This time last January, we were rubbing hands together for what we thought was an imminent Beyoncé album. She topped our 2013 list of the most anticipated R&B projects on the calendar, but nearly 12 months would go by without a release.
We hit “publish” on our year-end lists, made resolutions we were bound to bail on and planned new lists for a New Year. It would’ve been a great 12 months for the genre anyway: K. Michelle held down the ’hood with sensual street-thumpers like “V.S.O.P.,” Robin Thicke channeled Marvin Gaye on the inescapable “Blurred Lines” and Jhené Aiko spoke our language with her Sail Out EP, for real. But Bey was determined to leave her impression on the final 2013 tally. Her midnight surprise breathed new life into the proceedings and, suddenly, nothing was the same.
Here’s to more (pleasant) surprises in 2014.
“This is a guy who has the ability to change things, and for him to change things, he has to follow his intuition,” Christian Clancy said.
“I love that about the album: It’s so relatable for guys, girls, kids, adults,” Varner told MTV News in 2012. It’s like the human experience. I think that’s my gift in this world is to put experience into music.”
The Los Angeles native made noise last year with a series of noteworthy co-signs, from signing to No I.D.’s Atrium imprint to an opening slot on Drake’s Would You Like a Tour? jaunt. But none of that would have been possible without her real-talk lyricism (Aiko penned every track, including verses like “We make love, and then we f—, and then you give me my space”) and clear-as-crystal soprano (stream “Stay Ready (What a Life”) featuring Kendrick Lamar).
The “90210” star and producer Salaam Remi revived the ’90s essence of the Rotten Apple on New York: A Love Story. The actor-turned-singer/MC hails from gritty Staten Island, a hometown he lovingly put on display in a 2013 documentary that took some of the polish off the Hollywood heartthrob.
And we don’t know about you, but we couldn’t go anywhere without hearing Mack’s falsetto-fueled “Own It,” with that driving Eric B and Rakim sample and a throwback sound that feels somehow very right now. We can’t even imagine Ne-Yo on the record. More please.
Features from Nas, R. Kelly, The-Dream and Q-Tip, along with Rodney Jerkins and Jermaine Dupri behind the boards, ensure more of the same.
Is it even possible to follow up an instant-classic like “Adorn”? We’re ready to hear Miguel try.
Sampha’s vocals always come to you as if at a far-off distance and are impossible to shake. A full-length of his brand of electronic soul is definitely in order for 2014 for the singer’s Young Turks label.
The EP followed years of tiresome, if inevitable, comparisons to superstar sister Bey. Eventually, the younger Knowles teamed with Dev Hynes and found the recipe for a sound all her own: a blissful mix of everything from soul, pop, indie and afrobeat. “I walked in and Dev was standing there, playing this beat, and it was like a light bulb went off<' she said of their very first introduction. "I thought, 'That's the sound I've been waiting for.' "
Check the veteran duo’s vintage 1992 “Arsenio” performance if you needed proof that Love, Marriage & Divorce, due February 7, is two decades overdue. Braxton and Babyface first generated heat last year with their chart-topping collab, “Hurt You.”