "Tonight" to melancholic soulful ballad "Color." It's just incredible that after almost two decades in the industry and countless hits and awards, MJB can still manage to bring out a strong, relevant album like this one.

7. I Still Believe (Lyfe Jennings)
Even though Lyfe 268-192 was already great at its release and has been a classic of our time, I also love how Lyfe Jennings' music gets sophisticated with every release of his. On his latest effort I Still Believe, Lyfe successfully showcases his established skills in songwriting and productions, not to metion his gritty but touching vocals and positive lyrics. If you've been out of touch with Lyfe's music for some time, try this and then you must be surprised at how his melodies have become sublime and polished, on such songs as "It Coulda Been Worse" and "I Still Believe."

6. Another Round (Jaheim)
Real talented R&B singer Jaheim has put out another masterpiece and this time around he's offering more variety on it than on any of his previous works. Songs like synth-laden "Another Round," directly retro "Impossible" and smooth, up-tempo "Her" are pleasant surprises, but don't worry, there are also KayGee-branded, sample-heavy "Ain't Leavin Without You" as well as sweet soul ballads like "Till It Happens To You," "In My Hands" and "Finding My Way Back." Except "Ain't Leavin Without You," Another Round lacks somewhat in the familiar chemistry of Jaheim's soulful vocals and Flavor Unit-style hip-hop beats, but it's still a great R&B album all thanks to his great soul singing.

5. Lost In Time (Eric Benét)
Eric Benét did it again. He came back with critically-acclaimed Love & Life in 2008, and this November, he's again back with his latest effort Lost In Time, which is filled with '70s-influenced soul/funk tunes and has his silky yet strong singing all over it. As Benét's successful career started with the duet hits like "Spend My Life With You" with Tamia and "Georgy Porgy" with Faith Evans, this album features some great duet songs, such as The Best Of My Love-esque "Feel Good" again with Evans, The O'Jays-influenced "Paid" with original O'Jay Eddie Levert and horn-ladden funky disco tune "Good Life" with Grammy-nominated soul songstress Ledisi, too. This album is also notable in that you can exactly tell what kind of music has an influence on each song, and you may love it or hate it, but nevertheless one thing about this album is undeniable; the music is great.

4. Love Me Back (Jazmine Sullivan)
Jazmine Sullivan, who made her debut with the incredible masterpiece Fearless two years ago, is now back with her sophomore effort Love Me Back, and if you are a fan of the '90s R&B music, you must have already been crazy about its lead single, "Holding You Down (Goin' in Circles)," which was produced by none other than Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott and has a pure hip-hop soul vibe. Some may compain about the direction of the entire album because it's not really inclined to the hip-hop soul revival, but with the variety of songs from retro soul ballads like "10 Seconds" and "Excuse Me" to Prince-influenced-The-Dream-influenced "Don't Make Me Wait" and Ne-Yo-assisted "U Get on My Nerves," this album is well-balanced to bring out and make the most of Jazmine's excellent vocals and songwriting.

3. The ArchAndroid (Janelle Monáe)
The story of the last android standing is going on and on and on. Two years ago, with the re-release of her debut EP Metropolis: The Chase Suite, Classical Wondafunk artist Janelle Monáe stirred up much anticipation for the full-length release, and this time around with The ArchAndroid, she just delivered to live up to the expectations. The music is rather based on alternative, funk, punk and indie pop than straight R&B or urban pop, but we all should praise and appreciate her for doing something different and more importantly, for doing it very well. If you are not familiar with Monáe's music, just check out "Come Alive (War Of The Roses)" and then you can imagine what she sounds like and how good she is about it.

2. Passion, Pain & Pleasure (Trey Songz)
Only after a year since the release of 2009's successful Ready album, Trey Songz has already put out his newest one in 2010, and in this era of delays and cancellations of high-profile releases, that alone can be a proof of how much Trey's music is appreciated and anticipated. And the vocal and musical richness of Passion, Pain & Pleasure just deserves it. The whole album is definitely highlighted by the Mario Winans-produced, Ryuichi Sakamoto-sampled, passionate R&B track "Can't Be Friends," but the rest, including sensual slow jam "Massage," sad ballad "Love Faces," good old R&B tune "Please Return My Call," dirty-south club banger "Bottoms Up" featuring Harajuku Barbie and even rock-styled "Blind," are great, too. Trey's vocals are fresh, expressive, emotional and lively as always, while there's no autotune, eurodance or any kind of meaningless commercial crossovers anywhere on the album, and that's why it proudly ranks here at No. 2.

1. Love Letter (R. Kelly)
I actually hate exaggerated claims like calling any and every veteran artist "king" or "queen" just for being a veteran, but I must crown him with the title of "King of R&B" and I swear it's no exaggeration. Unlike some relatively unsuccessful previous albums of his, this time around on the newest one, R. Kelly single-handedly produced and wrote all the materials and it's one of the most '60s/'70s-soul influenced record ever from him, but yet the most amazing and notable thing about Love Letter is about his most underrated talent; singing. Kelly obviously got his Sam Cooke on over the leading single "When A Woman Loves" and some other songs on this album, but of course it's far beyond just impersonating and resulted to prove that he's without doubt one of the greatest singers of our time, or even of the entire popular music history. There are also some obvious influences from soul legends like Stevie Wonder ("Just Like That"), Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell ("Love Is") and Michael Jackson ("Not Feelin' The Love"), but then this is definitely something that nobody but R. Kelly can do and a big achivement not only for his career but also for the whole R&B world. Mr. Kelly, I got your card and it did touch my heart.




10 best albums:
1. Love Letter (R. Kelly)
2. Passion, Pain & Pleasure (Trey Songz)
3. The ArchAndroid (Janelle Monáe)
4. Love Me Back (Jazmine Sullivan)
5. Lost In Time (Eric Benét)
6. Another Round (Jaheim)
7. I Still Believe (Lyfe Jennings)
8. Stronger With Each Tear (Mary J. Blige)
9. Still Standing (Monica)
10. All About You (Jeremih)


Honorable mentions:
Good Things (Aloe Blacc)
New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh (Erykah Badu)
Calling All Hearts (Keyshia Cole)
Libra Scale (Ne-Yo)
Ollusion (Omarion)
The Love & War MasterPeace (Raheem DeVaughn)
Soldier of Love (Sade)
Now or Never (Tank)
Pulse (Toni Braxton)
Raymond v Raymond (Usher)


I hate that I have to close this post by writing something like this, but I have been deeply saddened by the untimely passing of the Queen Of Ivory Soul, Teena Marie, on the 26th of this month. Not only was she a legendary great artist with a bunch of soul/funk classics, her latest album Congo Square, which was just released in June of 2009, was so modern and excellent that we just also lost a relevant talent. The successful career of Teena Marie was a simple proof that R&B is a universal language and I will eternally embrace what she has achieved. Rest in peace, Lady T...

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