Seems like every year, fewer R&B albums are released, and 2016 was no different. Nevertheless, it was another year of genre-bending projects with a few surprised releases.
In 2016, R&B songs took the lead on various conversations, whether it was politics, social issues, self-esteem quandaries, bullying, relationships, love and more. Veteran artists like Beyonce, Maxwell, John Legend, and Alicia Keys used their star power to convey an abundance of messages and inspiration through song.
There were also a few breakout albums this year that shocked the hell out of us. We also were blessed with bodies of work from veteran singers, who were on hiatus.
In deciding what albums were going to appear our “Top 20 Best R&B Albums of 2016” list, we loaded up a playlist of 30 albums, blocked out everything people said on social media (70% are non-album buyers anyway), and we literally listened in depth to what these singers were contributing.
We hope you cans can appreciate our “Top 20 Best R&B Albums of 2016” list, and feel free to leave questions, comments, or feedback.
Also, below are five albums that didn’t make our top 20 list, so we mentioned them below to show our appreciation.
- Corinne Bailey Rae – The Heart Speaks in Whispers
- LION BABE – Begin
- Anderson .Paak – Malibu
- Frank Ocean – Blonde
- BJ the Chicago Kid – In My Mind
Also, check out our Top 50 Best R&B Songs of 2016!
[tps_title]20. Usher – Hard II Love[/tps_title] Seems like Usher struggled a bit with the creative direction of ‘Hard II Love,’ but in the end, he delivered a solid body of work reminiscent to his earlier R&B days. Helps that he had great songwriting and production, especially from R&B veteran Raphael Saadiq.
[tps_title]19. K. Michelle – More Issues Than Vogue[/tps_title]
‘More Issues Than Vogue’ sees K. Michelle stepping outside of her comfort zone and experimenting a bit more with sounds. She doesn’t stray too far in lyrical content, making her effort less risky. Kudos for her creative approach!
[tps_title]18. Tweet – Charlene[/tps_title]
Tweet made us wait a decade for this gem. ‘Charlene,’ released February 26, 2016, follows the Southern Hummingbird’s 2005 offering, ‘It’s Me Again.’ The LP is silky, soothing, soulful and well worth the wait.
[tps_title]17. Musiq Soulchild – Life on Earth[/tps_title]
‘Life on Earth’ is Musiq Soulchild’s eight studio offering, and follows his failed attempt at rapping, even if it was a gimmick. Let’s just say, we’re very happy with what he and producer Warryn Campbell brought to the table. Welcome back to R&B Musiq!
[tps_title]16. Yuna – Chapters[/tps_title]
‘Chapters’ is the third international studio album by Yuna. The LP features appearances from Usher and Jhené Aiko and continues to showcase the Malaysian singer-songwriter’s eclectic and soulful style.
[tps_title]15. King – We Are King[/tps_title]
King are rarely mentioned in conversations about consistent female R&B groups, but their time is here. Twins Amber and Paris Strother, and Anita Bias are exceptional singers and songwriters and their album, We Are King, was a solid introduction to the world. Top it off, the LP was nominated for “Best Urban Contemporary Album” at the 59th Grammy Awards.
[tps_title]14. Bruno Mars – 24K Magic[/tps_title]
’24k Magic’ is a nostalgic album for Bruno Mars as he resurrects the soul, funk, and R&B of the ’80s and ’90s; he does this with his own musical swag making for a good listen.
[tps_title]13. Alicia Keys – Here[/tps_title]
‘Here’ is Alicia Keys’ first album in four years. It was a powerful offering for the R&B veteran as it tackled social, political, and family-oriented topics. The project also shows Keys’ growth as a true musician.
[tps_title]12. Dave Hollister – The MANuscript[/tps_title]
Dave Hollister follows 2014’s ‘ Chicago Winds…The Saga Continues,’ with the ‘The MANuscript,’ ten tracks of grown folks music, seemingly geared towards teaching the men about how to properly love and cherish a woman. Timeless music at its best!
[tps_title]11. Solange – A Seat at The Table[/tps_title]
Solange’s third studio album, A Seat at The Table, was welcomed with a lot of hype and fanfare, which was well warranted. The project’s creative sounds, concepts, and lyrical content helped define the singer’s identity as she sung about rage, despair, and empowerment.
[tps_title]10. Anthony Hamilton – What I’m Feelin'[/tps_title]
An Anthony Hamilton album will probably always make our best R&B albums list. Always consistent, his latest LP (seventh), What I’m Feelin’, is another soulful and passionate gem.
[tps_title]9. Eric Benet – Eric Benet[/tps_title]
Eric Benet focused on live music and his influences for his eight studio album. With support from long-time collaborator Tamia, the R&B veteran delivered vulnerable and honest songs that are seminal to R&B.
[tps_title]8. Fantasia – The Definition Of…[/tps_title]
“The Definition Of…” saw Fantasia experimenting more with her new rock/soul movement. Nonetheless, she continued to deliver honest and heartfelt songs that
[tps_title]7. Joe – #Mynameisjoethomas[/tps_title]
Joe claims ‘#MyNameIsJoeThomas’ is his FINAL album, and if that’s the case, he definitely went out with a bang. The music is what can only be described as some of the most confident R&B classics to be recorded in recent history.
[tps_title]6. Tank – Sex Love & Pain II[/tps_title]
Tank calls himself ‘The General’ of R&B and we have to agree. On ‘Sex Love & Pain II,’ he continued to steer clear from commercial trends and created a passion-filled body of work that is true to the genre.
[tps_title]5. John Legend – Darkness and Light[/tps_title]
On ‘Darkness and Light,’ John Legend taps into his musicality and strong penmanship to create an inspirational and ambitious album. In today’s social climate, his stance on love in dark times was well needed and welcoming. John gives music a purpose on ‘Darkness and Light.’
[tps_title]4. Rihanna – Anti[/tps_title]
With Rihanna’s popularity, many people try to push her into pop categories. For ‘Anti,’ she went back to her R&B roots and composed some intoxicating and in your face records, many of which became anthems for music lovers around the world.
[tps_title]3. Maxwell – blackSUMMERS’night[/tps_title]
After another long hiatus, Maxwell followed 2009’s ‘BLACKsummers’night’ with the trilogy LP, ‘blackSUMMERS’night.’ If you’re a fan of vintage Maxwell, classic R&B songs, and live instrumentation, you will fall in love with this project; It’s another pioneering R&B project from Max.
[tps_title]2. Adele – 25[/tps_title]
On ’25,’ Adele made making amends with a failed relationship sound too good. The powerhouse soul singer delivered thought-provoking and triumphant songs that were both monumental and genre-bending.
[tps_title]1. Beyonce – Lemonade[/tps_title]
On ‘Lemonade,’ Queen Beyonce continued her dominance by pushing R&B to new artistic heights. She delivered powerful, gutsy, furious, and passionate R&B songs about marriage and social events, all with a new age edge.