In my constant pursuit to increase reader interactivity and excitement on The Lava Lizard, I am elated to introduce a new series to the site entitled Flaming Features. This segments allow you to participated in discussions with your fellow readers. Kicking off the fun with a bang is our list of the 10 greatest R&B albums of the last 10 years!
From Alicia Keys’ ‘The Diary of Alicia Keys’ to Usher’s ‘Confessions’, there have been several R&B albums that were both commercially successful and critically acclaimed. However, those aren’t the only points that were considered by The Lava Lizard team as we compiled this list of the greatest releases.
Perhaps, the most important facet was the impact of these albums on the genre of R&B music, fellow artists and the fabric of Pop culture. Focusing primarily on those records released during the 2002-2011 period, this list focuses on those efforts that were critical to the development of R&B.
So, without further sugar-fueled rambling by me, see the list of the 10 greatest R&B albums of the last 10 years below:
10. The-Dream – ‘Love vs. Money’
The-Dream released his ‘Love vs. Money’ album in 2009 to major fanfare from critics across the board. Although the album was not as commercially successful as its ‘Love Hate’ predecessor, it inspired the musical stylings of several artists in the field of Hip-Hop and R&B, such as Drake, Chris Brown, The Weeknd and Frank Ocean.
In fact, the demand for The-Dream’s sound was so great that he happily recreated it while writing music for other acts. Just listen to Ciara’s ‘Basic Instinct’ and Mariah Carey ‘Memoirs of An Imperfect Angel’ albums if you have any doubt.
Standout tracks: ‘Fancy’, ‘Put it Down’, ‘Walking on the Moon (ft. Kanye West)’, ‘Mr. Yeah’ and ‘Rockin’ That Shit’.
9. Maxwell – ‘BLACKsummers’night’
After an 8-year hiatus from the industry, Maxwell finally returned in 2009 with his highly anticipated ‘BLACKsummers’night’ album. Boasting the sounds of traditional R&B, Soul and Quiet Storm, the record showcased the Maxwell at his best as he modernised the music of his inspirations – Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and Al Green.
What truly made ‘BLACKsummers’night’ great, however, was Maxwell’s unfiltered vocal performances and brilliant musicianship. Without question, this record cemented his position as a giant among far less talented men, and he has the Grammy Awards to prove it!
Standout tracks: ‘Bad Habits’, ‘Pretty Wings’, ‘Fistful of Tears’ and ‘Stop the World’.
8. Mary J. Blige – ‘The Breakthrough’
Mary J. Blige enjoyed consistent success on the charts throughout her early career but the album that truly defined her position among the great R&B artists of our time was 2005′s ‘The Breakthrough’. Bold and honest, the LP introduced the world to a singer who was finally comfortable in her own skin.
‘The Breakthrough’ gave us the best of a ‘happy’ Blige and despite bass-heavy cuts, such as ‘Enough Cryin”, she had adopted a more commercial R&B sound than her previous darker works. Indeed, this album was even good enough to help us forget her somewhat disappointing ‘Love & Life’ record.
Standout tracks: ‘Be Without You’, ‘Enough Cryin”, ‘Take Me As I Am’ and ‘One (Ft. U2)’.
7. Brandy – ‘Full Moon’
Throughout the 1990s, Brandy enjoyed massive success as the sugary sweet face of the R&B teen scene. More approachable than Monica and nowhere near as daring as Aaliyah, she was the Sunday school princess that our parents were happy to welcome into their homes.
Yet, Brandy revamped her style in 2002 – both vocally and musically – and presented a mature artist who was ready to embrace womanhood via her ‘Full Moon’ album. Wielding a darker and huskier voice, she experimented with different aspects of her artistry and accessed an entirely new audience of fans.
Standout tracks: ‘Full Moon’, ‘What About Us?’, ‘Nothing’ and ‘Love Wouldn’t Count Me Out’.
6. Justin Timberlake – ‘Future Sex/Love Sounds’
I know what you’re thinking: “what in the name of sweet baby Pikachu is Justin Timberlake doing on this list?” Well, despite this stint in ‘N Sync as a Bubblegum Pop star, ‘FutureSex/LoveSounds’ was still an R&B album at its core.
Inspired by the works of Prince, Michael Jackson and Timbaland, the last of whom co-produced the entire album, ‘FutureSex/LoveSounds’ depicted Timberlake at his best. He may be grossly overrated when compared to true icons but this album is certainly worth a mention on any list, thanks to clever mixes of R&B, Electro Pop and Hip-Hop.
