2017 started off kind of slow with R&B releases but quickly picked up as the year progressed. There were a good amount of newcomers like SZA and Daniel Caesar who made an impact on their debut projects. We also saw comebacks from R&B vets like Bell Biv DeVoe and Xscape. The Rated R&B editorial team has compiled a list of the top 10 albums of 2017.
Check it out below (please note: these are in no particular order).
Chante Moore – The Rise of the Phoenix
Chante Moore has taken “50 and Fabulous” to another level with her seventh solo studio album The Rise of the Phoenix. Her artistry has aged well over the course of her 25-year career, as she sounds “Moore” confident than ever. While the LP covers the entire spectrum of love, the album’s upbeat, feel-good tracks stand out the most for their radio appeal and contemporary sound. The album’s current sound doesn’t come at the cost of Ms. Moore’s vocals, as she showcases her range (including whistle tones!) on her most tender ballads of regret and vulnerability. Even the interludes deserve a playback! Chante Moore simply delivered, and if you just can’t get enough of this album, then her latest Christmas album should carry you through every holiday season to come. — Nathan
Standout Selections: “Something to Remember,” “Offa-U,” “Saving Grace,” “Pray,” “I’d Be a Fool”
Daley – The Spectrum
Daley is probably one of the most underrated R&B acts out now. Known for his spacey R&B sound, the British singer adds a little color to his sophomore effort, The Spectrum. Feel-good songs like “Sympathy” and “Slow Burn” will have you dancing to the rhythmic production. But don’t let that fool you, though. There are vulnerable moments of heartbreak (“Until the Pain is Gone”) and self-reflection (“True”). — Keithan
Standout selections: “Until the Pain is Gone” feat. Jill Scott, “On Fire,” “Sympathy” and “Second to None”
SZA – Ctrl
Insecurities, fear, and doubt may permeate the lyrical content of this body of work, but SZA is more artistically reassured than ever on her breakout record Ctrl. Sonically gorgeous, the album not only sounds better with each listens, but it feels better with each listen as well. Over time, you’ll find yourself liking songs you didn’t like before and loving the ones you initially did even more. It’s evident that SZA is still adjusting to the overwhelming response of praise for her debut effort, but as the only female R&B artist to find major urban mainstream success this year, it’s simply par for the course of success. If she continues to ride in her own lane, there’s no telling what destinations she will reach by the end of her musical journey. — Nathan
Standout Selections: “Broken Clocks,” “Garden (Say it Like Dat),” “Wavy (Interlude) [feat. James Fauntleroy)” and “Go Gina”
Daniel Caesar – Freudian
A product of the black church, the Toronto-born R&B singer’s debut album, Freudian, is very much rooted in gospel influences — from the piano-driven sound to solid backing vocals from a full choir. While there is much celebration of love on this album, there are also songs of regret and sorrow, as if Caesar is grappling with his own personal struggles with religion and theology as it relates to a past love. Perhaps, this is why he chose to name his album Freudian. — Nathan
Standout selections: “Get You,” “Best Part,” “Blessed” and “Hold Me Down”
K. Michelle – Kimberly: The People I Used to Know
K. Michelle has never been one to hold anything back, but on Kimberly: The People I Used to Know, she unveils every inch of herself in an unprecedented unapologetic fashion. The album kicks off with her rapping obscenities and concludes with one of her most soulful records to date – and in between lies an ode to James Brown, a timely Debarge sample-led criticism of mainstream media’s treatment of black women, a jazzy dose of shade to Kirk Frost (and his three or four earrings), and back-to-back country ballads. While this may sound musically sporadic, the flow of the album is quite natural and effortless. Her heart may lie in country music, but she knows how to make a solid R&B record; This is certainly her first album with multiple viable radio singles.The People I Used to Know is less about switching musical lanes and more about shifting artistic gears as the album progresses — leading the Memphis-bred songstress down the road to one of the most complete R&B works of the year. — Nathan
Standout Selections: “Takes Two” feat. Jeremih, “Crazy Like You,” “Giving Up on Love,” “God, Love, Sex, and Drugs”
Mary J. Blige – Strength of a Woman
Capitalizing on her divorce news and cringe-worthy moments that logged the past five years of her personal and professional existence, Mary J. Blige wore her troubled emotions heavily on sleeves of Strength of a Woman. Beginning with a powerful opening track that revisits Blige’s hip-hop soul roots and yields her first-ever music union with Yeezy, Strength scales between claiming back the power she regretfully hid behind the love for her estranged husband-manager to now recognizing how resilient she is well beyond her celebrity status. Blige even found time to be the right amount of petty and unleash a high dose of saltiness topped with sweet revenge over trapsoul instrumentations ushered in by a new school of hungry music tasters like Camper and Prince Charlez who wanted to see her win again. — Antwane
Standout selections: “U + Me (Love Lesson),” “Set Me Free” “Survivor” and “Telling the Truth” featuring Kaytranada
Ledisi – Let Love Rule
