10 Most Anticipated R&B Albums of Fall 2013
Hip-hop fans have been spoiled in 2013. It’s been a year that’s seen welcome comebacks and huge releases. Jay Z‘s ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail,’ Kanye West‘s ‘Yeezus,’ and J. Cole‘s ‘Born Sinner’ are just a few of the more memorable ones.
R&B fans got their share of presents, too. Justin Timberlake returned in a big way with the fantastic ‘The 20/20 Experience,’ while Robin Thicke took over the summer with ‘Blurred Lines.’ Across the pond, AlunaGeorge finally released their debut, ‘Body Music,’ after months of anticipation, while James Blake’s ‘Overgrown’ became an instant 2013 highlight.
The best part of it all? There’s still plenty more releases to embrace. The Weeknd will arrive with his debut next month, and because Janelle Monae and Beyonce‘s last studio efforts were so good, fans simply had to have more. Their follow-ups are expected to drop in the coming months as well.
To get you ready for the bigger releases later this year, TheDrop.fm highlights the 10 Most Anticipated R&B Albums of Fall 2013.
'Made to Love'
The anticipation for ‘Made to Love’ is less about the name and more about the undeniable talent, which is made apparent quickly after just a few minutes of listening to Luke James. For example, ‘I Want You,’ off his ‘#Luke’ EP shows the singer’s vocal range as he switches from a powerful, controlled voiced to a soul-cutting falsetto. Then there’s his ear for the right instrumentals. On ‘Make Love to Me,’ that bass and warped vocal sample comes up at what feels like the right time to compliment James’ voice instead of overpowering it. With ‘I.O.U.,’ James floats elegantly over the staccato drums. Then there's the fact that he's performing as a supporting act on Beyonce's Mrs. Carter Show World tour. James has that opportunity to introduce people to his music and make them firm believers of his work. He has the tools, but the question is can he bring it all together for a cohesive debut.
'Love in the Future'
With all the features and appearances John Legend has been making, it’s easy to forget that it’s been a while since he came out with a solo effort. In fact, the five years since ‘Evolver’ marks the longest interval without an album in his entire career. ‘Love in the Future,’ which is due Sept. 3, feels like it’s going to be one of his more ambitious and sensual efforts. ‘Made to Love,’ his latest single, starts off with primal drums as John Legend’s echoing voice eventually joins in.
The strings that come in on the climax transforms the single into something more spiritual. There’s also the victorious feel of ‘Who Do We Think We Are,’ which is aided by one of Rick Ross’ better verses in recent months. If ‘Love in the Future’ can continue articulating this Cloud 9 aesthetic, we could very well be looking at a 2013 highlight.
It’s easy to understand why ‘Souled Out’ is so anticipated after Jhene Aiko's high-profile collaborations with Black Hippy, Drake and Big Sean. Plus, her mixtape, ‘Sailing Soul(s),’ is still a smooth listen two years after its release. According to a tweet by Aiko herself, ‘Souled Out’ will feature “the most important song ever,” which is definitely something to look forward to. She also said in an interview with Fuse that her debut album is 98 percent finished. Although it’s understandable to get skeptical at such specific percentages (see ‘James River’), Aiko said she’s confident it’s coming out this year. If that’s the case, who can say ‘Souled Out’ isn’t going to be a quality album? It’s the pursuit of perfection and her insistent self-critique that led to this point in the first place.
Maxwell gave the R&B genre a jolt when he returned with the soulful ‘BLACKsummers’night,’ which was his first album since 2001. The album had a lot of critical acclaim, earned mentions in many year-end lists and, like most of his previous albums, had fans wanting more. It looked like we didn’t have to wait long for the follow-up since ‘blackSUMMERS’night’ was supposed to be the second in a trilogy of albums. Maxwell said in a recent Billboard interview that his fifth effort is due later this year, although it’s looking increasingly doubtful that it’s actually coming out in the summer (sorts of like R&B’s ‘Cruel Summer’ when you think of it). Will we have more songs like the engulfing preview of ‘Gods’ fans got early this year?
