R&B is sounding awfully good these days. Frank Ocean’s infectious debut Channel Orangeand the return of standard-bearer D’Angelo have shown that the genre is creatively alive. But a slow-burning renaissance of sorts has been happening for years. The experimentation bubbling underground from acts like Ocean and The Weeknd has even seeped into the mainstream, giving Top 40 music a much-needed dose of innovation.
To give you a feel for what exactly “new R&B” might sound like, we’ve selected 10 fantastic modern takes on the R&B slow jam. Let your hair down, suspend your squeamishness for seduction, and have a listen.
1. Frank Ocean – “Thinking Bout You”
Like much of Channel Orange, structurally “Thinking Bout You” is straight R&B. But check out all the beautiful trappings, and you’ll see why Frank Ocean’s carrying the torch for creativity in the genre right now. That bass. Those heartwrenching string arrangements. All that that messy, distanced longing. It all comes together in feather-light, falsetto-ed chorus.
2. Rhye – “Open”
Very little is known about this European buzz band called Rhye. After soaking in these silky vocals and lovely violins, we hope that gets fixed in a hurry.
3. The Weeknd – “Rolling Stone”
When all the hype surrounding Abel Tesfaye and his manicured mystery settled, all the Internet had left was a set of dark, sleazy R&B songs. If loving the oozing debauchery of “Rolling Stone” is wrong, we don’t wanna be right.
4. Miguel – “Adorn”
This one comes off Miguel’s Art Dealer Chic EP Vol. 1, the first in a series of mixtapes the crooner released after he got a little too artsy for his record label. “Adorn” is an immaculate piece that channels old-school Prince.
5. Usher – “Climax”
Despite what the track name and Usher’s, ahem, tendencies might tell you, “Climax” has nothing to do with sex. Here, the mega star taps into all the best elements of his R&B roots with this wispy slow-burner, engineered by Diplo.
6.“Share My Love” by R. Kelly”
Okay, so this one’s not all that slow, but making a list on R&B without R. Kelly—godfather of smooth and purveyor of Soula Coaster— just wouldn’t be right. With this retro dance anthem “Share My Love,” R. Kelly finds himself back in his element, courting several women at a time in a club somewhere. Turns out time has stripped R. Kelly of all lyrical subtlety. “Now that we’re in this room/ let’s do what we were born to do.” Wait for it, wait for it….. “Populate!”
7.Michael Kiwanuka – “I’ll Get Along”
This gorgeous thing from rising folk-soul star Michael Kiwanuka sounds like it could have been laid down in a booth at Stax Studios in 1965. Kiwanuka placed first in BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll; fellow soul man Frank Ocean followed close behind in second.
8.JMSN – “Alone”
Usher has called JMSN his “favorite new act.” This dark, lush track takes a while to heat up, but once it gets to the chorus, it can’t be stopped.
9. Raphael Saadiq – “Good Man”
R&B and soul are cut from the same cloth, a commonality that’s happily proven on this track from the very-talented Raphael Saadiq.
10. Drake – “Marvins Room”
In this minimalist beauty, Drake sing-raps to an ex-flame he’s lured into his home and fed too many drinks, with awful consequences. Yes to the song; no thank you to the experience.