Check out this week’s roundup and don’t forget to let us know who you’re listening to in the comment section below.
Kenyon Dixon – The R&B You Love
So long as Kenyon Dixon is around, the claims that R&B music is dead are null and void. Last year, the Los Angeles native dropped, Closer, one of the most revered projects in the genre. Today, his latest album, The R&B You Love, takes the previously lit torch and runs full sprint ahead. Ahead of its release, Dixon made it clear that the body of work was a musical dedication to acts from the late 1990s. But after several listens, that isn’t the only time period being highlighted.
Across the 17 songs, Dixon gives subtle nods to influential acts from the 80s through the 2000s. He displayed his musical depth with his previously shared singles “Lucky,” “‘98 Vibes (Do You Right)” with Tiffany Gouché, and “Slow Dancing” featuring Kincy. However, the true standouts from the album are “In Your Head,” “Fantasy” featuring Cozz, “& Then Some” featuring Alex Isley.
In a video shared to his official Instagram, Dixon recorded a message for followers to outline the inspiration behind the album. “I’ve been on a mission to make people demand and expect more from modern R&B. It’s such a sacred genre and deserves the best representation all around, from the studio to your speakers to the stage. I hope this album makes you fall in love with R&B,” said the vocalist.
With a guest appearance from RL (of Next) and arrangement nods to Babyface, Kenyon Dixon did what he set out to do. The R&B You Love gives flowers to the genre that has changed the lives of so many people in an intentional way without cutting corners and absent of gimmicks.
Jorja Smith – Falling Or Flying
In no slight to the genre, calling Jorja Smith an R&B singer doesn’t encapsulate all she is. On the Walsall, England native’s highly anticipated sophomore album, Falling Or Flying, she keeps the genre at the base of the 16 songs while reaching far beyond to build an impressively fluid body of work. Although Jorja’s 2018 debut, Lost & Found, was met with mixed reviews, it still managed to earn the singer a cult-like fan following. With Falling Or Flying, there shouldn’t be any division because, put quite plainly, it is a stellar album. From EDM, rock, gospel, R&B, and classical to grime, Jorja hits it all.
The project’s singles “Broken Is The Man,” “Go Go Go,” “Falling Or Flying,” and “Feelings” featuring J Hus are some of the most divergent offerings from R&B project seen this year. Jorja’s vocals throughout Falling Or Flying are undeniably demanding, which was no easy feat given the bar set by the awe-inspiring production. Falling Or Flying has staying power. Opener “Try Me” (one of the album’s breakout tracks) up to the closing record, “What If My Heart Beats Faster?” Jorja texturizes her thoughts in such a grand way that by only listening once, you are doing yourself a disservice.
Other breakout tracks from Falling Or Flying include “She Feels” and “Greatest Gift” featuring Lila Iké. During a sit down with Billboard, Jorja spoke about the driving creative force behind the album, saying, “I don’t really have an in-between,” she said. “I’m either happy or sad, obsessed or completely unfocused, up or down. I feel like I’m flying in my career, and then other times, I feel like I’m falling because the pressure can feel [like] too much.”
Falling Or Flying was a culmination of a lot of things for Jorja Smith, and in return, fans received an endless buffet of goodies to feast upon.
Cleo Sol – Gold
Cleo Sol is a woman of almost no words. Instead of sitting down for lengthy exploratory interviews, the West London representor pours it all into her music. On September 15, fans of the singer were given the singer’s Heaven project to learn about the notoriously off-grid entertainer. Today, not even a full month since Heaven’s release, Cleo is back with a full-length album. In her typical fashion, absent of singles to give supporters a feel for what to expect, Cleo Sol’s new project, Gold, is here.
If Heaven was an audio diary dedicated to herself and the progress she’s made emotionally through her shadow work, then Gold is a devotional to the guiding force that delivered through that tumultuous time – God. In a note posted to social media, Cleo Sol confirmed the theory, writing, “My new album ‘Gold’ is out now. Thank you for riding this wave with me. Thank you for tuning in. This album was made for God to honor and give thanks, always. Many tears, felt fear, pushed through anyway, that was so key.”
Each of the 10 songs featured in the project is deeply personal to Cleo but manages to expose the inner feelings of each listener. The standout songs on Gold include “There Will Be No Crying,” “Things Will Get Better,” “Lost Angel,” and “Life Will Be.”
Cleo Sol has been a crowned jewel in neo-soul, but should she ever want to venture into contemporary Christian music, Gold, jolted that door wide open.
Grace Weber – Paperflower
At every turn, the new age R&B acts continue to show out. Grace Weber is incontestable one of those singers. The Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, native is only a rookie by mainstream standards. Prior to Grace’s move to Los Angeles, the New York University alumna quietly navigated the industry’s backblocks for years. Her formal debut studio album, A Beautiful Space, was her step into the larger R&B conversation moment. But it was the deluxe version that propelled Grace’s name forward. With the release of her sophomore album, Paperflower, the songwriter has earned her keep.
Just ahead of her national tour this November, the 11-track project gives ticketholders their musical homework. The singles “Do4Me,” “Intimate,” and “Lonely” should have already been locked into their memories. But with guest vocal appearances by TOBi, Bat Boy Bankie, Secily, Jean Deaux, and James Vickery, there’s still more to study. Grace’s most redeeming quality, minus her angelic vocals, is her keen her for collaborations, which is shown throughout Paperflower. Standout tracks “Super Good” featuring TOBi and “We Are” featuring James Vickery can be used as evidence. Whereas records such as “XTC” and “Awake” highlight the years of gracefully training Grace herself has put in to become the artist she is today.
