Top 5 R&B albums of the past decade

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Zulfiqar Ahmed

If there’s one genre that has experienced the most sweeping changes in the 2010s, it’s R&B.

By Zulfiqar Ahmed, Media Editor

The past decade produced some exceptional music that continues to define what the future of music is going to look like. R&B as a standalone genre of music has slowly diluted into multiple sub-genres, combining the instrument selection from hip-hop, vocal sonics from electronic music and so on and so forth. The genre has produced something for everyone in the past ten years. Here is a top 5 pick for some essential R&B albums that you must listen to.

PARTYNEXTDOOR – “PX1”

Since the day it was released in 2013, “PX1” set the trend of the R&B/Rap blend and pioneered the Trap R&B sound. PARTYNEXTDOOR’s production genius truly shined throughout the project as he layered his vocals and instruments carefully to create a rich, yet delicate sound that stays consistent throughout the album. Songs such as “Break from Toronto” helped bring mainstream success to the artist, however, hidden gems like “TBH,” “Right Now” and “Over Here,” which features label boss and music giant Drake, are some of the best songs off the project and are often sampled due to their longevity and evergreen sound.

SZA – “Ctrl”

SZA ambushed the R&B scene with her psychedelic and romantic vocals. “Ctrl” features airy tracks that discuss a lot of introspective themes, which makes it both a soothing and interesting listen at the same time. Tones of vulnerability and relatability make the listener feel nostalgic over memories that may not even exist. Every track is cohesive, has great transitions and also carries short skits for outros, which almost gives it a conversational feel. “The Weekend,” “Drew Barrymore” and “Love Galore,” featuring Travis Scott, are outstanding tracks. 

The Weeknd – “Trilogy”

The musical superstar’s early collection of mixtapes, now cumulatively called the “Trilogy” which comprises “House of Balloons,” “Thursday” and “Echoes of Silence,” is probably the most experimental project on this list. It completely encapsulates the essence of the character The Weeknd created, having an interesting dynamic between its lyrical content and the way the album sounds. Although the album is sad thematically, the music itself is often upbeat and energetic. This creates a unique listening experience that makes you want to listen with no skips. “Gone,” “The Knowing,” “XO” and “Lonely Star” are standout classics that turned his early listers into diehard fans.

dvsn – “SEPT 5TH”

Daniel Daley and Nineteen85 singer-producer duo from Canada known as dvsn introduced a whole new electronic aspect to R&B with their debut project released in 2016. The heavy use of vocal samples, influence of hip hop production and heartful hooks really take the project to a whole new level. Although released midway through the last decade, the energy and instrument choices throughout the album are very much reminiscent of music from the 2000s. “With Me,” “Too Deep” and “Hallucinations” are standout tracks on the album.

Rihanna – “ANTI”

Although most would argue the album is not exclusively R&B, the majority of the album consists of R&B and the remaining is heavily influenced by the same roots. With the lead single off the album “Work,” featuring Drake, the album had a diverse set of sounds to offer. The album aged like fine wine, with hard midnight jams like “Needed Me” and “Love On The Brain” only getting better with each listen. With only two features on the album, the entirety of the project truly exhibits Rihanna’s versatility.