There are so many flavors and colors that R&B can present, and even when you think you have a grasp on what they all are, a new shade seems to arise and insert itself in the mix. Truthfully, that’s the beauty of the genre. Its biggest names find new ways to represent it while up-and-coming artists do their best to show what its future could look like in a few years. In just the first six months of 2022, R&B put forth a diverse palette of albums that leaves every fan with something to find and enjoy.
The Weeknd kicked things off this year by diving into a world of ’80s-inspired synthpop tunes with Dawn FM while New York singer Amber Mark arrived with the funk-driven Three Dimensions Deep for her long-awaited debut. In the months that followed, Kehlani found serenity with Blue Water Road, Lucky Daye satisfied his sweet tooth on Candydrip, and Nija worked her magic to skillfully combine drill and R&B for Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You. Yet, that’s not even half of the great music we’ve received so far in 2022.
So, without further ado, here are the fifteen best R&B projects of 2022 so far in alphabetical order.
Alex Isley & Jack Dine — Marigold
Alex Isley’s last full body of work arrived in 2015 with Luxury. Since then, it was EPs and small projects alike that kept her audience entertained. With Marigold, Isley reunites with producer Jack Dine for a project as rich as her soothing vocals. Marigold arrives with a concise nine songs to its name, but through the almost 30-minute experience, Alex and Jack whisk listeners away to a serene garden filled with the very marigold flowers that their latest body of work is named after. Whether it’s the absolutely sweet confession of love on “Love Again” or the question of its existence on “Still Wonder,” Alex and Jack hit the nail on the head on Marigold and it’s all we could ask for from the duo. — Wongo Okon
Amber Mark — Three Dimensions Deep
Amber Mark showed her potential with her 2017 and 2018 EPs 3:33am and Conexao, but it would be almost four years until we saw the true beauty of her artistry. Her debut Three Dimensions Deep arrived as a magical collection of records that documented a leap of faith towards a new love. While she shows her hesitance to commit on “Most Men,” Mark later freefalls onto cloud nine on “Out Of This World.” Altogether, it’s an excellent tale that proves Mark is one to pay attention to in the foreseeable future. – W.O.
Blxst — Before You Go
With his first full-length project Before You Go, Blxst confirmed that well-crafted bodies of work are something you can expect from him at each go-around. Following 2020’s No Love Lost and 2021’s Sixtape 2 with Bino Rideaux, Blxst stuck to the recipe that’s brought him success in his career (because “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” right?). However, with Before You Go, the West Coast crooner elevates his game for a project that sees him enjoying the last few moments of the life he knows before his impending launch to stardom. Blxst arrives with a new view of the world thanks to the success he’s rightfully enjoyed, and despite this, the hunger for more is still alive and well within him, something that’s a critical contributor to what makes Before You Go so good. — W.O.
Devvon Terrell — Boys Don’t Cry
Boys Don’t Cry uses various snippets of young Devvon Terrell speaking with his family members to emphasize what he is singing (and rapping a bit) about over the 13-song album. You can find Terrell confident and happy with his progression on “Better” featuring Kai Ca$h, coping with the reality he is competing for a highly coveted woman’s attention on “Popular,” and being so in love with his partner that he’ll accept infidelity so long as he isn’t aware of it on “Let It Go.” Whether listeners agree with his perspectives throughout Boys Don’t Cry or not, the one undeniable thing is the Brooklyn artist possesses an unparalleled level of clarity and vulnerability. – Armon Sadler
Ella Mai — Heart On My Sleeve
We love a no skip album and Ella Mai gave us just that with her sophomore release Heart On My Sleeve. Four years prior, the UK singer broke out with her hit “Boo’d Up” and delivered her self-titled debut album, which felt a bit tepid. Heart On My Sleeve offers a body of work that fiseels just as complete as her Time, Change, Ready EP run, in both songwriting and production. Aside from the already released songs “Not Another Love Song” and “DFMU,” Heart On My Sleeve is a treasure chest full of musical gems. “Maybe it’s ’cause we’re just two fools broken by love / We know how to pick all the pieces up,” she vulnerably opens up on the chorus of her melodic mid-tempo standout track “Pieces.” Other must-listens include the opening track “Trying,” “Break My Heart, the Lucky Daye-assisted “A Mess,” and yup, its closer, “Fading.” Heart On My Sleeve is one of those slow-burn albums that deserves all the love it receives. — Cherise Johnson
Kehlani — Blue Water Road
Where her second album It Was Good Until Wasn’t chronicled the series of unfortunate events in her life, Kehlani’s third album Blue Water Road documents the sunny days after the apocalypse. Serenity and happiness take precedent throughout her latest body of work. Kehlani combines elements of R&B and pop for a project that stands as one of her best. Blue Water Road also presents some of Kehlani’s best songwriting through records like “Melt” and “Everything” on 13 songs that offer a new level of clarity for her. – W.O.
Lucky Daye — Candydrip
Lucky Daye took the R&B world by storm with the 2019 release of his debut album Painted. However, the New Orleans singer had to prove that he was too talented to endure a sophomore slump, something we’ve seen trip up some talented young acts. With Candydrip, Lucky put those fears to rest with 17 songs that showed a new side to his artistry while satisfying those who became tethered to the sound that brought him fame. Lucky injects a heavy dose of sultriness into his sophomore body of work as the steamy moments of bedroom intimacy seem to be the constant setting of songs on the album. As he struts with confidence on “Feels Like,” he also falls to his knees in agony on “Used To Be,” and through it all, Candydrip strikes as an experience that proves why Lucky is one of the best R&B has to offer today. — W.O.
