Top 10 R&B Albums of 2006

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From the debut releases of pop success Ne-Yo and the soulful Corinne Bailey Rae to the much-hyped albums from Beyonce and John Legend, R&B in 2006 kept listeners tuned in while continuing to branch out even further. This year’s Top 10 R&B Albums feature artists of a diverse crowd. Some have smooth and soulful vocals accompanied by a piano or guitar. Some have hip-hop production and feature more dance tracks. Others are a part of the growing NeoSoul movement and songs are reminiscent of spoken word poetry. Although only some of the Top Ten Albums earned gold or platinum certification, the others can’t be discredited. Regardless of critical acclaim or the approach of the artist, R&B artists continue to make great music. Here are the Top 10 R&B Albums of 2006:

rnb_donnell.jpg10. Donell Jones – Journey of a Gemini
While Jones’ previous albums got airplay and he was even certified Platinum for Journey of a Gemini, he hasn’t seen nearly as much play as expected. Still, Jones’ album doesn’t disappoint. The first single, “Better Start Talking” features Jermaine Dupri and is more of an up-tempo joint compared to past singles. The smooth vocals that made him successful are still present, however, in tracks like “Portrait of a Woman” where he sings about respecting women and “Cry” where he tells young girls to save themselves until ready.

rnb_ciara.jpg9. Ciara – The Evolution
Even though The Evolution dropped less than a month before the cutoff, it has to be included on the list. As a more mature young woman, Ciara still uses Jazze Pha to produce her southern-style beats, but sounds like, well, she made an evolution. Ciara’s first single, “Get Up,” featuring Chamillionaire was hugely successful, and the second single, “Promise,” proved she still had hit making power in 2006.

rnb_lyfe.jpg8. Lyfe Jennings – The Phoenix
While the first single off The Phoenix went to #2 on the Billboard charts, the album quickly fell off. However, Lyfe Jennings’ raspy voice and easily relatable lyrics still combine for good music. In “S.E.X.”, Lyfe advises young girls to value themselves and wait until ready to have sex. Despite Lyfe’s tough demeanor, he is sensitive and deep. This shows in “Let’s Stay Together” and “Goodbye” when he sings about the pain of ending a relationship.

rnb_indiaarie.jpg7. India. Arie – Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship
Although an underestimated NeoSoul artist, Arie is still a Grammy winner and her latest album is headed the same way. “I Am Not My Hair” is a track about independence by not conforming to society’s physical expectations. As usual, Arie’s work is poetic and a refreshing change. Testimony has already earned Gold certification and is up for three Grammys.

rnb_justin.jpg6. Justin Timberlake – FutureSex/LoveSounds
Since J.T. split from N’Sync his music has been less pop and more R&B. With the assistance of his famous collabo partner Timbaland, Justin’s sophomore CD has already gone 2x Platinum. “Sexy Back” became a household term and “My Love” earned J.T. a spot on 106 & Park as it hovered the line between pop and hip-hop with a verse from T.I.

rnb_neyo.jpg5. Ne-Yo – In My Own Words
As one of the most popular new artists of ’06, Ne-Yo immediately became a pop sensation. His first single “So Sick” hit #1 on nearly every chart possible, and he was nominated for New Artist of the Year and Male Artist of the Year. “Sexy Love” also became hugely successful peaking at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. After the success of “So Sick”, In My Own Words went platinum after just 10 weeks.

rnb_corinne.jpg4. Corinne Bailey Rae – Corinne Bailey Rae
Coming out of nowhere, this girl is now playing in every coffee shop across the country. Perhaps one of the most unrecognized new talents, Rae’s self-titled debut album although released in February, did not gain mainstream attention until the end of ‘06. With “Put Your Records On” riding at the top of the charts and the album being certified 2x Platinum, Rae is getting the attention she deserves with three Grammy nominations in 2007.

rnb_beyonce.jpg3. Beyonce – B’day
With some help from S. Carter, B. has managed to turn her songs into R&B anthems. The first single “Déjà vu” featuring Jay-Z quickly moved up the Billboard charts and helped B’day debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 and Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop charts. Beyonce sings about how she could replace her deadbeat man “in a minute” on her single “Irreplaceable” and earned five Grammy nods for the album.

rnb_jonhl.jpg2. John Legend – Once Again
After a three-time Grammy award-winning debut album, Legend reclaimed his glory by releasing Once Again. With a more mature approach he tackles issues like doomed relationships in “Again” and war in “Coming Home.” He is nominated for Best R&B Male Vocal performance for “Heaven” and Male Pop Vocal Performance for “Save Room” for the 2007 Grammy Awards.

rnb_mjb.jpg1. Mary J. Blige – The Breakthrough
Although The Queen’s album, The Breakthrough, dropped 11 days prior to the start of 2006, this album is so classic it has to be number one. After a brief hiatus, Blige came back with one of the best in her career and was recently nominated for eight Grammy awards for the project. Aside from debuting at #1 on the R&B albums and Billboard 200 charts, her first single “Be Without You” topped both R&B and pop charts. In “Take Me As I Am” she sings about her struggles and finally being able to be herself in this “breakthrough” album.

Alexa Novachek

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