After an artist records their album, designing the packaging is usually next on the checklist. The album packaging is a visual aid to capture the buyer’s eyes in records stores to get them not only interested in cover but the songs behind the impressive artwork.
Artists are able to be creative and push the envelope harder than ever before as they channel their inner sexiness on covers.
Break out a church fan and check out 20 of the sexiest R&B album covers.
D’Angelo, “Voodoo” (2000)
D’Angelo’s artwork for his platinum sophomore album had all the ladies wonder “How Does It Feel.”
Beyonce, “Dangerously in Love” (2003)
Draped in diamonds and wearing a pair of curvaceous jeans, Beyonce will make any man fall “Dangerously In Love.”
Sessions @ AOL may have launched in 2002, but its presence was felt more in 2003 as the way we hear and see our favorite artists online started changing at a rapid speed. From the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) going to legal war with individual music file-sharers ( Napster, Wake.Princeton.edu ) to the launch of Apple’s iTunes Music Store, the options for consumers to follow their beloved artists started to become more difficult. But Sessions @ AOL made this easier.
Brought to us by AOL Music, the mini-concert experience became an outlet for artists to perform their past and presents hits in a more up-close and intimate way. Similar to MTV-Unplugged, many artists have sung acoustic and stripped down versions of their popular songs and album gems. Artists even sat down to dish on their latest albums ahead or after its release.
After 10 years of special performances, exclusive interviews and some name changes (AOL Sessions, AOL Music Sessions), the intimate concert series ended abruptly in 2013.
While others (Walmart Soundcheck and Yahoo! Pepsi Smash) have attempted to capture their own exclusive studio performance moments, nothing beats holding the house phone hostage so no uses it so you could use dial-up to watch your faves spill the tea on their album and sing your favorite cut track.
In the spirit of nostalgia, we compiled a list of 20 memorable performances from the online music concert series. (Sidenote: Can you guess how we ranked the list? The answer is at the end)
Mario – “How Could You” (2005)
Mario brought his underrated vocals to Sessions @ AOL to perform his top-20 hit “How Could You” from his Turning Point album.
Keri Hilson – “Let Me Down / Beautiful Mistake” (2011)
Following the release of 2010’s No Boys Allowed, the singer-songwriter stormed Sessions to sing cuts off the new album including “Beautiful Mistake.”
Chrisette Michele – “Be Ok” (2009)
Fresh off the release of her album Epiphany, Michele revisited her I Am era with a sensational performance of “Be Ok.” The uptempo number won a Grammy in 2009 for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.
Keyshia Cole – “Love” (2005)
Sporting her signature orange hair and a casual outfit, The Way it Is singer belted her powerful ballad “Love” for online viewers.
Monica – “It All Belongs to Me” (2012)
While this Rico Love-written track is a duet with Brandy, the New Life vocalist stripped down the record and took it on alone with some help from three backup singers.
Jennifer Hudson – “I Remember Me” (2011)
There are not many artists who can sit on a stool, sing their hearts out and still be on key. Jennifer Hudson is one of them. She delivered a stellar performance of “I Remember Me,” the title track of her 2011 album.
Tyrese – “Stay” (2012)
Tyrese accepted an Open Invitation to AOL Sessions in 2012 where he performed his soulful tune “Stay.” The song spent 11 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult R&B Songs chart.
Ashanti – “Rock wit U (Awww Baby)” (2003)
The then-Murder Inc front-women was on point with all aww babies for her first time at Sessions. And catch how Ashanti barely opened her eyes during this performance of “Rock wit U (Awww Baby).” We love a dizzy queen.
Faith Evans – “I Love You” (2005)
The First Lady had viewers in their feelings with “I Love You” from her 2001 album Faithfully. Did you peep Meelah, lead singer of 702, singing backup?
Toni Braxton – “He Wasn’t Man Enough” (2005)
The sultry tone diva came to Sessions to promote material from her Libra album. She also revisited The Heat era and sung “He Wasn’t Man Enough” alongside her sisters Trina and Tamar Braxton.
