Where's The Love?

As I thought of my list, I began to ponder Chris Brown's sophomore set, "Exclusive," which sparked this notion: there seems to be a lack of ardent, passionate R&B music these days.

Recently, Billboard's editorial staff was asked to individually compile and submit a list of their top 10 albums of 2007. Some people were able to think of their favorite sets of the year in no time. Others, not quite so. One of my coworkers told me, in his own words, that he'd been "working on it for an hour and was obsessing over it." A fellow R&B/hip-hop beat writer said she was ashamed she could only garner six titles for her list thus far.

For me, the task didn't prove to be too difficult. Although there has been some albums I haven't been too fond of in hip-hop and R&B this year, I could think of seven albums off the top of my head that I had on heavy rotation since the beginning of the year (starting with Robin Thicke's "Evolution of Robin Thicke" and ending with Common's "Finding Forever," but that's as much as I will disclose).

As I thought of my list, I began to ponder Chris Brown's sophomore set, "Exclusive," which sparked this notion: there seems to be a lack of ardent, passionate R&B music these days. I'm not saying, by any means, that there aren't any at all. Again, Thicke's "Evolution" was full of sultry tracks like "I Need Love" and "Teach You a Lesson." And Ne-Yo's "Say It" from "Because of You," the sequel to "Mirror" from his debut "In My Own Words," is also very steamy. Oh, and let's not forget The-Dream's follow-up track "Falsetto," which, although gramatically incorrect (since falsetto means "a man who sings in a high-pitched register," and The-Dream is talking about women), is still super sexy, and J. Holiday's debut single "Bed" (penned by The-Dream, fyi). The only problem is these types of tracks (with the exception of "Bed") seem to not get much radio love these days.

I didn't buy Chris Brown's self-titled debut for its first single, the Juelz Santana-assisted "Run It." Yes, it was a fun track and, yes, it topped many charts like the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, the Hot 100 and the Pop 100. But it just wasn't the song that made my heart pitter-patter for the album.

It wasn't until I heard Brown's airy follow-up single "Yo (Excuse Me Miss)" that I was truly swept over. It made me furthermore yearn for the days when radio would play tracks like R. Kelly's "Honey Love" or Jodeci's "Freek'n You" between Dr. Dre's "Nothing but a G Thang" and Nas' "The World Is Yours." Call me antiquated if you want.

Understand, though, I wasn't brought up on American music. I spoke strictly Spanish until I was seven and listened to Merengue, Bachata, salsa and boleros growing up (with some Bon Jovi and the Bangles creeping from the crack beneath my older sister's bedroom door). The first sounds outside of that was R&B, this beat-driven, sexual music. The first album I ever bought was Intro's 1993 self-titled debut with songs like "Come Inside" -- though I didn't understand the content at the time, which was way out of my league for a late bloomer like myself.

Once I got Chris Brown's debut, I realized the Virginia native was holding out on some slow jammies for folks like me who have a weakness for them. The sensual "Poppin," was almost too sexy for the 16-year-old (though he did pull it off.). But CB is super-talented and the album was phenomenal -- in fact, it became one of my top three favorites of '05 after Raheem Devaughn's and Trey Songz' debuts (those latter two were filled with some sweltering bangers, no pun intended).

In the end, "Exclusive" makes my list –- plus "Kiss Kiss" with T-Pain is bumping. To add to that, though, this set is a bit more poppy than the first. CB does have one super sultry gem on the album titled "Take You Down" ("it ain't my first time/but baby girl we can pretend," Brown croons). I'll be saving the other uptempos for prep time before I paint the town red.