'Black Radio 2'
Jazz hasn’t felt this relevant in a while. Pianist Robert Glasper once told Downbeat Magazine the genre needed a “big-ass slap” after it felt so behind the times in recent decades. His quartet managed to do that with the Grammy award-winning ‘Black Radio.’ The release consisted mostly of covers ranging from grunge (‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’) to jazz standards (‘Afro Blue’), each one just as creative and focused as the next. ‘Black Radio 2,’ which is due on Oct. 29, is slated to have more original cuts, which could be a challenge to a lesser quartet, but the recently released ‘Calls’ with Jill Scott shows fans they have nothing to worry about. Could ‘Black Radio 2’ contend for a Best R&B Album two-peat?
Anybody who’s heard the legendary ‘Voodoo’ knows exactly why R&B and general music fans alike have been waiting 13 years -- and are probably willing to wait a few more -- for a new D'Angelo LP. Those who heard ‘Voodoo’ also know how heartbreaking the setbacks (including cocaine and prostitution solicitation charges) were. But, finally, it appears we’re closer than we ever were to hearing ‘James River,' even though collaborator Questlove said it was 97 percent done two years ago. Hopefully, D’Angelo will be able to make that full recovery from his recent medical issues to complete that extra 3 percent if it's still unfinished.
Beyonce performed at the Super Bowl, teased songs in Pepsi and H&M ads and is currently on a world tour. Still, we haven’t even gotten an official single, an album title or a release date for her upcoming project. There’s still some hope we'll get a new Bey LP this year -- perhaps she'll roll out a two-week plan like her husband Jay Z's ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail.’
There's also the reports of Beyonce scrapping 50 songs for this untitled follow-up to ‘4,’ which can be both concerning and exciting. Although it’s doubtful, there’s always that small chance of the colorful ‘Standing On the Sun’ and the quirky, but sophisticated ‘Grown Woman’ not being on the album. At the same time, the selectivity is a sign of the pursuit of perfection, and if that’s the case, Beyonce’s fifth effort shouldn’t disappoint. 'Bow Down' sure didn't.
'The Electric Lady'
Imagine a new artist debuting with an 18-track, 70-minute studio effort that spans funk, soul, R&B and rap with sprinkles of avant-garde throughout. It sounds like a work that’s just ready to crumble under its own ambition, but Janelle Monae traversed this soundscape to near-perfection on ‘The ArchAndroid.’ The true strength of that album was how she was able to blend her emotional awareness with an expansive vision, and there’s no reason she shouldn’t be able to accomplish that again. This time, with her forthcoming 'The Electric Lady' LP, she has quite a bit of help from the likes of the legendary Prince, Esperanza Spalding, Miguel, Solange and Erykah Badu -- who assisted her in thumping, feminist anthem, ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ ‘The Electric Lady' is due Sept. 10.
The topics throughout Toronto crooner The Weeknd’s discography range from drug-inspired, sex fantasies to various forms of seduction, with not much of anything past those two extremes. It can feel monotonous, and it has in certain points of his career, but you’d have to think back to that string of great mixtapes in 2011 that put him on the map to figure out why ‘Kiss Land’ is so anticipated in the first place. The Weeknd was able to twist that villainous narcissism inventively through the deceptive vulnerability of ‘House of Balloons,’ the experimentation of ‘Thursday,’ and the lyrical rawness and poeticism of ‘Echoes of Silence.’
Surely, The Weeknd couldn't have lost the spark in just two years, and his recent singles suggest that he hasn't. ‘Kiss Land’ combines blunt lyricism with lush, shifting production, while the Portishead-inspired drums of ‘Belong to the World’ only adds intensity to the atmosphere the singer constantly tries to build. If The Weeknd can bring it all together, ‘Kiss Land’ can succeed in portraying the natural irresistible allure of his nocturnal aesthetic. In other words, it’ll be a success.
'The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2'
How many people would’ve thought Justin Timberlake’s first album in seven years would be followed up in only a few months? Soon after the release of the excellent ‘The 20/20 Experience’ -- which sold an outstanding 968,000 copies in its first week -- Questlove broke news that a sequel was coming in November. Then it turned out the album wasn’t coming in November; Timberlake posted a photo on Instagram revealing the release date was Sept. 30. This is exciting not only because he’s Justin Timberlake -- one of the greatest pop icons of the past 10 years -- but because there's evidence he'll give fans another solid effort. The sequel’s first single, ‘Take Back the Night,’ is solid, as it mixes Michael Jackson influences with a sense of sophistication. This is how throwbacks are supposed to be done.