DAR Music: The 6 Best R&B Albums Of 2004

By @TrueGodImmortal

2004 was one of the last great years for R&B. After an up and down 2003, 2004 saw new artists emerge, the arrival of a princess, and veterans come of age in various ways musically. All in all, 2004 was a turning point for R&B, somewhat in a good way and somewhat in a bad way. With the top tier albums that came out this year, it would be the last year that R&B would be on this level, at least for quite some time. Perhaps it was the biggest album of the year taking the shine, or the power of Crunk & B becoming a thing, or even the arrival of a piano playing vocalist with a close connection to Kanye West. 2004 was an important year in R&B and today, we rank the 6 best albums in the genre from that year. Which albums are on the list? Read on to find out.

6. Jill Scott- Beautifully Human: Words And Sounds Vol. 2

-I will admit, Jill had lost a bit of steam after a small hiatus following her debut, and this album wasn't her greatest work personally, but it was solid enough to be a top release on the year. I chose this over a few other albums that were good, because Jill at her best is hard to deny. This album showed flashes of brilliance and carried over the smooth and jazzy vibe that dominated her debut album by far. With solid production, her powerful vocals, and a cohesive tracklist, Jill delivers songs like the classic single "Golden", the underrated "Whatever", the Grammy nominated "Cross My Mind", and many more. This album was a good listen, and though there were a few small dry spots musically, for the most part, this project succeeds with showcasing Jill still had it and then some.

5. Ciara- Goodies

-I am not a fan of Ciara by any stretch of the imagination. However, if I had to pick an album where she delivered, it would easily be her debut. At the time of her arrival, hip hop and R&B had just begun to fully embrace the Crunk sound, and Ciara would usher in the Crunk & B style with this intriguing album that features catchy production and hit records throughout. With production from Jazze Pha, Dre & Vidal, and Lil' Jon along with contributions on the verse side of things from Petey Pablo, Ludacris, R. Kelly, and Missy, Ciara doesn't miss on this project for the most part. With over 3 million copies sold and hit records such as the title track, "Oh", "And I", "1, 2 Step", and more, she would arrive and make her presence felt.

4. Prince- Musicology

-I struggle with putting any Prince album in a one genre box, but the
reality is, this was an album full of alternative R&B and funky soul throughout. Prince was comfortable in his legend role as an artist and still outworked most of the newer artists in the game. This album would bring him back to commercial prominence after a slight slip in sales and popularity for his music, and he didn't disappoint. With production ranging from the most melodic to the most bare and simple, Prince brings us song like "Cinnamon Girl", the title track, "A Million Days", "What Do U Want Me To Do", and my personal favorite "Call My Name". The album is in the upper half of his extensive catalog and with a double platinum certification, it would become the most successful Prince album in over 13 years, which is an amazing feat.

3. Destiny's Child- Destiny Fulfilled

-The final official album from the trio of ladies that is just as good if not better than their second album. Universally seen as the becoming of the group, this more mature and sensual album sees the group completely embracing their adulthood and new perspectives. While there are anthems here such as the T.I. and Lil' Wayne featured "Soldier" and the high frenzied "Lose My Breath", the best songs from this album come when the pace is slowed down, like on the hit single ballad "Cater 2 U", the sexy "T-Shirt", and the 9th Wonder produced "Girl". This album would send the group off on a high note, selling well over 3 million copies and boasting an extremely successful tour following.

2. John Legend- Get Lifted

-I rememher the first time I heard this album and the moment I decided to purchase it. I was a fan of Legend's work with Kanye prior to the album, and when this project finally dropped, I was interested to at least hear what it would sound like. From the opening note, I knew this album was something special, and I would be pleasantly surprised as the listening experience continued. With production from Kanye and Will.i.Am among others, the sound is smooth and soulful but with an extra hip hop kick to it in the drums on some of the songs. The single that brought this album to prominence was the all time classic "Ordinary People", which was everywhere at one point. That song catapulted this album to Grammy nominations, awards, and a double platinum certification, but it was probably one of my least favorite songs on the album. While I like every song on the album of course, "Ordinary People" never seemed to have the staying power of "So High", "Number One", "Refuge", or my favorite "Stay With You", despite being a great song. Simply put, Get Lifted might actually be my favorite album of the year, but it is not the most important nor the greatest album from the year. I think we all know what that one is.

1. Usher- Confessions

-This album was essentially one of the greatest albums ever in the genre, earning a diamond plaque, nominations, awards, and taking Usher to impossible heights as an artist. There are some albums that surprise you in how well they are received and I must admit that when I first listened to Confessions, I didn't expect it to be AS BIG as it became. I knew it would sell, and I knew it would be a popular album, but diamond certified? I wouldn't have guessed. That showcases how powerful the album has to be because the shortlist of artists in the genre who have gone diamond usually capture something in the moment that no artist has before. The honesty in this music from Usher definitely played a role as songs like the title track, "Burn", "Throwback", and more showcased a more remorseful Usher after his publicized breakup with Chilli of TLC. There are no weak tracks on the album, though one could do without hearing "Yeah!" every time I step inside of a bar in the city, and the special edition of the album only added to the greatness. With gems like "Superstar", "Simple Things", "Can U Handle It", and "Follow Me" that could have been huge hit singles as well and nearly 20 million copies sold worldwide, Confessions is easily the best album of 2004 and perhaps the best R&B album of the entire decade.



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