Looking through the R&B lens, 2022 was a vibrant year peppered by anticipated returns, sophomore segues, cross-genre magic and an indie disruptor.
Drawing from ‘70s disco-funk to ‘90s R&B and stops in-between, Beyoncé danced her way out of a six-year hiatus with Renaissance. The album stepped its way to No. 1 debuts on the Billboard 200 as well as Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Top R&B Albums and, most recently, claimed the lead on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums tally.
Speaking of crossing over, alternative R&B artist Steve Lacy’s Gemini Rights — his first top 10 bow on the Billboard 200 — spun off the single “Bad Habit,” which also led five other charts: Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Hot R&B Songs, Hot Alternative Songs, Hot Rock Songs and Hot Rock & Alternative Songs. Meanwhile, independent artist Brent Faiyaz and his Lost Kids label defied expectations in July when his sophomore album Wasteland debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 (his highest showing to date), with 88,000 album-equivalent units.
But beyond this annual year-end tally, R&B in 2022 also laid claim to must-hear releases by both emerging and established artists, from Ravyn Lenae’s mesmerizing debut Hypnos to Syd’s vulnerable sophomore set Broken Hearts Club to Robert Glasper’s third chapter in his Black Radio series, celebrating its 10thanniversary. Not to mention another long-anticipated return: SZA with SOS (which arrived after this roundup’s Dec. 1 cutoff date). However, the singer-songwriter’s first No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 — one of the biggest bows of 2022, with 318,000 equivalent album units — coupled with this year’s impressive cache of releases, underscores R&B’s continuing vibrancy.
That said, here are Billboard‘s picks for the 10 best R&B albums in 2022: