The 2024 Grammys are behind us, and the leading ladies of R&B did not disappoint. Although SZA didn’t walk away with Album Of The Year, as most predicted, the “Saturn” singer snagged three trophies overall, including Best Progressive R&B Album (for SOS), Best R&B Song (for “Snooze”), and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance (for “Ghost in the Machine” featuring Phoebe Bridgers). Her sword-wielding meldy performance of “Snooze” and “Kill Bill” was also one of the evening’s high points. Thanks to SZA’s premiere of “Saturn” off her forthcoming Lana album, we know it is just a matter of time before the full project drops.

Victoria Monét also secured her first three Grammys on February 4 (Best New Artist, Best R&B Album and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical for Jaguar II). While Coco took home her first gramophone for Best R&B Performance (“ICU”).

Outside of music’s biggest night. This Sunday, February 16, Usher will take football’s biggest stage, the Super Bowl Halftime show, a preview of his Past Present Future Tour set to launch in August. Read more about his new album, Coming Home, below. 

In other news, Jill Scott took to X (formerly Twitter) to tease that she’s working on new music. Mariah Carey is set to make her long-awaited return to Las Vegas this April for her The Celebration Of Mimi residency. Lastly, Chris Brown has hinted that he plans on hitting the road soon to share his latest album, 11:11, with fans around the country.

But what new music dropped this week? This Fresh Finds Fridays column features releases from Usher, Ye Ali, Ryan Leslie, Ayra Starr, Zacari, Aqyila, Kali Claire & Phabo, and The Amours. Check out this week’s roundup below. Don’t forget to let us know who you’re listening to in the comment section below.

Usher – Coming Home 

Yeah, man. The wait is over. After a string of singles, including “Good Good” featuring Summer Walker and 21 Savage, “Ruin” with Pheelz, and the notable missing “Boyfriend,” Usher’s long-awaited album, Coming Home, has arrived. 

This Sunday, February 11, Usher will spotlight some of his biggest hits during the Super Bowl Halftime Show. But with his project, Usher lets the world know that his hit-making days aren’t behind him. Coming Home is a culmination of decades’ worth of work and sounds, all of which Usher has not only creatively embraced but ultimately mastered (or will quite soon). 

From traditional R&B and electronic to Afrobeat and K-pop, Usher’s sonic range is the most enjoyable part of the 20-track body of work. In September 2023, Usher told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe that the project was  “a love letter once again to the legacy of my career,” and that is abundantly clear as soon as you press play.

On Coming Home, Usher isn’t trying to be anyone else. He’s simply reminding the world who he is…as an artist.

Coming Home’s standout tracks are “Good Good,” “Kissing Strangers,” “Keep On Dancin’,” “Bop,” ”One Of Them Ones,” and “Standing Next To You.”

Ye Ali – Ye Ali & Chill 3 

Ye Ali is behind some of your favorite R&B releases from the last few years. But, thanks to his latest EP, Ye Ali & Chill 3, the public doesn’t have to wonder what exactly he’s capable of. As the third installment of the beloved series, the groundwork has already been laid. 

On Ye Ali & Chill 3, the songwriter jumps straight into the sensual nature of the series with the opening track, “My Way,” featuring Kenyon Dixon. Past single “Zodiac Freak,” with Dcmbr and RyFy let listeners know this is a project strictly for the bedroom. 

With additional appearances by Lyfe Harris, Arianna Reid, and BleuLilBaby, Ye Ali & Chill 3 was exactly what you should’ve expected. 

Ye Ali & Chill 3’s standout tracks are “My Way” with Kenyon Dixon and “Come To Me” with Lyfe Harris and BleuLilBaby. 

Ryan Leslie – You Know My Speed

Ryan Leslie has been gone for a minute, but he’s back with the jumpoff. Well, a new album that it. After nearly a four-year hiatus, the producer has crafted a full body of work for supporters to dive into. You Know My Speed is a 10-track reintroduction to new music fans on the greatest that is Ryan Leslie. 

On the project’s lead single, “Run It Back,” Leslie slid back into the swing of things. Across the You Know My Speed, Leslie explores pockets of R&B, electronic, rap, and classical music. Although the project doesn’t have the same innovation heard across Leslie’s previous works, his bold approach to production and blend of traditional and avant techniques is certainly present. 

You Know My Speed’s standout tracks are “This Love Thing,” “All The Ways,” and “Sounds.” 

Ayra Starr – “Commas”

Even if the Grammys won’t acknowledge it, Ayra Starr is one of the leaders of Afrobeats’ growing movement abroad. The Nigerian singer’s blend of Afrobeats, pop, and alternative has made her an international music sensation. But her latest London-produced single, “Commas,” is undeniably R&B.

On the record, Ayra declares that she will not be deterred or delayed on her journey toward peace. As she focuses on accomplishing all that she’s been here to do, she has no problem throwing up boundaries around her to barricade any negativity or naysayers because she serves a higher purpose. 

