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 yearâ€™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 canâ€™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:
10. Donell Jones – Journey of a Gemini
While Jonesâ€™ previous albums got airplay and he was even certified Platinum for Journey of a Gemini, he hasnâ€™t seen nearly as much play as expected. Still, Jonesâ€™ album doesnâ€™t disappoint. The first single, â€œBetter Start Talkingâ€ 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 â€œPortrait of a Womanâ€ where he sings about respecting women and â€œCryâ€ where he tells young girls to save themselves until ready.
9. Ciara â€“ 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. Ciaraâ€™s first single, â€œGet Up,â€ featuring Chamillionaire was hugely successful, and the second single, â€œPromise,â€ proved she still had hit making power in 2006.
8. Lyfe Jennings â€“ The Phoenix
While the first single off The Phoenix went to #2 on the Billboard charts, the album quickly fell off. However, Lyfe Jenningsâ€™ raspy voice and easily relatable lyrics still combine for good music. In â€œS.E.X.â€, Lyfe advises young girls to value themselves and wait until ready to have sex. Despite Lyfeâ€™s tough demeanor, he is sensitive and deep. This shows in â€œLetâ€™s Stay Togetherâ€ and â€œGoodbyeâ€ when he sings about the pain of ending a relationship.
7. 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. â€œI Am Not My Hairâ€ is a track about independence by not conforming to societyâ€™s physical expectations. As usual, Arieâ€™s work is poetic and a refreshing change. Testimony has already earned Gold certification and is up for three Grammys.
6. Justin Timberlake â€“ FutureSex/LoveSounds
Since J.T. split from Nâ€™Sync his music has been less pop and more R&B. With the assistance of his famous collabo partner Timbaland, Justinâ€™s sophomore CD has already gone 2x Platinum. â€œSexy Backâ€ became a household term and â€œMy Loveâ€ earned J.T. a spot on 106 & Park as it hovered the line between pop and hip-hop with a verse from T.I.
5. Ne-Yo â€“ In My Own Words
As one of the most popular new artists of â€™06, Ne-Yo immediately became a pop sensation. His first single â€œSo Sickâ€ hit #1 on nearly every chart possible, and he was nominated for New Artist of the Year and Male Artist of the Year. â€œSexy Loveâ€ also became hugely successful peaking at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. After the success of â€œSo Sickâ€, In My Own Words went platinum after just 10 weeks.
4. 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, Raeâ€™s self-titled debut album although released in February, did not gain mainstream attention until the end of â€˜06. With â€œPut Your Records Onâ€ 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.
3. Beyonce â€“ Bâ€™day
With some help from S. Carter, B. has managed to turn her songs into R&B anthems. The first single â€œDÃ©jÃ vuâ€ featuring Jay-Z quickly moved up the Billboard charts and helped Bâ€™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 â€œin a minuteâ€ on her single â€œIrreplaceableâ€ and earned five Grammy nods for the album.
2. John Legend â€“ 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 â€œAgainâ€ and war in â€œComing Home.â€ He is nominated for Best R&B Male Vocal performance for â€œHeavenâ€ and Male Pop Vocal Performance for â€œSave Roomâ€ for the 2007 Grammy Awards.
1. Mary J. Blige â€“ The Breakthrough
Although The Queenâ€™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 â€œBe Without Youâ€ topped both R&B and pop charts. In â€œTake Me As I Amâ€ she sings about her struggles and finally being able to be herself in this â€œbreakthroughâ€ album.