To borrow and remix a phrase from the late American word smith Mark Twain: reports of R&B’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Sure, R&B doesn’t have a chokehold on the Billboard charts as it once did back in the 90s or even the early 2000s, but, as evidenced by artists like SZA—whose sophomore album dropped after Billboard released its 2022 best-of list—the genre can still make an impact. And, sure, you can attribute a bit of that success to the fact that people were waiting half a decade for SOS. But singer/songwriter Victoria Monét proved that a follow-up album doesn’t need anything more than great songs (and a great team to work it).
Elsewhere, newer artists like Coco Jones and Khamari showed the depth and range of modern R&B. The running commentary is that the music is too toxic and dark; that’s not loving enough; that the artists are sangin’ like they used to sing. Well, all you have to do is listen to A Brief Nirvana or Cleo Sol’s Gold to see (or hear) that the mics are indeed on and that love is at the top of agenda. That’s not to say it’s all sunshine and heart emojis—Brent Faiyaz is still cooking, delivering a surprise mixtape that will be remembered as one of the year’s best.
Going through the releases this year, the Billboard staff couldn’t help but feel that not only was this was one of the best years for R&B releases in a long time, but that all the artists on this list show no signs of slowing down. The genre is in good health and good hands.
The following ranked list is 10 of our favorite R&B albums from 2023 (and, in SZA’s case, 2022).
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