Best and Worst R&B Moments of 2015
It looks like we'll be finishing 2015 without a certain someone finally releasing his album. That's fine, though. Frank Ocean can take as long as he wants (but not too long) because R&B gave us quite a few things to talk about this year.
The genre didn't have as big of a year as hip-hop, but it was notable for its huge comebacks. Then there was The Weeknd, who blew up from a mixtape niche to a pop superstar. Miguel was doing his thing, too.
Overall, it was a good year for R&B. So without further ado, here are the Best and Worst R&B Moments of 2015.
For some reason, declaring that you’re the best at your job is controversial. Miguel, not too long after dropping the excellent WILDHEART, declared that he was an artist than Frank Ocean. “I wouldn’t say we were friends,” Miguel told The Sunday Times. “To be completely honest — and no disrespect to anyone — I genuinely believe that I make better music, all the way around.” Of course, this isn’t a slight to Ocean, whose channel ORANGE is still one of the best albums of the decade. But this is an era when many are declaring R&B is dead. Competitiveness like this resuscitate the genre.
The Houston-Brown family suffered another tragedy at the beginning of the year. Bobbi Kristina Brown was found unresponsive in a bathtub on Jan. 31. The news was made even more shocking by how similar her mother, the late Whitney Houston, was found dead in a bathtub in 2012. Sadly, the 22-year-old singer-actress never made it out of her coma, passing away in a hospice on July 26. There was plenty of family drama during the months in between. Also, Bobbi Kristina’s boyfriend Nick Gordon may face criminal charges in relation to her death. The news and rumors does not change how Houston and Bobby Brown lost their only daughter at such a young age.
That Janet Jackson has hits for days and is supremely talented isn’t up for debate. But one thing that makes Jackson’s discography stand out is how from Control through The Velvet Rope reads like a coming-of-age story. Her art is transformative, so people didn’t doubt Jackson had more in store during her seven-year hiatus after Discipline. The quiet storm of “No Sleeep” hinted that Jackson was still on her game. Although Unbreakable didn’t follow in that Janet.-era vein, it didn’t disappoint. It featured a Jackson that was reflective, sensual, optimistic, but above all, compelling. Unbreakable became Jackson’s seventh No. 1 album of her career.
On Feb. 27, Charmayne Maxwell passed away at the age of 46 following a brutal freak accident: A piece of glass cut her throat when she fell in her home. Maxwell was a member of the R&B trio Brownstone. The group was signed to Michael Jackson’s MJJ Music label. Although they had a decent number of hits through the ‘90s, Brownstone is mostly known for the ballad “If You Love Me.” Toronto star Tory Lanez sampled it on his recent single, "Say It."
R&B lost a star when Jazmine Sullivan announced in 2011 that she was leaving music: "I promised myself when it wasn't fun anymore I wouldn't do it. And, here I am. I'm not saying I won't ever sing again in my life because I don't believe that. But in this moment...right now...[I] got some things to figure out.” The sabbatical only lasted four years. Sullivan returned with Reality Show, which arguably featured the best singing performance on a studio album this year.
While singers try to be actors and rappers try to sing, Patti LaBelle chose to make sweet potato pies. Pre-packaged pies usually get a bad rep, but after a video of a man’s singing endorsement to eating one of LaBelle’s pies went viral, the dessert was a delectable hit. However, LaBelle didn’t attributed the success to the potential of black business instead of YouTube. “We black folks, we don’t spend our money on anything unless we know it’s phenomenal,” LaBelle said. “It’s like a black woman with a weave - she ain’t gonna get that weave and spend all her money for it unless it’s a great weave. And the same thing with the power of the dollar with black food - and it’s not just black people buying it, but we’re showing them the power of the black dollar. And it’s priceless.”
Erykah Badu and Andre 3000’s relationship is one of the most fabled in hip-hop. Three Stacks spoke about the fallout in “Ms. Jackson,” a letter to Badu’s mother. Badu had their only son Seven and drew from the relationship for the 10-minute “Green Eyes.” However, their bohemian creative styles reconnected once again on Badu's mixtape But U Caint Use My Phone. On “Hello,” a cover of the Isley Brothers' song "Hello It's Me," Badu and Andre 3000 revealed that they’re kindred spirits and their (platonic) love for each other remains the same.
Anybody who’s a music fan has heard the bass line and Ben E. King’s howls on “Stand By Me.” Back in May, the creator of one of the greatest songs ever died at the age of 76. Songs like “Amor" and "The Beginning of Time" were also hits, but it’s “Stand by Me” that rests at the center of his legend. He was enshrined in the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009.
Frank Ocean got into our hearts by releasing an excellent album in channel ORANGE. Three years later, he’s playing with them. After hinting at a July release date, the R&B crooner's second album still hasn’t dropped. It’s unfortunate because not only is he one of this generation’s great songwriters, but his cover of Aaliyah’s "(At Your Best) You Are Love" shows he has so much more to share with his fans.
Those who’ve listen to the Weeknd's quality mixtapes knew the Canadian singer was something special. But a pop star? Probably not. However, that’s been The Weeknd’s ambition. After Kiss Land failed to impress, the Weeknd retooled his sound for something slicker. He linked up with pop mastermind Max Martin, got a song on the 50 Shade of Grey soundtrack and pulled back a bit on the moodiness. The end results was two No. 1 hit songs with “Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills.” His fantastic album, Beauty Behind the Madness, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.
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