The Year In R&B: 2004

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-The genre of R&B in the 2000s is interesting. There's some great years, some decent years, and some pretty uninteresting and boring years. For many, 2004 was the best year of the 2000s in regards to R&B based on just one album: Confessions from Usher. While my personal favorite album on the year came from John Legend with his classic debut Get Lifted, we had a number of albums on the year from Ciara and her Goodies debut, Tamia, Jill Scott, Brandy, the return of the Holy version of R. Kelly (if there was ever such a thing), and much more on the year. Today, we look back at 2004 in R&B and what could be seen as a dope year.

By the time 2004 rolled around, R&B releases had calmed down. It wasn’t an exceptionally busy year for the genre, but of course some of our favorite veteran artists were busy at work giving us some fantastic releases. Today DAR takes a look at the R&B releases of ’04 and here I am to once again take you through the ones I think were the best additions to the year. As much as I appreciate and enjoy each one of these, there was a clear “winner” but I’ll get to that in a minute.

DAR has covered this artist and his releases in detail (which is a fantastic read by the way), but it’s worth mentioning again because it’s my favorite in his limited catalog. Mario releases “Turning Point” and with this album, he reaffirmed that he could execute a solid R&B album. He gave us everything from the sweet and sappy lead single “Let Me Love You” to upbeat bounce and carefree spirit of “Boom” and the always clever “Nikes Fresh Out The Box”. Mario, although he was so young at the time of this release, was able to appeal to a range of age groups with his lyrics and of course with his amazing voice. This was a great addition to the list of releases this year.

Boyz II Men would release an album unlike any other and one that only they can pull off. 2004 gave us their “Throwbacks” album, which was exactly that. An entire album compiled of covers from R&B legends. Normally I would hate this because classics and legends should stay untouched, but Boyz II Men do each and every one of these songs justice. We see their rendition of songs from Al Green, The Isley Brothers, Teddy Pendergrass and Michael Jackson, among many others. Overall the album sounds amazing, of course. Boyz II Men have always brought nothing but harmonization as well as gentle, smooth and velvety vocals and they give us exactly that with this release as well. In fact, they are so great, you hardly notice that they are one member short on this album and missing the base vocals. They still produce a phenomenal album and one that would be appreciated by R&B fans of every generation.

Another great release comes from Brandy. This year gave us her “Afrodisiac” album. By the time this album was released, Brandy had gone through a ton of stuff personally (a divorce, management change and became a mother, so pretty much reinventing her image). Although she didn’t write the songs for this album, they do manage to convey the emotion and situations she was dealing with at the time and has quite the personal touch. She teams up with Timbaland for the majority of this album, which is absolutely brilliant, but we do see other producers such as Kanye West, Organized Noize and others. This gives us a good amount of variation and proves that Brandy can remain consistent as an artist. Tracks like “Should I Go”, “I Tried”, “Talk About Our Love” and “How I Feel” are honest, emotional and the lyrics coupled with Brandy’s trademark raspy, sultry voice makes this an excellent R&B album. Another highlight in the year.

2004 wouldn’t have been quite the same if it wasn’t for Usher’s “Confessions” album (another one DAR has covered in depth). This is probably the highlight release of the year and that’s largely due to the lead single “Yeah!” featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris (This collaboration was such a success that they team up again later in the year and give us “Lovers & Friends”). By the time “Confessions” released, Usher had already established himself as an R&B powerhouse with previous releases, but none would be quite like this. "Confessions" is raw, it's emotional and it's honest. Tracks like "Caught Up", "Burn", "Truth Hurts" and of course the title track "Confessions II" (which I personally can't listen to) were all in that vein. The commercial success of this album proved that Usher is one artist who knows his audience, knows what they like and delivers every time. Whether it is a banger or lovey dovey track or even one of heartbreak, Usher makes it sound amazing. This was a fantastic release.