Nija — Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You
At just 23 years old, New Jersey native Nija Charles had already made a name for herself as an extremely successful songwriter thanks to two No. 1s and three Grammys. While her pen certainly worked magic for others, in 2022, Nija proved that it also worked for herself. She made her debut as a singer this year with the release of her Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You EP. With ten songs to its name, Nija effortlessly blends R&B and hip-hop drill beats for songs that emphasize a woman’s control in love while slyly hinting at her soon-to-be undeniable impact in the music world as both an artist and songwriter. From her own admissions of toxicity on “Beautiful Lies” and “On Call” to cut-throat reminders of her unmatched persona on “Not One Of Them” and “Rare,” Nija goes above and beyond to set the record straight in regards to everything about her. — W.O.
PJ Morton — Watch The Sun
“I’m being more honest, more authentic, more open than I’ve been in the past.” That’s what PJ Morton said about his ninth album Watch The Sun. Through 11 songs and collaborations with Stevie Wonder, Nas, Wale, Alex Isley, Jill Scott, JoJo, and more PJ Morton delivers bright and honest records to soothe the ears of those who dive into the project. Morton’s vulnerability is on display with records like “Biggest Mistake” where he acknowledges the almost irreversible damage his actions caused in his life. You can’t help but feel for his pain on the Wale-assisted “So Lonely” and his strive for serenity is extremely relatable on “My Peace” with JoJo and Mr. Talkbox. With Watch The Sun, PJ Morton reminds us that there’s always a chance to course-correct and get things right in life. — W.O.
Raveena — Asha’s Awakening
No sooner after the beat drops on “Rush,” the opening cut to Asha’s Awakening, are we introduced to the flowering ethos from Raveena’s latest album: ebullient music, frosted in Bollywood panache. To build that aesthetic is paramount to who Raveena is as maybe the most recognizable South Asian artist in R&B music today, but she plays it anything but safe. The album’s concept, in fact, came to Raveena during an acid trip at an art museum, and Asha is a reference to a vision of a Punjabi space princess that’s building her spiritual state in another world. Asha’s Awakening is a kaleidoscopic mind trip unlike anything you’ve heard from an R&B artist. And it even has a Vince Staples feature (“Secret”) and a guided meditation outro to bring you closer to enlightenment. – Adrian Spinelli
Ravyn Lenae — Hypnos
In a time when many believe that albums should arrive at an annual rate, Ravyn Lenae reminds us that some things take time – time that isn’t in our control to declare. Her debut album Hypnos took four years to create but the luscious and pristine music that exists on it makes the wait worthwhile. Her gentle vocals are entwined on records that sit on varying productions. Through records that are dance (“Venom”), traditional R&B (“Lullaby”), or alternative R&B (“Skin Tight”), Lenae manages to construct a body of work that flaunts her very best without any missteps. – W.O.
Rema — Rave & Roses
Coming off the extremely strong year that afrobeats had in 2021, it was expected that the genre would continue to thrive in 2022. Nigerian singer Rema proved that will be the case thanks to his debut album Rave & Roses which presented the young singer at his very best. In addition to his summer 2021 afrobeats hit “Soundgasm,” Rema flexed his craft with ear-pleasing records like “Dirty,” “Jo,” and “Mara” on an album that proved that the genre is in the best hands. – W.O.
Robert Glasper — Black Radio III
Shortly after Valentine’s Day, Robert Glasper dropped the third edition of his Black Radio series—BLACK RADIO III, a love letter to contemporary jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and neo-soul. With songs like “Black Superhero” featuring Killer Mike, Big K.R.I.T., and BJ The Chicago Kid, the project is a jazz-honed response to the state of Black communities in a post-George Floyd world. The album’s beauty lies in the depth of the lyrics and the flirting of genres and Black artists from all corners of music, never sounding clunky but more like a well-produced music festival. If you haven’t yet listened to the 11th studio album from Glasper, start the album’s final track, “Bright Lights,” featuring Ty Dolla $ign. Ty delivers classic R&B lyrical songwriting and excellent vocals backed by Glasper’s tender piano, a track on an album that reminds us what good collaboration sounds like. – Ellice D. Ellis
Syd — Broken Hearts Club
Syd is always a welcome presence within the R&B space because she brings something different to the table. It’s truly impossible to box her in, especially here as a myriad of sounds and unfiltered vulnerability make up Broken Hearts Club. The project is loaded with special guest appearances, namely “CYBAH” featuring Lucky Daye, “Right Track” featuring Smino, and “Out Loud” featuring Kehlani. However, the solo cut “Fast Car” may have outpaced them all for a VIP seat in the Broken Hearts Club. Still, misery loves company so the aforementioned collaborations deserve sympathy invites. – Ar.S.
The Weeknd – Dawn FM
Kicking off the year by dropping a hotly anticipated pop record, The Weeknd tuned us in to Dawn FM, a conceptual radio station played in dance-floor purgatory. Filled with ’80s-inspired synthpop tunes and filthy dance bangers, The Weeknd guides us through a waiting room to heaven while forcing us to examine our consciences. From the bouncy “Take My Breath” to the forlorn “Out Of Time,” with narration by Jim Carrey included, the music sounds like what the past two years have felt like: trying to make it out of a period of uncertainty. – A.G.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.