A few weeks, back, I wrote about the comatose state of R&B music these days. It was lucky enough to be Freshly Pressed, which inspired a dynamic conversation in the comments section about the evolution of R&B in particular and music in general. I gained a broader perspective discussing and thinking more about the topic. My amended opinion is that my favorite genre may neither be dead nor comatose, just metamorphosing.
Most of us plaintive fans agreed that we just have to support our favorite artists and hope the record industry takes notice. So I put my money where my mouth is.
While searching for a CD in the store last week, I was flabbergasted to find that R&B has quietly had a solid year of releases with very few radio singles. The artists with new music aren’t artists with little to no cache; these are singers with years of acclaim. I heard about some of the albums from the good folks who commented on my blog. My heart sank. The neo-soul/R&B genre really seems to be suffering from a deaf ear from the radio industry above all else.
Well, in case you haven’t ventured into a music store recently, I’ve decided to highlight some of the least-promoted new albums from my (past or present) favorite artists. Call it a report from the field. (For all but the first two, I haven’t heard these albums before).
Every year for my birthday, I ask for a CD or two, usually somewhere in the spectrum of neo-soul or R&B. This year, I asked for The Foreign Exchange’s recent release, Love in Flying Colors. First of all, I adore front man Phonte Coleman’s voice. He doesn’t run you up and down the vocal ladder, but his tone is smooth and suits his thoughtful lyrics. This album rocks my argyle socks off. I drove all around Atlanta on my birthday looping “Call it Home” and “On a Day Like Today” and had a marvelous time.
I cheated and bought myself Raheem DeVaughn’s A Place Called Loveland when it came out in September, and it’s classic Raheem baby-making music. My favorite jams are “Love Connection” and “Ridiculous.”
Unbeknownst to all and sundry, neo-soul vet Musiq Soulchild teamed up with R&B Diva Syleena Johnson to create a reggae-inspired project titled 9INE, which they apparently recorded in just nine days of recording sessions.
I fell in love with Stevie Wonder soundalike Glenn Lewis’ voice back in 2002 and heard nothing from him since. He’s apparently released his third studio album in October, Moment of Truth. I hope his voice still is (the truth).
The Internet, if not the radio, seems to be buzzing about The Robert Glasper Experiment, which I confess to knowing absolutely nothing about. But respected artists like Ledisi, Jill Scott, and Brandy have all been affiliated with him, so he has some clout. His Black Radio 2 just hit stores within the past month.
Self-styled ghetto crooner Jaheim occupies a unique space within R&B. He’s got a solid following and can be heard on black radio stations, but he’s not largely popular. I heard his single “Age Ain’t a Factor” a few months back and it hooked me with the surprising line, “You look better the older you get: Benjamin Button.” For that alone, his sixth studio album, Appreciation Day, should be worth a listen.
Continuing with the theme of rugged R&B, embattled singer Lyfe Jennings has a new CD out called Lucid. Again, I haven’t heard a peep of this effort, so I’m curious to hear what he’s doing vocally on the project.
Keep in mind that the above R&B albums are the quietest ones released this year, but certainly not the only ones. Mainstream radio and other venues have heavily promoted R&B albums from Janelle Monae, Tamar Braxton, Robin Thicke, Rihanna (although I think she’s pop), Justin Timberlake, The Weeknd, Emeli Sande, and Drake (who is a rapper-turned-singer at this point).
You have your list, good people; go, and may your ears and heart be full of soul.
If I missed any great unheard-of R&B/soul/neo-soul albums released in 2013, shout them out! Who are you loving this year?