The end of 2017 may have seen us enter a new golden era for R&B. The past few years have been characterized by a more futuristic sound with the likes of PartyNextDoor and Bryson Tiller leading the charge in a variation to the genre. Despite it being overwhelmingly popular amongst all fans alike, the classic R&B fan often pondered if this was going to be the new prevailing sound. We questioned if the traditional R&B/Soul that we know and love would slowly fizzle out and be replaced by a “trappier”, more rap orientated version of the sound. However, many artists have clung to these roots, releasing music to a more muted reception over the past few years, yet have developed a strong core following which has enabled and encouraged them to keep releasing excellent material. This persistence has finally been met by an appreciation from the masses as larger publications have started to take notice. A slew of new artists have now risen to the forefront of R&B, and are putting out incredible, timeless music. We’ve always appreciated these artists at Bespoke, and as a result, have decided to take the unbelievably difficult task of picking our top ten R&B songs for the year. Check out our top ten below now:
10. Syd – Know
The Internet’s lead singer, Syd, dropped her debut album Fin and with it, we gained a closer look at Syd’s life and her independent capabilities as a songstress. What I loved most about Fin is the newness in the sound Syd shared on the project – one that was different to what we’ve heard previously with The Internet. The song that impressed me the most on the album was “Know”, the song was a sound that was completely new to what we know of Syd but was one she was completely comfortable with and delivered effortlessly. The song reminded me of that Aaliyah/Timbaland sound we loved in the early 2000s but with Syd’s own unique vibes. Words by Gerald.
9. Snoh Aalegra – Time
Many may know of “Time” as it was sampled on Drake’s “Do Not Disturb” off of his much-loved playlist, More Life. While the sample did a great job in bringing attention to the alluring Snoh Aalegra, the actual track itself is an exceptional piece of music. Its stripped back approach; with just Snoh’s mesmerising vocals and a hypnotising piano create this warming sound that you can’t ignore. What’s most beautiful is Snoh’s lyrics, who when she spoke to us, mentioned the song is about the passing of her father and is a song that she holds dear to her heart; hence why the lyrics are so profound. Words by Gerald.
8. Brent Faiyaz – Talk 2 U
Off the back of having the best chorus of 2017, with his feature on Goldlink’s “Crew”, Brent Faiyaz dropped his debut album Sonder Son to rapturous appreciation. The album brought a fresh sound to today’s R&B game and further exemplified Faiyaz’ unique and infectious vocals that got our attention on “Crew”. While the album had many highlights, “Talk 2 U” is easily the standout track from the album. There’s something about the song that teleports me back to the early 2000s when R&B was dominated by the likes of Jon B with its rich grooves and calming melody. Faiyaz’ croons are soft but hypnotic and the lyrics can make a man want to call up bae and tell her how he really feels. For that reason, this song has to make the list. Words by Gerald
7. Daniel Caesar – We Find Love
In my opinion, Daniel Caesar dropped the best project of 2017 with Freudian. The album from start to finish is a journey of someone who’s fallen in and out of love with someone and we really get presented the picture of Caesar’s beautiful struggle. Honestly, any of the songs on the album could make this list but one of the songs that really stuck out to me was “We Find Love”. Here Caesar really displays all his abilities on the track and showing his musical nuance by summoning an alluring choir that provides the gospel sound that we hear on the track. I’m not an emotional guy, but this song really hits me, man and I really could feel the turbulence that existed in Caesar’s relationship. Words by Gerald.
6. Khalid – Location
While he’s still a teenager, Khalid has mastered the sound of retro-soul but with a completely modern twist. The El Paso-native is one of the main hopes for contemporary R&B and his single “Location” is the leading example of why he’s the next to take R&B to a new direction. His calming voice over the minimalist production perfectly complement each other, but the winner is it’s simple but catchy chorus that’s stolen our hearts in 2017. Words by Gerald.
5. Miguel – Come Through and Chill
Miguel is one of the pioneers of alt R&B and has gifted us a plethora of classic tracks that many 20-somethings would consider to be some of their favourite tracks of all time. While he is a pioneer of alt R&B, Miguel doesn’t shy away from traditional-soul and that’s exemplified with “Come Through and Chill” produced by the legendary Salaam Remi. The song is so mellowing and really makes you want to call your lover on a Friday evening, light some candles, get some incense burning and get down. Words by Gerald.
4. H.E.R – Lights On
The enigmatic H.E.R, has consistently put out excellent R&B music for the past two years. In a world of oversaturation of visual content, the 19 year olds mysterious persona has proven to be the right approach, allowing a core fan-base to build, who appreciate her solely for her music. Releasing Vol.2 of her self-titled project in 2017, the final song on the tape, which makes our no.8, is “Lights On”. A sensual song co-produced by GRADES, they both combine over his characteristic, spaced out synths, with H.E.R’s lustful, elongated croons complementing the instrumental perfectly. Words by TP.
3. Sabrina Claudio – Belong to You
Sabrina Claudio’s sumptuous “Belong To You”, is just one of many songs we could have chosen from her stellar debut mixtape, About Time, to feature on our top 10 list. The song is simply a masterpiece, from beginning to end, showcasing her creativity, the spine of the song her alluring and seductive humming, with Stint’s stripped back production providing the perfect backdrop to lay her vocals down upon. The track, along with the visual, oozes with sex appeal and seemingly states her attraction for her other half, yet what is interesting, is the subject of the song is herself. It’s a clever message of self-love, and the sentiment only increases with the crescendo of Stint’s strings near the finale of the track, evoking a strong emotional reaction in the listener. Words by TP.
2. Daniel Caesar – Hold Me Down
Those of you who are well versed in gospel music will be aware of Kirk Franklin’s “Hold Me Now” hence why the legendary gospel artist is featured on the track. On Freudian we hear a lot of Daniel’s gospel roots – as mentioned above about “We Found Love” – and here we can really hear gospel’s influence in the latter part of the song when Daniel croons the lyrics “hold me down”. And it’s this that makes the song so special for me, his ability to create chilling musical moments on the song through his vocals, backing singers and instrumentation choices. Freudian is an experience and “Hold Me Down” is the climax of that experience. Words by Gerald.
1. Mahalia – Sober
2017 has been a glorious year for R&B, particularly British R&B which seen a host of incredibly talented singers bless us with amazing sounds. For me, the one who’s blessed us the most has to be Mahalia with her debut single “Sober”. Everything about this song is near perfect; the lyrics, the vocals, the production, the melody etc. “Sober” is a song that we can all relate to as Mahalia finds herself drunk dialling an ex and letting her feelings run free and that’s one of the song’s many qualities; its relatability. Add the fact that Mahalia’s performance of “Sober” on COLORS was breathtaking and helped the track to go viral and in turn be one of the best tracks of 2017.