Fantasia – “Bittersweet” (2010)
Donning a black dress with silver shoulder embroidery, the Back to Me singer left it all on stage with her mind-blowing performance of “Bittersweet.” She reprised the emotionally charged ballad with more personal lyrics.
The-Dream – “I Luv Your Girl” (2013)
The Radio Killa paid a visit to AOL Sessions in 2013 to promote IV Play. While there, the versatile musician dropped the auto-tune and bared his natural singing voice for his wavy performance of “I Luv Your Girl” off his debut album, Love Hate.
Ne-Yo – “So Sick” (2006)
The singer-songwriter had us “So Sick” with his first-ever AOL Music Sessions visit. The heartbreak song topped several Billboard charts including the Hot 100 for two consecutive weeks.
Chris Brown – “Winner” (2006)
The young Breezy had girls all over the world screaming at their computer screens with his performance of “Winner” off his self-titled album.
Brian McKnight — “Back to One” (2003)
Brian McKnight was one of the first R&B artists to grace the AOL studio. He performed his classic song “Back at One” from his 1999 album under the same name.
Earth Wind & Fire – “The Way You Move” (2005)
Supported by a full band, the legendary group got us out our seats to dance along to “The Way You Move” from their 2005 Illumination album.
Kelly Rowland – “Like This” featuring Eve (2007)
Ms. Kelly invited rapper Eve to perform their fierce collaboration “Like This.” Hopefully, no one hurt themselves trying to reenact this dance number.
John Legend – “So High” (2004)
Seated behind his instrument of choice, Legend had us levitating as he wonderfully sung “So High” from his debut album, Get Lifted.
Alicia Keys – “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” – (2010)
Alicia Keys rarely steps from behind her piano to perform music. But she did for the majority of her 2010 Sessions to perform past and present tunes including “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” from The Element of Freedom.
Mary J. Blige – “Take Me As I Am” (2005)
It was all or nothing at all with the Queen of the Hip Hop Soul’s moving performance of “Take Me As I Am” from The Breakthrough.
Rihanna – “Unfaithful” (2007)
The Unapologetic artist starred on the Sessions for three album eras: A Girl Like Me, Good Girl Gone Bad and Rated R. Her amazing performance of “Unfaithful” in 2007 is a standout though.
Beyoncé – “Me, Myself and I” (2008)
Although she was there to promote B’Day and its singles (“Irreplaceable”), it was Yoncé’s breathing performance of “Me, Myself and I” alongside her incredible background singers The Mamas that stole the show.
Give up yet? The list of performances was ranked by the artists’ number of Grammy nominations. Beyoncé has the most (63) nods out of all the artists featured on this list while Mario and Keri Hilson have the least (2).
On July 14, 1998 — just three days shy of the third anniversary of her debut album Miss Thang — Monica released her sophomore effort The Boy is Mine. The album was named after her uber-successful duet with fellow R&B teen Brandy who had released her second album a month prior.
While the title track was issued as the lead single for both vocalists project, they both followed up quickly with their own respective solo singles. “The First Night,” Monica’s second (first) single, was sent to radio a day before LP’s release date.
For The Boy is Mine, the 17-year-old singer defined the new batch of songs a “natural progression” from her debut. “I was 13; the themes weren’t as mature,” she told Billboard in a 1998 interview. “I’m trying to portray a more assertive young female. It’s fine to be a teen female, but there are certain decisions they must with assurance. I’m 17 now; my lyrics aren’t sexually explicit but are about love and being in love. I speak on those subjects for what I know them to be.”
Monica’s newfound maturity, enhanced confidence and tender outlook on relationships resonated with those in and out of love. The Boy is Mine entered the Billboard 200 at No. 8, selling 91,000 copies in its first week sales. The 13-track LP garnered multi-platinum success and a grand total of three number one singles (“The Boy is Mine,” “Angel of Mine” and “The First Night”) on the Billboard Hot 100.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Monica’s album The Boy is Mine, Rated R&B has ranked the songs from minimal rotation (worse) to heavy (best) rotation.
