25. Bryson Tiller: “Anniversary”
Although far from his highest quality work, “Anniversary” still has some bright points and a couple of highlights of Bryson Tiller’s signature style. On the fifth anniversary of Tiller’s iconic studio album debut “Trapsoul,” his latest effort tried to capture much of the same magic, unfortunately to a lesser result. Inevitably, there are a handful of enjoyable songs scattered throughout the album, but overall there isn’t nearly the consistency and cohesion that made “Trapsoul” a higher quality project. From the name to the cover, the album clearly plays off of being a sequel of Tiller’s studio debut, but unfortunately there isn’t enough innovation or quality to warrant being more than in the shadows of it.
Favorite Songs: “Things Change,” “Timeless Interlude,” “I’m Ready For You”
24. Kehlani: “It Was Good Until It Wasn’t”
Kehlani has held a spot as one of the more prominent modern R&B artists for multiple years now, and “It Was Good Until It Wasn’t” was able to keep her at the forefront of R&B popularity. Though the album would have greatly benefited from more diversity in production and delivery, there are still a handful of quality songs and fairly cohesive arcs throughout the album. The sound of the album can be generic at times, but Kehlani’s voice and melodies are able to carry through the listen and result in a solid project.
Favorite Songs: “Can You Blame Me,” “Toxic,” “Everybody Business,” “Grieving”
23. Ro James: “Mantic”
Ro James’ “Mantic” gives a nod to traditional R&B/soul while also finding a way to innovate and blend in unconventional and modern production. Dark, moody and atmospheric, the second studio album of the German-born artist was able to successfully hold thematics and cohesion throughout. Individually, few of the songs stand out incredibly on their own, but the collective project helps to enhance the presence and placement of each track. “Mantic” might not be the most outstanding effort of the year, but Ro James still manages to put together a solid album that holds quality.
Favorite Songs: “Powder Room,” “Last Time,” “Plan B”
22. Xavier Omar: “if You Feel”
Xavier Omar’s vocal and artistic versatility was on full display with 2020’s “if You Feel.” The album blends many different elements of R&B, and allows Omar to shine in many different ways and keep his effortless vocals on full display. Great features from Masego and Mereba complement Omar’s style incredibly well and provide great versatility throughout the tracklist. The transitions between soul, pop, R&B and rap are effortless, and the variability provides aspects of the album that could truly be enjoyed by fans of any of these genres.
Favorite Songs: “want/need,” “Surf,” “All Our Time,” “Like I Feel”
21. Alicia Keys: “ALICIA”
“ALICIA” helps to continue the legacy of one of the most legendary R&B artists. Relative to her incredible discography, Alicia Keys’ seventh release might not be the most strong, but it still provides an impressive listen that was one of the better releases of the past year. An array of sounds and styles come together in a cohesive fashion that highlight Keys’ consistently great vocal delivery. Alicia Keys has shown an incredible consistency throughout her career, so “ALICIA” delivering a quality result is no surprise. It doesn’t feel like there is anything that is particularly new or shocking done on this album, but Keys is still able to put together quality songs supported by a great group of guest features.
Favorite Songs: “Gramercy Park,” “Me x 7,” “Love Looks Better,” “Wasted Energy”
Click here for a Spotify Playlist of some of my favorite R&B songs from 2020.