Although 2004 wasn't filled with as many releases as others, the year still proved to deliver some solid albums. R&B is so rich in talent so in addition to the albums I mentioned, we also saw a release from R. Kelly, and Michael Jackson who released a few compilations as well as a box set which (obviously) sold millions almost instantly. Needless to say, '04 had it's phenomenal moments and these artists definitely added to it.

In 2004, we got the debuts from dance queen Ciara with her big hit "Goodies", Fantasia after her big win on American Idol, rough around the edges Lyfe Jennings with, soul singer John Legend and Lloyd with assistance from Ashanti on "Southside". There were many more projects from highly known artists to drop this yearn but I'll get into some of what caught my ear.

A few of the R&B singles I liked were:
Alicia Keys - Diary (2003-2004)
Usher & Alicia Keys - My Boo
Jagged Edge - What's It Like
Anthony Hamilton - Charlene
Musiq - WhoKnows
Monica - Should've Known better
Sean Paul & Sasha - Im Still In Love

Id like to mention some dope R&B/hip hop collabs as well on the year such as:
Lil Jon, Ludacris & Usher - Lovers & Friends 
Bow Wow ft Jagged Edge - My Baby
Slum Village ft John Legend - Selfish
Fabolous ft Tamia - So Into You
Jadakiss ft Mariah Carey - U Make Me
Chingy ft J Weaver - One Call Away
Cassidy ft R Kelly - Hotel

2 of the best albums this year IMO were first, Usher's Confessions. This was his most controversial, successful and celebrated release to date. Coming off his 3rd release "8701" which was amazing, I didn't think Usher would top that but I was wrong. There were so many joints I loved on here but if I had to narrow it down to a top 3 I'd go with "Throwback" featuring Jadakiss, "Confessions" and "Superstar". I still play tracks from this album and won't stop any time soon.

Next up is Destiny's Child with "Destiny Fulfilled". I never really liked this group other than the way they looked and I didn't really care for their sound, but this was different. They strayed away from that uptempo R&B/pop sound into a more slowed, heavily sampled R&B sound. I liked nearly every song on here. The best songs for me were "Is She The Reason", "If" and "Cater To You". That particular video was just captivating. They definitely ended their career as a group on a high note with a great body of work.

So, 2004 was a great year. You don't need me to tell you that. It was the year Usher became a bonafide superstar with Confessions, for starters. If you had a couple coins for every time that "Yeah" gets used in the club, on TV, etc. to this day (like Usher), you, too, could probably chill and release songs with Young Thug about giving women Ghetto D like Master P. The album is considered a classic for one reason: because it has all the qualities of a classic.

But, we're not here to gush over Usher. Love the man's body of work and he's my inspiration to get back in shape (ladies love the V-Cuts). But...I'm not going to talk about Usher much more here. Instead, let's talk Lloyd.

Yes, Lloyd. "Southside," both the album and the title song, are my shit. The title track still, even though it's kinda corny, still gets burn today. It's kind of an underrated album, but hits a lot of notes that albums like Confessions did. I think people expected Lloyd to be a straight-up teeny bopper. What they got is an album that was mature beyond its composer's years.

But, no list on 2004 wouldn't be complete without talking Mario. While I don't think I can say more on Mario than I have already, just know this. Mario, in 2004, was greatness and "Let Me Love You" is a classic, even if it can be seen as overrated.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal 
-While 2004 saw Ashanti, Mario, and many others release songs and projects, there are two memories seemingly forgotten. One memory that seems to be missing from most people's memory is the hit and album from R&B singer Houston. Oh you know him, right? The guy who attempted to commit suicide and took out his own eye? Well, this is the same guy who came out with the Nate Dogg and Chingy assisted "I Like That" before his issues caught up to him. It is really one of my favorite songs of the year, though the album itself paled in comparison. It's a shame he never really came back or got more success. The other memory? Mario Winans getting his 15 minutes of fame with the "hide me from the dirt you do" anthem, "I Don't Wanna Know". Still, as I mentioned, the year in general should be remembered for two classic albums: Usher’s Confessions and John Legend's Get Lifted. That's what sticks out the most about 2004, but the memories are endless.



Popular Posts