This year from start to finish has been all about the celebration of women— their love, their joy, and their feminine essence. With rising artists like SZA, Sabrina Claudio, and H.E.R. lending a new perspective to R&B, and legends like Mary J. Blige, Lalah Hathaway, and Goapele keeping us grounded with their mature points of view, the genre has without a doubt been thriving at its highest potential all throughout 2017.
These breakout women all shaped the R&B landscape this year, and we’d like to give them their props where props are due. They say behind every strong man is an even stronger woman… Well we say behind every dope playlist, is an amazing female R&B singer.
Revisit your music libraries with our list of ladies who, without a doubt, controlled all of 2017 below.
SZA – Ctrl
Easily making our list with a debut so great, everyone and their mama’s were singing her praises, SZA finally made a profound mark on the world with her music. Ctrl transitioned TDE’s leading lady from a girl that just makes cool mixtapes, to a young woman who’s sense of self is strong and who’s voice is distinct and dominant.
Outside of the major success of her two singles, “Love Galore” and “The Weekend,” some stand out tracks on her debut album were “Supermodel,” “Go Gina” and “20 Something.” Each of these songs showcase Solana’s honest lyrics and vulnerability in a way that’s refreshing to hear from someone that’s still figuring it out just like the rest of us.
H.E.R. – H.E.R.
Last year we were introduced to the mysterious, H.E.R., and this year we just solidified how much we love her after the release of her official self-titled album, which combined her first EP along with a double dose of new projects, ‘H.E.R., Vol. 2’ and ‘B-Sides.’ Whether, you just love, love, or you enjoy a great singer who doesn’t mind being vulnerable, you probably became a fan of this young lady in 2017.
The follow up to her debut 2016 EP felt like both a continuation and a response to all the songs that had us begging for more from H.E.R. Whether the sultry “Every Kind of Way” was more your mood, or “Changes” finally gave you the courage to say how you really feel, the singer, who just completed her first sold-out headlining tour, delivered a body of work that felt like the definitive millennial diary of 2017.
Sabrina Claudio – About Time
It might be time to start referring to SC as the silent killer, because track after track, this Miami-native surprises us with how smooth and pure her voice is. She literally kills every track she puts out, and at only 21, she sings with the soul of someone easily twice her age.
After creating a buzz for herself with her EP “Confidently Lost,” she finally released a full mixtape to the world entitled “About Time” which is aptly titled because we definitely wanted more. The way Sabrina shapes words with her voice and puts just the right amount of breathy emotion behind each phrase, it’s hard not to be captivated by her every time you hear her sing.
In case you missed any of her music this year, check out the songs “Orion’s Belt,” from her EP, and these two stand out tracks from About Time — “Unravel Me” and “Belong to You.”
Kehlani – SweetSexySavage
The Tsunami Mami finally released her debut album SweetSexySavage, and it was definitely well worth the wait. #SSS reminded us of the versatility the young songstress has in her music, as she gave fans a peek into all the sides of her that make her loveable by her fans, both new and old.
Her first LP featured production from her friends Jahaan Sweet and Pop & Oak, and was highlighted by the vulnerable songwriting skills that Kehlani consistently delivers. The album created a space for her to be genuinely herself and spread the positive vibes that she frequently advocates for at her shows and on social media. Some standout tracks from the album were “Advice,” “Undercover,” and “Do U Dirty,” all of which are songs you definitely wouldn’t mind getting stuck in your head.