10. Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines (Released 26 March, 2013)
Robin Thicke jumped back onto the scene in a big way in 2013. He made a huge impact with his title track "Blurred Lines", which has become an invaluable record in the club. The album finds Thicke getting together with hip-hop heavyweights Pharrell, T.I., 2 Chainz, and Kendrick Lamar, and it's certainly helped him rejuvenate his career. Blurred Lines is a buffet of up-tempo bangers complete with Thicke's playfully soulful touch.
9. PARTYNEXTDOOR - PARTYNEXTDOOR (July 1st)
OVO Sound signee PartyNextDoor broke onto the music scene after "Over Here" (his track with Drake) started to buzz. The singer otherwise known as Jahron Anthony Brathwaite, although primarily exhibiting an R&B sound, has managed to effectively fuse his music hip-hop as well. The strongest aspect of this EP is the production, though. An eclectic sound is mixed with unusual beats, and futuristic synths that backdrop drug and strip club narratives. PND definitely shows potential, and may very well fit into the future of R&B.
8. JMSN - Pllaje (November 5th)
JMSN dropped his new EP Pllaje last month, which follows his debut album, last year's Priscilla. Although he set the bar high with his first offering, Pllaje certainly doesn't disappoint. This emerging Eastpointe, Michigan musician has dreamed up a glorious, soulful sound that is dark, edgy and completely futuristic.
7. Jhene Aiko - Sail Out EP (November 12th)
Jhene Aiko has been buzzing for a while now. Following collaborations with Big Sean, Drake, J. Cole and many other notable acts in hip-hop, Aiko is now making her name known. This EP showcases her flawless capabilities in both R&B and Soul, with her sugar sweet voice, graceful flow and effortless ability to mesh with emcees. Sail Out, which features multiple big names including Childish Gambino, Ab-Soul and Kendrick Lamar, but it's Jhene herself who has captured the hearts of many who are now anxiously awaiting her upcoming album Souled Out, which is due out next year.
6. August Alsina - The Product 2 (May 6th)
August Alsina delivered this mixtape in May, and the 14-track project really showed off the potential of this rising star. His versatility in R&B is clear - Alsina channels a hip-hop vibe while maintaining melodic vocals that are impossibly easy on the ear. He gets personal, expressing what he's been through in his troubled upbringing, and it rings true. It's obvious that a lot of effort went into the production as well, making this an all-around solid offering.
5. The Weeknd - Kiss Land (September 10th)
If you're well-acquainted with The Weeknd, it may be hard to believe he only released his first studio album this year. With production handled solely by DannyBoyStyles, Kiss Land exhibits Abel's signature in a major way. He released several solid tracks from the album in advance, among them "Belong To The World", "Kiss Land", and "Live For", which included the only feature on the project, his fellow Canadian artist Drake. The Weeknd did what he does best on this record, portraying the highs and lows of tour life, strip clubs, prostitutes and drugs. No one does it quite like him.
4. Ty Dolla $ign - Beach House 2 (July 1st)
New Taylor Gang signee Ty Dolla $ign dropped this mixtape just in time to provide us with some chilled out music for the summer. The singer/songwriter was accompanied by many big names, among them Wiz Khalifa (of course), Kid Ink, B.o.B and Chris Brown. There are both bangers and slow songs to nod along to here, and Ty manages to sound both sensual and downright dirty, many of the tracks finding him obsessing over sex. That's what R&B's all about though, right?
3. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience (March 15)
The 20/20 Experience album was a much awaited offering from Justin Timberlake, considering his 7-year hiatus from music. It's hard to believe that this is only his third solo studio album, seeing as he's a household name at this point. Working with Timbaland in a tried and tested partnership gave birth to yet another solid album, but what helped JT put his stamp on music in 2013 was his "Suit & Tie" collaboration with Jay Z, which helped spark the hype. Complete with dope beats and a few poppy tracks thrown in for good measure, Timberlake has provided a very commendable offering to the R&B canon with The 20/20 Experience.
2. The Dream - IV Play (May 28th)
The Dream gave us some perfect slow jams on this album with his glossy vocals and passion for the opposite sex. The singer showed us how much he likes to get down with ladies in tracks such as "Equestrian", using horseback riding as a metaphor for sex. In fact, perhaps unsurprisingly, this album focusses solely on lovemaking, with track titles such as "Pussy" and "Thirsty Whore". The inclusion of Beyonce and Kelly Rowland adds further sex appeal as well. The Dream also had a few of his hip-hop friends jump on the album, among them Pusha T, Big Sean and Jay Z, which gave several of the tracks an added edge. IV Play is an all-around solid effort from a low-key R&B master.
1. Beyonce - Beyonce (December 13th)
Despite all the hard work her competition has been putting in, Queen B swooped out of nowhere and stole the number one spot at the last minute! Mrs. Carter stunned the Internet after releasing what she's described as a "visual album" (simply titled Beyonce) last week. The record contains 17 tracks, all with accompanying videos, and there was no press campaign promoting it beforehand. The verdict? Many dope tracks, unique production and a new, more progressive Beyonce all make this one of the strongest projects of the year, period. Not to mention, it was amplified by several strong features, among them Drake, Frank Ocean and her family members Jay Z and baby Blue Ivy. The sales of this album have already blown much of this year's music out of the water, an Beyonce continues to break new records. New rules, indeed.
A breakdown of 10 of the finest R&B projects of 2013.
R&B is a genre that seems to be in a constant state of flux. It's certainly very different from what it was 20 years ago - these days, many artists tend to cross over into other genres, causing debate as to what truly constitutes R&B music.
Nonethless, we've received some dope offerings this year, both from artists making a comeback and those new to the scene. They've provided a varied and credible spread of R&B, flying the genre's flag proudly and continuing to bring us those sensual, smooth and oh-so-essential sounds.
Read on for our Hottest R&B Projects Of 2013 list.
(If you start to feel thirsty, check out our Sexiest Music Videos Of 2013 list.)