Following a summer of synchs powering veteran acts back up the charts — especially the Stranger Things boosts that benefitted Kate Bush (“Running Up That Hill [A Deal With God]”) and Metallica (“Master of Puppets”) — flagship names in R&B are looking to score chart resurgences of their own.
After a flurry of new major-label deals with heritage R&B/hip-hop acts, the coming months will be packed with releases heralding their long-awaited returns. Shawna Spears, who oversees artist partnerships for the genre at TikTok, says of the “old school is the new school” paradigm: “Great music will always live on.”
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds
Girls Night Out (Oct. 21, Capitol Records)
After a nearly seven-year hiatus, the 12-time Grammy Award winner will resurface with a new album whose themes mirror his 1995 multiplatinum achievement, Waiting To Exhale. This time, he collaborated with next-generation R&B/hip-hop stars such as Ari Lennox, Doechii and Queen Naija. The project’s first two singles, “Keeps On Fallin’ ” with Ella Mai (No. 11 on Billboard’s Adult R&B Airplay chart, No. 28 on R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay so far) and the newly released “Seamless” with Kehlani, preview Babyface’s forward-looking return. “There’s a clear difference in how women write and what they sing about today,” he told Billboard after his Capitol signing was announced in June. “There’s far more independence and confidence. That aspect has been great to see and fun to work with.”
Sean “Diddy” Combs
Title TBA (TBA, Love Records/Motown Records)
After announcing he’ll formally launch his Love Records in a one-album deal with Motown, Combs (aka Love) also declared his latest imprint will focus solely on R&B through singles and collaborative projects with various artists, songwriters and producers. “Love Records is the next chapter about getting back to the love and making the best music of my life,” he told Billboard in May, when news of the deal was revealed. “For the label, I’m focused on creating timeless R&B music with the next generation.” The first move for the three-time Grammy winner: teaming with Bryson Tiller on “Gotta Move On.” The lead single from his as-yet-untitled album reached No. 7 on Hot R&B Songs in August.
Title TBA (Fall, Beauty Marks Entertainment/Uptown Records/Republic Records)
Ciara ignited her imprint’s major-label partnership in July with the adrenaline-fueled anthem “Jump” (featuring Coast Contra). It debuted at No. 4 on the R&B Digital Songs chart, while Ciara and her crew’s booty-shaking moves in the music video have racked up over 4.5 million YouTube views. Reportedly complete, the upcoming album follows her 2019 independent release, Beauty Marks, that spun off the upbeat viral single “Level Up” (No. 4 on Hot R&B Songs). Since 2004, the singer-songwriter has charted eight top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, including No. 1 hit “Goodies” with Petey Pablo, and four top five albums on the Billboard 200. Of joining Republic, Ciara said, “I’m grateful to be able to continue my mission of making the world dance with a team I admire, who are at the forefront of empowering artists.”
Title TBA (TBA, Motown Records)
The R&B superstar notched her debut entry and first No. 1 on the Independent Albums chart with B7 under her own Brand Nu imprint through eOne Music (now MNRK Music Group) in 2020. Yet, for her eighth album, she returned to her major-label roots after signing with Motown earlier this year — her first such deal in over a decade. “I feel like I’m reborn,” Brandy said in June when the signing was announced. “I have a whole new energy, a whole new spark, to keep going, to keep moving and to keep doing what I love to do.”