A year or so back, R&B was the go-to genre thanks to everyone's obsession with recreating the '90s. That's dying down now which has paved the way R&B to be twisted and pulled in hundreds of different directions. There's never been more variations and the seven songs below prove just how many ways it can be dished-up.
The One After None
Slave To Perfection
Drake's OVO label are knocking it out of the park this year with banger after banger by new artists. Straight outta Toronto The One After None sounds like Partynextdoor with a classical tinge, as piano runs alongside the dark, damning beat. It's definitely in that The Weeknd pocket of R&B but there are some beautiful production touches here that take it to a different zone. It's a very impressive debut and hopefully a sign of great things to come.
We Don't Mind (Feat. Samaria & Caleborate)
We Don't Mind melds soul, hip-hop and R&B for one of the smoothest cuts you're likely to hear today. Rapper Elujay trades verses with Caleborate while Oakland singer Samaria lays down a honey-soaked hook with harmonies that might melt you. Elujay's flow is charismatic and skillful, perfectly matching the light that Samaria brings to the song. Elujay's been dropping tracks all year that tread a careful line between underground and mainstream sounds and it would surprise us if he doesn't bag a hit sometime soon.
North Carolina singer PJ released one of the most self-assured and consistent debuts of the year last week and Rare is taken from it. The track, which begins with sweeping strings, is driven by a pulsating beat that introduces dark electronica to R&B hooks with pop sensibilities. Her sound triggers thoughts of Kehlani and Alessia Cara while her lyrics are so personal that's impossible to walk away from the track without feeling like you know a little bit of her story. "I'm rare," she sings on this track and from what we've heard so far we're inclined to believe her.
Refs' Turn Around points more towards the pop genre but its soulful vocals and wildly innovative beats pull it back towards R&B. The New York duo lay down a skittering, detouring beat, calming the madness with that effortlessly smooth vocal. It smashes through so many different genres perhaps proving best that anything that sounds remotely fresh in 2016 should be free of genre-classification.
EMI picked up 100s of thousands of plays on her previous three singles and Popular looks set to do the exact same thing. It has that same sort of dark soundscape that made Tinashe's early releases so enthralling, with EMI's haunting vocals the centrepiece of the song. Every song she's dropped so far has been sonically consistent hitting her growing audiences with something that smacks hard. This is late night music at its absolute best.
Nada (Feat. Lil Yachty)
Leaf is signed to forward-thinking label Fool's Gold so it should come as no surprise that she's making music that reflects that. Nada is a woozy R&B tune that sees her flick between Aaliyah-esque singing and rapping. Lil Yachty jumps on board for the final verse perfectly matching her already dizzying flow. Meanwhile, Leaf sings in the background, making sure she's always in control of the cut.
London Summers has had plenty of experience working behind the scenes with big artists but it seems it's finally time for him to grab the spotlight and introduce some new sounds to the game. Valley has trap bones but it's joined by brethy vocals and rock guitars plucked quietly in the corner. The production is distressed and fuzzy but there's a reason and place for every sound in here. It's a masterclass in production but the songwriting is just as top notch.