2014 was a pretty solid year for R&B music. Rhythm and blues comes in all forms and has many different sounds. I definitely don’t mind hearing soul music blended with hip-hop, as long as traditional R&B still has a place in the music world. For everyone complaining about the state of R&B music, just relax. Yes, there needs to be a fair balance of all the forms of R&B, but no one should dictate what R&B music should sound like. Music should never be defined by one sound. It should never be limited. It should be as creative as possible, go beyond all boundaries, and push the envelope as much as possible. Music is art; it should be treated as such. There were a lot of great R&B songs released this year. The music may have evolved but the subject manners have remained the same. Whether artists were singing about relationships or personal triumph, the storytelling in R&B is still strong. Rhythm and blues will always be the foundation of all music genres. Without further ado, here’s my countdown of this year’s best R&B songs.
Number Five: “Stronger” by Tank. Tank really shined on this song. Lyrically, it is inspiring and motivating. Tank painted a great picture in regards to personal triumph, and defeating all the odds. I’m sure we all can relate to having to prove our worth. As always, Tank’s vocals are powerful and seem effortless.”Stronger” was produced by Infinity and written by Tank.
Number Four: “Let Me Know” by Tamar Braxton featuring Future. When I first heard Future was on this song, I hesitated a little bit. I hesitated because I didn’t think Future would be a good fit on a Tamar record. I was wrong! The song arrangers of “Let Me Know” wisely placed Future on the chorus, and the song came out beautifully. Tamar’s vocals are flawless, and she owned every part of this mid-tempo track.
Number Three: “Hope” by Jagged Edge. Jagged Edge came back with a bang! “Hope” was officially their first single after reuniting with Jermaine Dupri. The song falls under the more traditional R&B sound, and it is a soulful masterpiece. Jagged Edge has always managed to give their fans simple, yet powerful lyrics. Hope she don’t just see a thug when she sees me/ hope she can see all this love that I’m filled with/ all I wanna do is/ come up with this little plan/ put her hope back in a man. Vocally, the ‘Jagged Edge boys’ are on top of their game.
Number Two: “Ring Off” by Beyoncé. Beyoncé surprised us all, again, by dropping a new single late this year. We all know who Beyoncé was singing about in “Ring Off.” The song is obviously a record about her mom and dad’s former relationship. The message is clear: “ ladies, if your man isn’t treating you right, take that ring off.” The melodic tone of this song works perfectly. It’s not aggressive or male bashing. “Ring Off” is about female empowerment. It seems Beyoncé just can’t be stopped.
Number One: “Options” by Luke James. Wow! I don’t know where to begin. Luke James simply dominated the R&B world with his song “Options.” I can’t remember the last time I heard such compelling song lyrics. I’m a man of simple knowledge/ she’s a woman that’s prone to violence/ it used to be something beautiful/ red flags regardless/ and love used to be our vehicle/ but now there’s too much mileage. The song plays out like a movie. I can envision and feel every note that Luke James sings. This generation didn’t have a powerhouse male vocalist until Luke James came along. I literally listened to “Options” a hundred times a day. Because of the vocal arrangements, production, songwriting, and superb singing, “Options” is my favorite R&B song of the year. (Honorable Mention: “Hollywood Dreams” by Miguel.)