“Na, which kind life wey I never see? / I carry God, so I fear nothing / Steady increasing the commas / Original, no be parody / E no fit clear for your memory / Whether na winter or summer, ajeh,” sings Ayra Starr.

Ayra has found serenity and will fight tooth and nail to keep it.

“Commas” is Ayra Starr’s first solo single of 2024. Her latest single, “Rhythm & Blues,” dropped back in September 2023.

Zacari – “Ocean”

For quite a while now, Zacari has been R&B’s best-kept secret. But those days are long since over. The singer, songwriter, rapper, and multi-instrumentalist has penned or appeared on bangers for some of music’s biggest names, including Kendrick Lamar and SiR. 

Zacari is clearing the path for his solo work. On his latest single, “Ocean,” which was co-produced by Internet Money, knd, and Pharaoh Vice, the Filipino-American musician brings all of his abilities to the forefront – most prominently his songwriting.

“Many lifetimes ago / She was an ocean and I was a shore / I was ready to roll / With the tide knowing I couldn’t fight if I tried,” Zacari sings.

“Ocean” is a jaded soundtrack about attempting to love someone through their rough patch. and Zacari points out that as much as they’ve been damaged, he can see beyond the hurt and knows that still have much love to offer.

The example used throughout the record, water’s relationship with a shoreline, is a poignant metaphor that even in nature, there’s a constant push and pull, so love isn’t exempt.

“Ocean” is Zacari’s first release since 2023’s “Ava Marie” with Ty Dolla Sign.

Aqyila – “Bloom”

Just like a beautiful meadow of flowers, a luscious love requires constant maintenance. Toronto native Aqyila’s new single “Bloom” touches on that emotionally tedious process. A well-nourished romance starts with learning about your partner’s needs and making the effort to get those things done.

“Everything you do, how you call my name / Sunday afternoon, come and make it rain / Let the flowers bloom, ease my pain / Always tell the truth, can you whisper me? / What is it you see in me? / Tell me why do you believe in me? / Would you keep your schedule free for me? / I love it here, you’re pleasin’ me / Go on, get deep for me,” sings Aqyila.

Jonathan Elkær’s gentle production on “Bloom,” paired with Aqyila and Maya J’an Brown’s songwriting, makes the idea of falling into love sound like a calmly captivating experience.

In a statement provided to ThisIsRnB, Aqyila discussed the inspiration behind the track. “[‘Bloom’ is] a love song that reminds you why you love the person that you’re with,” she said. “Why, they’re your safe space on your hardest day. Writing this song just gave me chills, it instantly felt special. I see it as a wedding song.” 

“Bloom” is Aqyila’s follow-up to “Effortlessly,” which was released in January.

Kali Claire & Phabo – “Escape Plan”

Yes, ignorance is sometimes bliss. This can be especially true in the game of love or at least infatuation. On her latest single, “Espace Plan,” Kali Claire plays up on that addictive fantasy.  

While most people run away from uncertainties, others don’t mind living out their dizziest daydreams. With fellow singer Phabo on the track, the pair make the land of delusion sound so appealing. 

“Tell me that it’s mine / Even if you have to lie / You ain’t gotta stay the night Cause goodbyes ain’t really goodbyes / Probably gonna hit up your line again So when I change my mind / Make sure you pull up on time / Don’t expect breakfast from me in the morning,” sings Kali.

Phabo echoes the East London native’s sentiments in his verse. “And it’s safe to say you’re lonely / Can you keep me company in the meantime?  Cause I could really use your help / And I could revive your health / It’s destiny, and you’re my Beyoncé / If I bit a lil pump fake and jump / Will your spirit move and fade away,” sings Phabo.

“Escape Plan,” produced by AyoTheProducer,  examines how the yearning for intimacy without decrement can willfully lead you into the loving arms of the wrong person even when you know you should be changing course. 

“Escape Plan” is Kali Claire’s follow-up to 2023’s “Wish You Wouldn’t.”

The Amours – “On The Run”

The rising duo out of Washington, DC, is back. Ahead of their Changes Tour, The Amours (Jakiya & Shaina) have dropped a fresh new single. Back in the lab with producer DJ Camper, “On The Run” is a record all about reflection and resentment. 

As the group sings, “You had your way, and I had to pay / I learned my lesson along the way / Now you gotta pay what you owe / You know they say you reap what you sow / Still shine bright in my darkest nights / Fight or flight, runnin’ out of time / This ain’t ’bout revenge anymore / I forgive but don’t forget, you’re exposed / Look at the sky,” The Amours examine their romantic hangs up but refer to be crippled by them. 

Instead, they are onto bigger and better things. While their exes, on the other, have been served a healthy serving of regret for their past actions. The track, which was co-written with Terrell “Tre” Roper, puts The Amours’ best attributes on a pedal – seamless harmonic blends and passionate storytelling.

“On The Run” is The Amours’ follow-up to their 2023 record, “JK, I Love You.”


*Cover photo credit: Jan-Michael Quammie of The Wall Group

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.