She extended that humility in a post on her official Instagram to announce the project’s release, writing, “I’m so excited for you guys to hear the magic we created. The tracklist is up. You see those features? I got to work with really amazing people on this one. I’m so grateful.”
Paperflower is all the core parts of traditional R&B music with the dressings of the genre’s latest offerings. Not just in the project’s production but the out-of-the-box marketing approach Grace took with the incorporation of NFTs for her remarkable single, “Intimate.” Grace Weber is covering the board from all angles.
6lack – “Homicide” with Jessie Reyez
This Sunday, October 1, 6lack’s international Since I Have A Lover Tour will launch in Portland, Oregon. Ahead of opening night, the singer decided to drop a new single, “Homicide,” with fellow recording Jessie Reyez. In the record, which was produced by NOVA Wav, the pair confessed that they have a toxicity kink.
For the larger part of 6lack’s discography, he unabashedly talks about the ups and downs of his romantic life, usually as a way to encourage others to learn from his mistakes, especially on his latest album, Since I Have A Lover. Co-written by Brittany “Chi” Coney and Blu June, “Homicide” is a trek down the opposite end of the road of recovery.
As the duo sings, “If she came in with that b*tch, she runnin’ down with me tonight / It’s gon’ be homicide, it’s gon’ be homicide, yeah / I can’t have you thinkin’ that I’m out here tellin’ lies / It’s gon’ be homicide, it’s gon’ be homicide / Told you I could never give it up / I’m cuffin’ all your love, don’t make me pipe it up / ‘Cause, baby, once it’s up, it’s stuck / She fightin’ b*tches by the day, yeah, she booted / I’m out here, can’t be pursuin’ anything movin’,” they haven’t yet fully healed from their past love traumas. The track shouldn’t be taken as a stamp of approval for abuse of any kind. “Homicide” is 6lack and Jessie Reyez’s strange way of turning pain into another go at passion.
Avery Wilson – “Kiss The Sky”
Singer Avery Wilson’s career is currently in the clouds. The Connecticut native is on the road as part of The Wiz musical revival. This summer, was had the chance to catch him performing background vocals for Usher’s headlining performance at the Roots Picnic 2023. Before that, he was a part of Babyface’s viral NPR Tiny Desk Concert appearance alongside Chanté Moore. Somehow, Avery Wilson has made time for his own creative endeavors that landed him all of these resume-stacking opportunities.
Today, Avery released his new single, “Kiss The Sky,” marking the end of a three-year music drought. On the uptempo airy track is the brainchild of Avery, Louis York, Chuck Harmony, and Claude Kelly. Avery makes love sounds so easy to receive, secure, and give out as he sings, “You deserve a kind of love / That feels like paradise / Let me light you up / ‘Til you kiss the sky / Want to get to know / You deep inside / Let me light you up / ‘Til you kiss the sky / One more time help me sing it / I wanna know / Show me the things you like so I can take you on a natural high / I wanna know / Could you be everything that I’ve been waiting on my whole damn life / I wanna know.”
The multi-year break since his 2020 singles “Smoke” and “What I Like” with Kenyon Dixon seemingly gave Avery the room necessary to reconstruct his sound. Thankfully, this won’t be the last we hear from the musician. In a post on X (formerly Twitter), he acknowledged his lengthy break, writing, “I’m excited to be back dropping music it’s been a while … whew,” but something leads us to believe that he has something else up his sleeve.
“Kiss The Sky” is a display of everything Avery Wilson at this point in his career – a masterful performer, lyrical layering genius, and charming vocalist.
Amaria – “Day By Day”
Recording artist Amaria received outstanding reviews (including from us) on her latest project, All For You, released in April. Now, the Los Angeles-based singer is looking to spread her name even further. Thanks to her new single “Day By Day,” done in collaboration with COLORS Studios, it’s only but a matter of time before that is a reality.
Amaria’s delicate vocal delivery and gentle, lyrical storytelling are what draws you in, but once the production, complimentary of Luke Titus, Biako, and Jonathan Denham Huber, hits you, there is no way to shake it off. However, the question is, why would you want to?
As she sings, “Patience / I got myself in this situation / Don’t wanna hold back / No limitations / Just face it now / I’ll be on it when you come around / You’re the only one I’m thinking about / Take it day by day / (You’ve got to take it, babe) / Aint no other way,” the wave of optimism constantly projected by Amaria washing over you.
Patience is a virtue, and faith is a constant discipline, Amaria’s “Day By Day” is both of these things rolled up into a nearly four-minute track.
Byron Juane – “Needs & Wants”
In life, you should ensure that your basics are covered before you venture out to get hold of your other desires. However, for Byron Juane, according to his new single, he can do both for his lover. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based singer talks a good game on his Jeremy Dupree-produced track, “Needs & Wants.”
In April, Byron made it clear that his romantic goal is to make others addicted to what he has to offer via the “Obsessed (Fantasy Mix)” featuring Dee Gatti, Bairi, and Sherrionn. Then, in July, his track “Bands On You” was all about showering his bae with the finances to splurge on themselves. Now, on “Needs & Wants,” he’s combining his motives behind the two records.
When Byron sings, “I know that he don’t even know it / All Those moments we stayed up till morning / Deep inside you had you moaning / He don’t give it to you know you want it / Your needs and wants are so important / Tell me how I can support them,” he’s abundantly clear that there is no one like him on the market.
Byron is willing to go the extra mile and more to be the perfect package for his lover and doesn’t mind battling it out with the competition in the interim.
In an upload shared to his official Instagram page, Byron revealed that he has more music lined up for supporters to marinate on. “[Needs & Wants is the] first single coming off my new project. I love how you all have received this one so far. I got the R&B you’ve been looking for on the way. Sit tight,” wrote the singer.
*Post Photo Credit: Gordan Price