The Top 5 R&B Artists of the Year: Indie & Major - Def Pen Radio
2012 is coming to an end. Despite an overall lack of major label R&B releases- mostly due to a move towards the House/Dance niche by many- the genre seen some pretty monumental moments before the world was scheduled to end. I figured a good way to recap the year and get the controversy rolling would be to create a list of (what I believe to be) the top five major label-signed R&B artists and the top five independent R&B artists of this year. As with every list, I expect there to be a lot of discrepancies, so voice your opinion using the comments section below. You can also tweet us about it, just make sure you mention @defpenradio or @_ALEXsmith1.
*The views expressed here are mine (Alex Smith) alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Def Pen Radio.
Without further ado, let’s get into it.
It was a big year for Odd Future’s oddball. Not only did he release his debut commercial album (channel ORANGE), but the singer-songwriter came out about his sexuality, revealing that he was a gay man. Aside from all the controversy, the real centerpiece for all of the Frank Ocean buzz was his debut album. channel ORANGE sold well- especially for a new artist. The album broke barriers, impressed many, and is nominated for “Album of the Year” by the Grammy’s.
Toronto’s dark and mysterious R&B singer was on a fast-paced track to stardom, fueled by support from fellow Canadian, Drake. After releasing three very successful mixtapes (House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence) the previous year, The Weeknd accepted Universal Republic Records’ bid for a record deal and signed a contract. For his first commercial release, on November 13th, 2012, Abel Tesfaye released Trilogy. The new LP was a combination of tracks from his three previous projects as well as three new tracks. The album didn’t put up amazing numbers, but having signed to a major label and putting out his first studio album, it was a big year for the 22 year-old recording artist.
C’mon. You gotta know and read that last sentence in the voice of 28 year-old Tremaine Anderson- more commonly known as Trey Songz- to really understand the catchiness of it. Anyways, Trigga is one of my favorite R&B artists of all-time. In a genre that seems like it’s starting to completely lose its soulful roots, Trey Songz manages to not lose himself. On his fifth studio album Chapter V (August 21), the R&B singer managed to still craft radio-friendly hip-hop songs, such as the single “2 Reasons (feat. T.I.)”, while still delivering soulful R&B ballads such as “Simply Amazing”.
A man who’s no stranger to controversy, Chris Brown’s had a roller-coaster of a year. However, it seems lingering Ri-Ri drama has yet to slow down Chris musically. Breezy released his fifth studio album Fortune on June 29th, 2012. While it’s clear that his musical style has slowly been changing since he first entered the scene with his very urban self-titled debut in 2005, Chris still hasn’t lost his step vocally. Fortune contained high-energy pop songs such as “Turn Up the Music” and R&B ballads like the LP’s most recent single, “Don’t Judge Me”.
2012 was a year that a new progressive form of R&B music to be introduced. One of the leaders of the new direction of the genre was Miguel. The 26 year-old released his sophomore album this year. “Kaleidoscope Dream” was received extremely well by critics. The album saw high marks across the board from almost major publication. Miguel provided a lot of the baby-making music this year with songs like “Adorn”, “Arch & Point” and “Pussy Is Mine”.
I have been a huge fan of 23 year-old Christopher Dotson since I first heard the young talent back in 2009 on a song called “Break Ur Heart”. Having the “I don’t give a f*ck” attitude of a rapper and the vocal chops of a great singer, I quickly became a fan of Chrishan. Releasing more material than anybody else I know over the past few years, I wasn’t surprised to see him releasing an EP, mixtape and album. I think more surprising than the fact that he released three projects this year is the fact that he is still not signed to a major label. Clearly, Chrishan knows exactly the artist he wants to be and he knows what works for him. Chrishan shows he’s both a force in the Pop genre with tracks like Do U Remember (from Money & Liquor) and a force-to-be-reckoned-with R&B with songs like “That’s Just Life” (The Love War EP). His fourth studio album, Forever releases worldwide December 18th.
It was a no-brainer for me to put Sammie in the top 5 list of independent R&B artists this year. Sammie continues to release impressive projects year after year. His newest, Insomnia is his best-to-date, in my opinion. Sammie is another R&B artist who doesn’t stray far from the genre. The 25 year-old isn’t trying to make the next radio hit, that’s obvious when you listen to his newest mixtape/free album. Insomnia is the epitome of a complete project. With a clear underlying theme of a lack of sleep, the entire tracklist works cohesively and each song is impressive with no filler whatsoever. Songs that stood out on this LP to me were “Heart Killer” and the intro track, “Tryna Fall Asleep”.
Novel is one of my favorite R&B artists of all-time. The multi-talented singer-songwriter/producer really caught my ear last year with his free album, Red Wine & Ambien. His distinct voice makes every song he releases interesting. Novel has never dabbled far away from his style of vulnerable and honest lyrics and songs of deep content. While this may be considered a weakness of other recording artists, I think that this is what makes Novel such a great artist. His new EP, Under Water, Over Whelmed was short but sweet. My favorite track on the project, “A Song for River” is an incredible ambient ballad with vast replay value.
A favorite from my homestate of Michigan, Christian Berishaj (more commonly known as JMSN) released his new LP this year. Priscilla hit iTunes on January 11th. JMSN’s music follows a dark style shared by The Weeknd, yet remains completely unique. It’s hard to actually place JMSN’s music in a genre, but the emotion captured by it does fit the R&B style. His music, videos and style are completely his own and they’re sometimes almost scary, but always of quality. My favorite from his new LP is a track called “Something”.
I hadn’t heard of Sid Sriram much before this year. I had seen that he had been buzzing on YouTube from the covers that he had recorded and uploaded, but I never really paid any attention to them. It wasn’t until he released his new EP Daydream that I realized the amount of talent he possessed. His new EP combines amazing production with equally amazing vocals. My favorite track from this project has to be the song called “Wake Up”. It’s especially dope when he throws in some ethnic Indian accents towards the end of the track.
Well, there you are: the top five major label R&B artists of the year and the top five independent R&B artists. How do you feel about it? Let us know.