13. “Take Him Back”
Every album has its fillers and I guess this dull recording slipped through the track list cracks.
12. “‘Cross the Room”
Out of the LP’s 13-tracks, this party-starter anthem is definitely one that finds the crowd telling the DJ to turn it all the way down.
11. “Gone Be Fine” featuring Outkast
Even with tight production and a brief appearance from Outkast, something is still missing from what was supposed to be a bomb collaboration.
10. “I Keep It To Myself”
It’s a good song but the melody and chilled production of this dreamy slow jam sounds too similar to records from Xscape’s catalog.
9. “Right Here Waiting” featuring 112
Evidently, Monica’s then-label Artista had a point to prove to listeners and critics with a second cover of another classic. To be honest, it wasn’t necessary. It was an enjoyable remake, though.
8. “Misty Blue”
Monica deserves an applause for her stirring rendition of Dorothy Moore’s signature selection.
7. “Ring Da Bell”
Before Beyonce rang the alarm, Monica made noise with this Dallas Austin-produced track. On the verses, she used a slow and deliberate vocal approach to get her point across to her disrespectful lover.
On this emotionally-triggering ballad, Monica does a fantastic job flaunting her vocal range as she discusses the matters of the heart.
5. “Angel of Mine”
After listening to Monica’s two other covers on this album, this remake is in a league of its own. Her vocal poise almost shares similar singing moments of big-name vocalists.
4. “Street Symphony”
Like first impressions, the opening track on an album can set the tone for the rest of the project. As expected, Monica kept fans interested in hearing more of the album but not without getting us to press repeat on this underrated gem.
3. “The First Night”
Jermaine Dupri was in his bag with this one and Monica knew it. That’s why she rode the So So Def beat with a level of sophistication and street edge.
2. “The Boy is Mine” duet with Brandy
Yes, collecting numerous accolades and going number one is great but the question has always remained: who won the vocal catfight on this record? Let’s just say, “The song might be yours, but the album title is mine.”
1. “For You, I Will”
Ahead of Monica’s duet success with her teen counterpart, Monica had already bagged her own crossover hit. The Diane Warren-penned ballad, from the Space Jam soundtrack, solidified her place in pop culture.
Did we get the order right? Let us know.Follow An’Twane on Twitter at @9thwonderofPR.
Sade is one of the few artists who can take a lengthy hiatus, drop an album, steal the show and take another break. The singer started her first disappearing act after she took eight years to release a follow-up to 1992’s Love Deluxe. After releasing her album Lovers Rock in 2000, Sade wasn’t heard again until 2010’s Soldier of Love.
It’s been eight years now, and Sade still hasn’t fully emerged from her music slumber to bless us with a new full-length album. She did, however, tease us with an original song (“Flowers in the Universe“) contribution to Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time soundtrack. Although, official solo music could be coming soon.
Sade’s longtime collaborator and famed British musician Stuart Matthewman — who is an original member of the band — exclusively tells Rated R&B, “We’re working on a new album.”
Matthewman says Sade and their creative team currently have “a bunch of songs,” that eager fans will hear once they’re satisfied with the final product. “When we’re happy, then we’ll let everyone else hear it.”
Like his comment in a previous interview with Rated R&B, “It might sound funny but we write and do music to please ourselves and just hope that [we] have good taste and other people will like it.”
Matthewman says Sade’s label home, Epic Records, respects her artistry and doesn’t pressure the release of new music. “The record company knows there’s no point in nagging us or giving us deadlines. It doesn’t really help the process,” he says.
While other artists are content with releasing music more frequently to remain in the limelight, Matthewman says, “[Sade’s] not interested in the fame or any of that [other] stuff. She likes to put out art. So when it’s ready, it will come out.”
Matthewman tells a funny, yet relevant story that perfectly sums up the expected time frame for Sade to drop new music. “Years ago, I think it was when ‘By Your Side,’ the song came out, and big posters were stuck around New York. Someone sprayed or wrote on top of it, ‘Bitch sings when she wants to.’ Sade loved it.”