The 10 Best R&B Singles of 2011

The 10 Best R&B Singles of 2011
By: Michael Hamilton (@MikeHamiltonJr)
Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 was certainly an odd year (both literally and figuratively) R&B/soul music. This is solely due to the fact that, unlike previous years, nearly all major releases within the genre (both albums and singles) did not cross over heavily. In fact, none of the singles on this list reached the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100—including the most popular and most successful R&B song of 2011 (which did make the list, see below). But, as noted in the top 10 R&B albums article, R&B as of late has taken a more secluded direction, where most of the music and artists do not cross over as heavily as they once did maybe 5-6 years ago. Instead, the R&B community has become more closely-knit, which in turn, keeps much of the music within the direct listening confines of the genre’s devout fans.

Despite this interesting turn, there are still strong records being released in the genre. The top ten best of those singles that were released this year are listed below:

10. “So in Love,” Jill Scott [feat. Anthony Hamilton]
Released during the height of springtime, Jill Scott’s “So in Love,” featuring fellow soul singer Anthony Hamilton, was the perfect lead single for Scott’s fourth studio album, The Light of the Sun. The great thing about the record is its mellow, mid-tempo beat, combined with unusually restrained vocals from both Scott and Hamilton. Give it some time and it just may join Cameo’s “Candy” and Maze/Frankie Beverly’s “Before I Let Go” as standards at Black get-togethers.

09. “4 AM,” Melanie Fiona
The second single from her forthcoming sophomore album, The MF Life, Melanie Fiona’s “4 AM” has gained the budding superstar a groundswell of new fans. The main highlight of the record is its dramatic production that builds gradually over the course of nearly five minutes. Fiona’s airy delivery adds the ideal touch, complementing the production perfectly.

08. “Sure Thing,” Miguel
Released as the second single from his debut album, All I Want Is You, Miguel’s “Sure Thing” effectively solidified him as a powerful new force in contemporary R&B. The singer’s laidback performance and the song’s catchy metaphors made it an undeniable hit on urban radio, hitting #1 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for one week back in May.

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The 10 Best R&B Albums of 2011

The 10 Best R&B Albums of 2011
By: Michael Hamilton (@MikeHamiltonJr)
Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Some make the argument that R&B isn’t what it once was, or that it isn’t as “good” as it was throughout the ‘90s and during the early ‘00s. However, as evidenced by this list, it has become more apparent that the landscape of R&B has simply changed. To discover great R&B and soul today, one can no longer rely on Top 40 or mainstream urban radio anymore. Currently, the state of R&B is more secluded—meaning that there are fewer mainstream, crossover R&B releases, which subsequently requires real soul fans to discover the great music that is still being made in the R&B genre.

While not a big mainstream or commercial year for R&B, 2011 still provided many great artistic moments from some of the industry’s more established names, all the way to a few breakout newcomers.

10. Love After War, Robin Thicke
On his fifth studio album, singer Robin Thicke continues to impress listeners by diversifying and varying his growing body of work. Love After War takes a much different creative approach than its predecessor, 2009’s Sex Therapy: The Experience. While the love-making songs are still a trademark on his latest set, Thicke talks more about world and social issues here, a displayed on tracks like “The New Generation” and “Never Give Up,” and he does so with impressive, old school soul sensibility.

09. Where It All Begins, Lalah Hathaway
Her fifth release in 21 years, Lalah Hathaway continues her family’s legacy of brilliance on Where It All Begins, her second album under Stax Records. Fans of Hathaway should be thoroughly pleased with the album, as she remains true to herself by continuing to perform the refined brand of soul that made Anita Baker, Sade and Toni Braxton so successful. Though not as great as her last album, 2008’s Self Portrait, Where It All Begins is still a welcomed listen from beginning to end.

08. Stone Rollin’, Raphael Saadiq
Raphael Saadiq has had an impressive career and made valuable contributions to R&B for nearly 25 years now. And he’s shown no signs of slowing down. Stone Rollin’, the singer/songwriter/producer’s fourth solo studio album (ninth overall—including Lucy Pearl and Tony! Toni! Tone!), shows Saadiq sticking to old school, ‘70s-themed soul. He has adapted an excellent knack for the sound and continues to thrill both fans and critics alike. (The album’s lead single, “Good Man,” is currently nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Traditional R&B Performance.)

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Album Review: “MusiqintheMagiq” – Musiq Soulchild

MUSIQ SOULCHILD – MUSIQINTHEMAGIQ ATLANTIC RECORDS Release Date: May 3, 2011 Neo-soul superstar Musiq Soulchild returns to the scene after nearly three years to deliver his sixth studio album, “MusiqintheMagiq.”  The album was preceded by the upbeat, club-ready single “Anything” featuring rapper/producer Swizz Beatz.  But fans need not worry; the remainder of the album delivers just as Musiq’s devout supporters expect it to.  This new … Continue reading Album Review: “MusiqintheMagiq” – Musiq Soulchild

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