10 Best R&B Songs of 2016: Critic's Picks

Rihanna in the video for "Kiss it Better."
Courtesy Photo

Rihanna in the video for "Kiss it Better."

Paralleling the industry's evolution, in 2016, the genre of R&B stretched from classic to alternative -- with offshoots in between. Below is a snapshot of some of the year’s most noteworthy tracks:

10. Ro James, “Permission”
This noteworthy newcomer strikes a winning balance between contemporary and classic R&B on this sexy song, which samples Willie Hutch’s “Brother’s Gonna Work It Out.”

9. Johnny Gill feat. New Edition, “This One’s for Me and You”
Listen to this midtempo romantic throwback to '90s R&B and you can’t help but dance along to the groove.

8. Corinne Bailey Rae, “Green Aphrodisiac”
Rae’s welcome return after a six-year recording absence was highlighted by this lush and soulful track, set off by her sensuous vocals.

7. Mary J. Blige, “Thick of It”
Mary proves she’s back with this aching ballad about heartbreak.

6. Kehlani, “Crzy”
Against a trap-influenced R&B foundation, singer/songwriter Kehlani wages her own protest for female empowerment -- and sets the stage for her long-gestating debut album. 

5. Solange, “Cranes in the Sky”
This ethereal track, coupled with Solange’s lithe vocals, is one of the standout songs on her latest album -- and showcases the creative combustion between her and Raphael Saadiq.

4. Anthony Hamilton, “Amen”
R&B’s spirited gospel roots are in full force on the singer’s ode to the love of his life.

3. John Legend, “Love Me Now”
Legend proves once more that he definitely knows his way around writing -- and delivering -- an emotion-packed love song.

2. Rihanna, “Kiss It Better”
Its R&B/synthrock fusion paired with Rihanna’s sensual vocals about the desire to hold onto a destructive relationship is a slam dunk. 

1. Beyoncé, “Formation”
This contemporary black pride anthem provided much-needed hope in a year rocked by #BlackLivesMatter protests and political upheaval. Taking its cues from New Orleans bounce music, the lead single from Beyoncé’s Lemonade album is another chapter in the singer’s ongoing mission to shatter genre boundaries.

Billboard Year in Music 2016


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