Shining a fully charged flashlight of hope, Ledisi tunnels her way through all love’s madness on Let Love Rule. Even though the New Orléans native has the voice of an angel, Rule doesn’t digest well on the first or second listen. I say this not bash or discredit Ledisi’s musical abilities but to say, if you’re a frequent radio listener, this album won’t impress you. This record isn’t chasing the minute, ready to serve sounds of R&B. It’s an album that increasingly ages after each playback. With Let Love Rule, Ledisi uses this collection of ballads and melodic compositions to educate hearers about social injustices, how to present in your relationship and the power of waiting for the stars to align in your favor. She doesn’t do half bad either. — Antwane
Standout selections: “Here,” “All the Way,” “High” and “Us 4 Ever” featuring BJ the Chicago Kid
Tamar Braxton – Bluebird of Happiness
Bluebird of Happiness may universally signify prosperity, joy, and delight but Tamar Braxton’s album version has a far deeper meaning. Absorbed by samples from the yesteryears of R&B, the youngest Braxton sister uses her definition of Bluebird to share the private wounds from her dissolving marriage from Vincent Herbert. Balancing the dark and light colors of musical tones, this solid recording not only hears Braxton harping on the foulness of love but finding moments to celebrate its presence and all its other glorious wonders. While being fully against Braxton calling it quits as a solo artist, Bluebird of Happiness definitely leaves a lasting impression in the hearts and minds of her loyal Tamartian fans – for now. — Antwane
Standout selections: “The Makings of You,” “My Forever,” “My Man,” and “Wanna Love Me Boy”
Tank – Savage
Serving as the follow-up to 2016’s Sex Pain & Love II, Tank takes an aggressive approach on Savage. He instantly hooks listeners with the title track before taking them on a musical journey through the bedroom with songs like “When We” and “F It Up.” The album isn’t just about sex, though. There are moments when he’s just singing about love, whether it’s the good times or trying to rekindle an old flame. — Keithan
Standout selections: “When We,” “Good Thing,” “Do For Me” and “Nothing On”
Jhene Aiko – Trip
After making a false start with her 2016 single “Maniac,” Jhene Aiko made a strong recovery with her second studio album, Trip. Released with no prior announcement, the 22-track LP is Aiko’s open diary that uncovers some of her most vulnerable moments. From dealing with the death of her brother to breakups, Aiko takes her listeners on an emotional rollercoaster through love, pain, depression, and happiness. Trip may be her most raw and honest project to date. — Keithan
Standout selections: “Sativa” featuring Swae Lee, “While We’re Young,” “New Balance” and “OLLA” featuring Big Sean
Sabrina Claudio – About Time
OK, About Time may technically be a mixtape but Sabrina Claudio certainly made it feel like an album. Laced with angelic harmonies and mesmerizing lyrics, About Time finds Claudio singing about…time (literally). “During the process of writing these songs, I was worried about time for some reason,” she said. “And it didn’t have to do with a relationship — maybe just career-wise I was worried about time and it translated through my music.” — Keithan
Standout selections: “Belong to You,” “Frozen,” “Natural” and “Stand Still”
K. Michelle is hitting the road again soon. The Memphis native has announced the dates for her The People I Used to Know Tour.
The 21-city tour will begin on Feb. 9, 2018, in Providence, RI. It will hit major cities across the U.S. including D.C., Philadelphia, Detroit and Las Vegas, before wrapping up in Los Angeles on March 3.
The tour will support K. Michelle’s latest album of the same title, which is out now.
Tickets for The People I Used to Know Tour will go on sale this Friday, Dec. 22.
THE PEOPLE I USED TO KNOW TOUR !!Presale starts Wednesday in selected cities. ALL TICKETS GO ON SALE THIS FRIDAY pic.twitter.com/MI8u7LUDF2
— K. Michelle (@kmichelle) December 18, 2017
K. Michelle has released her fourth studio album, Kimberly: The People I Used to Know, on Atlantic Records. The 21-track project features guest appearances from R&B hitmakers Chris Brown and Jeremih.
The Memphis native shared a handful of songs leading up to the album’s release including “Make This Song Cry,” “Birthday,” “Either Way” and “Kim K.” On the latter track, some people assumed K. Michelle was throwing shots at Kim Kardashian. However, she explained the song is about cultural appropriation.
I see some blogs trying to make My song "Kim K"messy, lord if u only knew how fly I think she is! People are me would tell u. The statement behind the song is black Women are rarely given credit for our cultural trends and flyness.
— K. Michelle (@kmichelle) December 4, 2017
“I see some blogs trying to make My song ‘Kim K’ messy, lord if u only knew how fly I think she is,” K. Michelle tweeted. “People are me would tell u. The statement behind the song is black Women are rarely given credit for our cultural trends and flyness.”
She continued, “Truths can be spoken without a shade tree behind them. For ages Black women have been taught by society that our image isn’t good enough for mainstream or that we need to make changes. I believed them and made those SOME of those changes, only 2 regret it.”
On The People I Used to Know, Michelle takes listeners on a journey through her mind. “The album shows me and all my bipolar-ness so it really shows that and I hit on every single emotion of being a woman and being a growing woman,” she once told Billboard. “So it has, even for a man, a lot of things you can relate to you, a lot of life issues this time not just heartbreak but life in general.”
The People I Used to Know is the follow-up to K. Michelle’s 2016 album, More Issues Than Vogue, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200.
Stream Kimberly: The People I Used to Know below.