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It is fashionable to say R&B is dead because it’s not the commercial force it was in the late 1980s and the 1990s. The underlying message, of course, is that if you aren’t selling millions of records, the music isn’t worth it.


Nothing could be further from the truth. R&B is alive and well, and, in many ways, is thriving in the absence of industry pressure to produce a diamond-certified seller. More and more young artists are taking up the R&B mantle, adventurous artists are exploring sounds that so stretch the definition of the term itself, and old favorites are returning to show everyone how it should be done.


This year turned out to be a banner year with plenty to choose from. Scroll on down and find out what I think is the best R&B of 2010.


 

Three Great R&B Albums That Flew Below the Radar


 



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Teedra Moses

Royal Patience Compilation…A Love Journey

(Self-Released; US: 14 Feb 2010; UK: 14 Feb 2010)


Teedra Moses
Royal Patience Compilation…A Love Journey


Royal Patience Compilation…A Love Journey is Teedra Moses’ latest free mixtape, featuring 12 rough versions of songs that brilliantly showcase the fact that Moses has become the voice of the young black woman sophisticate, sales be damned. Few contemporary R&B artists write better melodies than Teedra Moses—“All That I Have” or “Winter ‘96”, for instance—and few have so ingeniously updated mid-‘80s black synth pop for the 21st century. Hunt down a copy of this mixtape online.


 

 



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Brandon Hines

In Search Of

(Self-Released; US: 14 Feb 2010; UK: 14 Feb 2010)


Brandon Hines
In Search Of


Brandon Hines has been on his grind for a few years now, releasing a series of increasingly accomplished independent R&B albums that showcase a very versatile voice. His latest, In Search Of, finds Hines on a search for love and the thematic consistency makes the EP a satisfyingly complete experience. A true talent, Hines is on the verge of becoming a major artist.


 
 

 



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Darien Brockington

The Cold Case Files

(Foreign Exchange Music; US: 29 Dec 2009; UK: 30 Jul 2010)


Darien Brockington
The Cold Case Files


Darien Brockington, or D-Brock, has been the male voice of Foreign Exchange for years, all while quietly putting out his own top-shelf material. The Cold Case Files is his latest and it is a huge artistic leap forward—the kind of leap that should have gotten more attention than it did. The album lets D-Brock get his Prince on (the brilliant “Meet Me in Paris” and “Take You Home”) and expand on the unique brand of hip-hop soul that he created with Foreign Exchange (“Girl It’s You” and “Let’s Make Love (Tonight)”. At 23 tracks, it’s a bit overlong, but ultimately worth the purchase.


Best R&B of 2010


 

 



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Jaheim

Another Round

(Atlantic; US: 9 Feb 2010; UK: 9 Feb 2010)

Review [3.Mar.2010]

10


Jaheim
Another Round


Another Round is the album that R&B fans have been waiting for Jaheim to make. Emerging on the scene almost ten years ago with one of the greatest pure voices of his generation, Jaheim’s voice was often much better than the material that he was singing. But on the grown and thoughtful Another Round, Jaheim gets to sing a batch of superbly crafted love songs that enable him to display a remarkable newfound vulnerability. No other male R&B vocalist of his generation made a better album this year.


 

 



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Monica

Still Standing

(J; US: 23 Mar 2010; UK: 22 Mar 2010)

Review [1.Dec.2010]

9


Monica
Still Standing


Monica has never made a truly great album until this year, when she decided to make Still Standing, an album about her life experiences and her search for love. Everything here is a revelation, from the newfound clarity, depth, and power of Monica’s voice to wonderfully solid songwriting that makes terrific use of that voice. Monica has always had fight in her, but now on songs like “Stay or Go”, it feels honest instead of cartoonish as it has in the past. Monica has managed to capture exactly how rejuvenated and reborn she is at this moment in her life. And it’s a treat to hear.


 

 



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Trey Songz

Passion, Pain & Pleasure

(Atlantic; US: 14 Sep 2010; UK: 1 Nov 2010)

8


Trey Songz
Passion, Pain & Pleasure


Trey Songz’s latest album silences any critic who thought he was just a shallow horndog with a pretty face. Passion, Pain & Pleasure is thoughtful, mature, and, yes, still very sexy. Songz managed to strike just the right balance between the Songz we knew and the Songz he is trying to become. Everything here is deeper, more focused on real emotion, and superbly crafted. His newfound vulnerability is refreshing and plays right to his unique ability to convey longing better than any other male R&B singer of his generation. From the melancholy “Can’t Be Friends” to the resolute “Unfortunate” to the thrilling “Blind”, Songz has truly outdone himself.


 

 



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Janelle Monae

The ArchAndroid

(Bad Boy; US: 18 May 2010; UK: Import)

7


Janelle Monae
The ArchAndroid


Janelle Monae’s the kind of artist who is so larger than life that she generates a backlash exactly one minute after her greatness is unleashed. There is a lot going on on The ArchAndroid and a lot of it related to the Metropolis conceit is, honestly, unnecessary—you don’t have to understand it or know how it informs the songs to enjoy the album. And it is enjoyable. From the pure rock jam “Come Alive” to the haunting lament “Oh, Maker” to the brilliant ‘80s synth pop-inspired “Wondaland” to the straight-ahead Atlanta funk of “Tightrope”, The ArchAndroid is a winner.


 

Tyler Lewis is a Washington, D.C.-based writer. You can read his blog at: http://tigger500.typepad.com or follow him on Twitter (@tlewisisdope)


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