Standout tracks: ‘My Love (Ft. T.I.)’, ‘SexyBack (Ft. Timbaland’, ‘What Goes Around…’ and ‘Until the End of Time’.
5. Beyonce – ‘Dangerously in Love’
Destiny’s Child was obviously put together so Beyonce could eventually launch her solo career and that is exactly what she did with 2003′s ‘Dangerously in Love’ album. Including the inescapable hits ‘Crazy in Love’ and ‘Baby Boy (Ft. Sean Paul)’, the record is still arguably the best in the diva’s catalogue and one of the most impressive debut efforts of our time.
Scott Storch, Rich Harrison and several other top songwriters in the game were commissioned to give Beyonce the best music possible and her unique sassy delivery made those songs guilty pleasures. This is the Beyonce that true fans of R&B music miss.
Standout tracks: ‘Me, Myself & I’, ‘Crazy in Love’, ‘Naughty Girl’, ‘Speechless’ and ‘Be With You’.
4. Destiny’s Child – ‘Destiny Fulfilled’
Shortly after launching her solo career, Beyonce temporarily rejoined Destiny’s Child for one final album. ‘Destiny Fulfilled’ was released in 2004 and unlike the group’s previous efforts, all of the members got the chance to sing and pretend that Beyonce wasn’t the star of the show.
Slick harmonies and clever lyrics replaced the generic Pop-oriented hooks of Destiny’s Child’s previously released ‘Survivor’ album, thus presenting the trio as mature and well-rounded artists on ‘Destiny Fulfilled’. We even got to see Kelly Rowland shine on centre stage as she gave us false hope for a solo career that never properly materialised.
Standout tracks: ‘If’, ‘Through with Love’, ‘T-Shirt’, ‘Lose My Breath’ and ‘Cater 2 U’.
3. Alicia Keys – ‘The Diary of Alicia Keys’
Don’t you just miss the good old days when Alicia Keys’ voice was still sweet, her hair was in braids and she walked with a gangster lean? We all miss that time but at least we still have ‘The Diary of Alicia Keys’ to remind of that not so distant past.
Crafted before Keys was introduced to her now overused drum set, ‘The Diary of Alicia Keys’ was a testament of an artist was eager to express herself without trying to match some imaginary standard of perfection. Better yet, this album was not a cheap knockoff of Sade’s greatest hits. Rather, it was just a woman spilling her heart over a collection of keys and unforgettable melodies.
Standout tracks: ‘Diary’, ‘Karma’, ‘If I Ain’t Got You’, ‘You Don’t Know My Name’ and ‘Heartburn’.
2. Usher – ‘Confessions’
This list of greatest R&B albums would be incomplete if Usher’s ‘Confessions’ was omitted. By far the biggest-selling R&B album of the last 10 years, this disc broke almost every record possible and launched Usher to the status of a global superstar.
Every single from ‘Confessions’ was a hit and Usher was at the top of playlists across the media outlets for almost 2 years. He hasn’t been able to match the success of this album but he would be silly if he tried.
Jermaine Durpri, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and Lil Jon were the masterminds behind ‘Confessions’. No wonder it was such a colossal success!
Standout tracks: ‘Caught Up’, ‘Burn’, ‘Yeah!’, ‘Bad Girl’ and ‘Confessions Part II’.
1. Mariah Carey – ‘The Emancipation of Mimi’
You knew ‘The Emancipation of Mimi’ would be at the top of this lineup so don’t even try to act surprised. Released in 2005, this album relaunched Mariah Carey’s cooling career and helped her to reclaim her crown as the industry’s ruling diva.
Without attempting to recreate her past works, Carey unleashed the full force of her range on ‘Mimi’ with a glorious combination of R&B, Soul, Funk and Gospel. Best of all, she was being herself without trying to fit in with the younger generation of competing artists.
Of course, we all know the monster hit ‘We Belong Together’ off ‘Mimi’ but it’s commercial success wasn’t the only reason it was great; it was the music. The song redefined the modern R&B ballad with its mid-tempo production and influenced the works of several artists in subsequent years, such as Alicia Keys (‘No One’), Mary J. Blige (‘Be Without You’) and Leona Lewis (‘Bleeding Love’). ‘Mimi’ is the perfect representation of Carey’s legacy.
Standout tracks: ‘We Belong Together’, ‘Stay the Night’, ‘Mine Again’, ‘Get Your Number’ and ‘Fly like a Bird’.
Now, it’s your turn to join the fun! Which of these albums is the best? Which albums should be moved down the list or omitted? What other albums should have been added to the list? Share your opinions and take part in our poll below!