Album art courtesy of RAYE

Top 5 R&B Albums of 2023 That Prove Girls Run This Mutha

Year-End Top 5

As 2023 makes its way into history, war seems to be everywhere you look (again). Amidst the greatest pain, the mamas of the world offer unprecedented perspectives of love. They inherently symbolize healing, hope and strength. It’s what victims of war fight for, and I think these stories evoke just that.

My 21st Century Blues

Human Re Sources
Street: 02.03
RAYE = Amy Winehouse + Christina Aguilera + Billie Eilish

My 21st Century Blues is a simulation of a live performance from beginning to end. With a humble intro and a thankful outro track, it brought me to tears. RAYE has a special voice that speaks directly to the soul, with or without the listener’s permission. Brought to you from London, England, it’s both heartbreaking and triumphant. She’s a modern Amy Winehouse, telling the same painful, sassy stories in her own way. Her vulnerability is unmatched, and you can hear it in every facet of her voice—like ASMR on steroids. She is, to her listeners, exactly what she’s recovering from: intoxication.

Victoria Monét

RCA Records
Street: 08.25
Victoria Monét = Janet Jackson + Thundercat

Victoria Monét is here to give us kick-back beats. JAGUAR II is her display of what happens when a woman feels herself. Every track is a confident, visual and comfortable swing that could easily make its way onto a lusty playlist. Conveyed in every intro, a smart synth and beat combo sets the mood for a rosy time, making any willing ass slowly move back and forth. She’s particularly evocative of ’70s love music; The Isley Brothers, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye come to mind. In other words, this woman understands the importance of a great, provocative intro.

Where The Flowers Don’t Die

Stomp Down
Street: 05.26
Monaleo = Cardi B + Kanye

This Texas-born artist raps constantly about her upbringing that stacked the odds against her. Every time it’s referenced, the fact follows that she’s now claiming what is rightfully hers. Where the Flowers Don’t Die is 50% vulnerable ballads and 50% expletive-heavy threats. Famously, the hit single “Beating Down Yo Block” proved to the world that every line of her lyrics has a mic-dropping quality. The rest of the album proved that she’s not a one-hit wonder. She takes her time with her rapping when she needs to, and other times she spits it out, balancing two crucial sides of a woman.

Janelle Monáe
The Age of Pleasure

Bad Boy Records
Street: 06.09
Janelle Monáe = Ms. Lauryn Hill + Childish Gambino

A legend in her own right, Janelle Monáe set out to do something different. The first lyrics on the first track are stumbling: “No I’m no– / No I’m not the same,” as if she’s realizing herself while speaking. Everything that follows sounds like she’s smiling the whole damn time, confident in her choice. Sonically, it’s difficult to imagine how someone could come up with reggae-influenced R&B backbones the way she did. It’s reminiscent of Childish Gambino’s journey as an artist, except there’s much more sensuality. She speaks deeply to African diaspora roots in a way that’s both modern and reverent.

In Pieces

Columbia Records
Street: 03.31
Chlöe = Ariana Grande + Alicia Keys

Chlöe is the singer-songwriter type of R&B artist—plus more drama. She seemingly pulls influence from theater, Baptist music and her own rap-ish imagination. Inside each track is a different journey, drastically dynamic, and her vocals are the compass. Heavily harmonized, she exposes herself as a young woman, backed by impressive featured artists such as Missy Elliott and impressive production work. She serenades with intelligent lyrics, encrypted with meaning. The dramatic intro track “Someone’s Calling (Chlöe)” is a work of compositional genius, dramatic choir and jazz artistry. It feels like the opening act of a play, and it’s probably my favorite song on the album.

Read more Year-End Top 5 Reviews from past years here:
Top 5 Indie Pop Albums to Pin to your Anorak
Top 5 Powerhouse Femme Indie-Alt Albums of 2021