After careful consideration and binge listening on my favorite music streaming services, I have settled on my list of the most exciting and content-driven albums that oscillates between my favorite genres – Pop, R&B, Hip Hop and Contemporary Gospel.
#15: Alessia Cara’s Know-It-All
Her breakout confessional “Here” might make you think that her musical aesthetic sides more with fellow Canadian The Weeknd than Meghan Trainor but there is a depth to her songwriting and variation in tempo that will lure you into her world of female independence, self-realizations and . . . wait for it, dance euphoria.
#14: Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color
Their sophomore effort has only refined the best qualities of bluesy soul and a live guitar-driven, Americana rock show with cuts like “Future People,” “Gimme All Your Love” and “Gemini” that embrace the band’s southern roots. But the magic chiefly resides with the band’s frontwoman, Brittany Howard, who sings with such gut-busting honesty and pain, often channeling Janis Joplin with reckless abandon. It’s not wonder that this album has been nominated for a Grammy Award for this year’s category Album of the Year.
#13: Babyface’s The Return of the Tender Lover
As its title implies, Rhythm and Blues architect Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds comes back on the scene and he couldn’t sound any better. Coming off a star-studded Legend Award performance on this past Soul Train Music Awards, he continues to show how timelessness and content will never go out of style with songs like “We’ve Got Love,” “Exceptional,” and his mid-tempo duet with El DeBarge “Walking On Air.” Will this album be in heavy rotation at your family reunion this summer? Probably. But you might not mind it as much as you pretend to.
#12: Diddy’s MMM
Sean Combs aka “Diddy” aka “P. Diddy” aka “Puff Daddy” aka Dr. Combs pulls a Beyonce and dropped this album like a wonderful Christmas surprise and I couldn’t be happier. This gritty and lyrically buoyant project taps into Bad Boy Entertainment origins of East Coast ghetto fabulousity and entrepreneurial ambition with cuts like “Harlem,” “Workin,” and “Help Me.” Looking at the Billboard charts, we all know certain artists in the hip hop game who need this album just as a tutorial on how to embrace substance over Instagram likes. #ijs
#11: Miguel’s Wildheart
If Prince had a younger cousin who enjoyed creating R&B and Rock hybrids of blissful one-night stands, all-night house parties in LA and morning after haze, he would be Miguel. Instead of staying with the generic popular crowd, Miguel ventures deeper into guitar riffs and distortions of sound with songs like “…goingtohell,” “waves” and “Hollywood Dreams.” He proves that R&B – like any music genre – is a spectrum that every listener can sample without feeling empty.
#10: Madonna’s Rebel Heart
Keeping the theme of “heart,” the Queen of Pop returns channeling “Like A Prayer” gospel dance diva goddess with songs like “Devil Pray,” “Ghosttown” and “HeartBreakCity.” The clash of the sacred and profane collide as only Madonna can do it and it’s refreshingly introspective.