The women of R&B may be running the show, but the genre’s most exciting male vocalists are redefining what it means to be a classic crooner.
The Fearless Lyricist: Brent Faiyaz
Before Faiyaz became an R&B smooth operator, he was a punchline-heavy lyricist looking to break into the rap game. It wasn’t until his manager convinced him to try singing in 2014 that Faiyaz realized his calling. Three years later, he struck gold when he sang the catchy, made-for-summertime chorus on GoldLink’s “Crew.” The song earned a Grammy nod and gave Faiyaz his first taste of mainstream success. His appreciation for ’90s R&B shines on his buzzy subsequent projects (2018’s Lost and 2020’s Fuck the World EP), as does his nimble, fearless writing on self-love, gang culture and Black masculinity in America.
The Quiet Force: Bryson Tiller
Tiller’s transcendent 2015 project Trapsoul unlocked a new level in the genre: Pairing trap-laden beats with his silky tenor, he proved R&B singers didn’t need to rely on ballads or downtempo songs to set themselves apart. Despite his reserved nature, tracks like “Rambo” and “Sorry Not Sorry” showcased his wit and charm as a budding lyricist, and the album went triple platinum, yielding his biggest Hot 100 single yet, “Don’t,” a slow-burner about wanting another man’s woman, which peaked at No. 13. Things have only gotten bigger for Tiller since then: His first Billboard 200 No. 1, True 2 Self, came in 2017, and the October release Anniversary made the chart’s top five.
The Mysterious Newcomer: Giveon
In February, Drake uploaded a new record only to SoundCloud and YouTube. “Chicago Freestyle” featured a mysterious young singer who bore an eerie resemblance to U.K. artist Sampha — and was only revealed hours later to be 25-year-old Giveon. After studying Frank Sinatra’s music, Giveon learned to embrace his baritone voice, which takes center stage on his March debut EP, Take Time. Highlights like “Heartbreak Anniversary” and “Favorite Mistake” showcase his penchant for pensive lyrics and moody soundscapes. He pushed those skills even further in October on the four-track mini project When It’s All Said and Done.
The Funky Poet: Lucky Daye
From growing up in a religious cult to couch surfing in Los Angeles and Texas, Lucky Daye’s journey has been a rocky one. But the New Orleans-bred singer — who cut his teeth writing for Ella Mai and Trey Songz — caught a break when he met producer D. Mile, who has worked with R&B powerhouses like Khalid, Usher and Ty Dolla $ign. Mile saw more than songwriting prowess in the young crooner, and for over a year, they worked on his debut album, Painted. Daye’s affinity for ’70s funk and live instrumentation shines throughout the album’s 13 tracks, and in 2019, he earned four Grammy nominations.
The Truth-Teller: PartyNextDoor
In 2013, PartyNextDoor released his self-titled debut mixtape. On tracks like “Wild Bitches” and “Right Now,” his unapologetic candor on sex and relationships, paired with his syrupy melodies, gave listeners a raw dose of reality. The OVO signee’s knack for hits developed when he partnered with Drake in 2014 on the single “Recognize,” which went double platinum. Their chemistry bloomed from there, and they reunited for 2016’s “Come and See Me” (double platinum) and 2019’s “Loyal” (certified gold, and Party’s first Hot 100 top 20 entry). His success isn’t fueled by hit singles alone: He also keeps busy as a songwriter for Kanye West, Rihanna and Usher.