With the pandemic slowly receding, music has blossomed this year with some incredible projects and songs. Here are some of the R&B hits from 2022 that stood out.
India Shawn captures the perfect image of an idyllic romance scene with her song, “Exchange.” Using her signature soothing vocals, India creates an intricate yet soothing sonic representation of transmutation between lovers.
Ari Lennox is one of the finest R&B artists around, masterfully shifting its mood. Signed to Dreamville Records, Ari provides romantic confessionals for everywoman while marrying retro production with subtle sophistication. After making an early mark with mixtapes and self-released EPs in 2010, she quickly rose up through J. Cole’s label as soon as 2015 before issuing Shea Butter Baby (which peaked at number seven on Billboard’s R&B charts and led to another LP and charted single).
Lennox further refined her craft on her 2022 sophomore album age/sex/location, providing a more mature and reflective sonic display. Her dexterity in the studio shines throughout this record as she effortlessly maneuvers drill, hip hop and old school reggae genres effortlessly; while her lyrics speak of an experienced young woman ready for love again.
On this sultry uptempo track, crooner Savion features industry veterans like Jermaine Dupri and Bryan-Michael Cox to craft an ode to her new flame. Additionally, this record samples Shirley Brown’s 1977 single “Blessed Is the Woman (With a Man Like Mine),” adding another dimension of emotion and soulful romance.
Lennox teams up with Houston native Jvck James for this mid-tempo bedroom-ready jam. It showcases Lennox’s newfound openness and vulnerability as her sultry vocals melt over a laidback funk beat – perfect for creating the feel-good essence of R&B and offering an alternative approach than its peers using loudness to get attention.
Queen of R&B Diana Ross always challenged herself artistically and personally. With RENAISSANCE, her seventh studio album that explored themes of freedom, release and self-assurance felt familiar yet new at once. It featured semi-orchestral tracks with crackling beats; empowering lyrics; Donna Summer-referencing refrains to create an album full of authenticity talent and innovation which cemented Diana as one of pop’s leading musicians.
At a time when pop and R&B were often considered discordant, BEYONCE proved that maga-stars could bridge both genres. Her album’s exploration of body shame, including her pop feminist anthem “***Flawless”, and its exploration of sexuality via duets with JAY-Z (Drunk in Love) and slow jam “Rocket”, were proof. Furthermore, high-profile directors Hype Williams and Jonas Akerlund added contemporary touches while maintaining Beyonce’s timeless aesthetic.
Beyonce’s debut as a solo artist felt less of a risk than that of Destiny’s Child because, at that point, she had already outshone them both in terms of box office success and celebrity status. But with Dangerously in Love, Beyonce fully took up the mantle of solo star; producing mature yet challenging works like its Chi-Lites-sampled title track that really testify to Beyonce’s talent for pushing herself while maintaining unmistakable glamour.
Pink Sweat$, an “r&b songwriter” known for writing songs for Jhene Aiko and Jazmine Sullivan, has the power to move audiences emotionally with every note he sings. With smooth vocals that glide easily across various genres and beats, his songs shine when performed alongside other singers; especially beautiful ballads delivered effortlessly by this Philadelphia native that elevate any performance they join forces on effortlessly.
This year, Drake has made it abundantly clear that love is at the core of everything he does – with an EP named 2022 Pink Moon and subsequent duets with Tori Kelly, 6LACK, Sabrina Claudio and others. Additionally, he’s extended this theme further through collaborations such as teaming up with Joshua and DK from K-Pop band SEVENTEEN on an Honesty-titled track which showcases their velvety voices creating intimate conversation-like narratives which transport listeners along a journey towards romance.
R&B can often be an emotionally charged genre, yet Pink Sweat$ is here to remind us that true gentlemanship still exists today. His silky vocal delivery on this soothing ballad accompanied by Mahalia’s equally impressive performance serves as a reassuring reminder of the value of honest companionship and dedication in relationships.
India Shawn, one of Los Angeles’s sultrier and sensual artists, has made it her mission this year to spread love’s beauty. On her sultry and sensual track “Exchange,” this Los Angeles native paints an idyllic scene with each vocal note she releases; while its low-key sonic landscape of slowly plucked bass strings, smoky horns, and subtle cymbals serves as the ideal background for her seductive theatrics – perfect for romantic date nights or any time when feeling serious love vibes!
Top Dawg Entertainment’s SZA enjoyed an extraordinary 2021, topping charts with her hit singles “Flatline”, “Snooze” and “Kill Bill”. Now in 2022, her critically acclaimed sophomore album SOS continues to produce hits; one such track from SOS called “Shirt” finds her waxing poetic about toxic love as her debut LP CTRL did.
SZA’s second album was an explosion of soul. Her soaring vocals filled its songs with heartbreak, joy, and intimacy; offering fans a peek into her personal life and giving us insight into SZA herself. Her second album debuted at No.1 on the US Billboard 200 chart for over 50 weeks as well as topping year-end R&B charts; SZA earned several collaborations from this work such as with Justin Bieber for “Just Us” and Drake on “No Regrets”.
“Fly Girl,” another single from SOS, is an upbeat and inspiring track that features silky harmonies alongside glitchy R&B from 2023. This track celebrates self-love and self-care; its title refers to Missy Elliott’s 2002 song, “Work It.”
SZA isn’t afraid to experiment with her music; on her track “Green Honda”, SZA features rapper and producer Kendrick Lamar as a guest verse. This tune blends hip-hop, R&B and jazz into its rhythm reminiscent of late night radio shows that played hip hop music before the turn of the millennium.
SZA’s success as an artist speaks volumes for her versatility; her record reached such a wide audience. Additionally, SZA contributed her skillset and artistic aesthetic to several Top Dawg Entertainment releases including Isaiah Rashad’s Cilvia Demo and Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron albums.
SZA has been keeping herself busy as an artist throughout 2022, working on her second studio album and contributing to other’s projects. She’s performed at major festivals while touring for her album release as well as working with some of the biggest names in hip-hop and R&B – including writing songs for Cardi B and Sia on their single “Lighting Up”. Additionally, SZA will star in Netflix film Beyond The Storm in addition to touring internationally and working on both projects with others.