On Tuesday, nominations for the 2023 Grammys were revealed. While folks like Beyonce, Lizzo, Kendrick Lamar, Steve Lacy and others were shoe-ins, there were a few artists who were noticeably absent—especially in the R&B category. And while I was excited to see my faves Lucky Daye and Robert Glasper in the Best Album category, because I’m a Certified Lover Girl, please allow me to use the next handful of paragraphs to give flowers to some other projects that were snubbed but undeniably deserve recognition. Starting with...
There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to describe how much I love Ari Lennox. From the shea buttery smoothness of her vocals to the signature ways she enunciates certain words, Lennox consistently delivers projects that are both true to the R&B genre all while infusing something new and fresh. And her latest project, Age/Sex/Location, is no exception. With few (but exciting) features from folks like Lucky Daye, Summer Walker, and Chlöe (also known as Chloe Bailey), and hit songs like “Pressure,” “Boy Bye,” “Waste My Time” and more, the fact that this album got no Grammy love is honestly very surprising. It’s a strong follow-up to her 2019 album Shea Butter Baby and is definitely worthy of flowers.
Speaking of surprising, I’m really not sure how Syd’s Broken Hearts Club went unrecognized. One of my markers for a good album is if it feels seamless; if all the songs flow into the next without me thinking, “Wait, this is a completely different vibe and it’s throwing me off.” With BHC, I never think that. In fact, what I do think about is past crushes, the good times from past situationships, hope for new love and more. As a somewhat hopeless romantic, this album spoke to both the lover and lover who lost in me and I don’t know about you but that’s the exact vibes I think about when I think of my favorite kind of R&B.
Listen to me very closely when I tell you this: Durand Bernarr’s vocal ability, range, and ear for music are legendary. The things he’s able to do with his voice can’t even be considered “runs” and “riffs”—they need to be called something else that can more accurately describe what the angelic sound is that’s coming out of his throat. With his latest album, Wanderlust, I frequently felt myself wanting to throw my shoe, screaming, “You better!” or pausing in incredulity at the sonic sweetness that was serenading my ears. “Leveled” alone makes you want to two-step around your house with a glass of wine (or smooth brown, if that’s more your speed). And “Mango Butter” is the smoothest and grooviest non-binary anthem I’ve ever heard in my life. Read that again, I don’t think you heard me. If this isn’t worthy of R&B recognition, then I don’t know what is.
Editor’s Note: I co-sign everything you just read. Durand Bernarr is the way, the truth, and the life, and in fulfilling his civic duty to be both a bad bitch and that nigga, he was even kind enough to deliver arguably the best R&B album this year. That alone is worth a tambourine shake. It’s just too damn bad the Grammys are hell-bent on being dead-ass wrong, per usual. Now go bask in the androgynous gospel of Wanderlust if you haven’t already and thank me later. — Jay Connor, Senior Editor
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Summer Walker’s Still Over It album. I had the pleasure of seeing Summer live at EssenceFest this year and I’ve gotta say that while I think I’m mentally evolved a bit in my boundaries and what I will and won’t put up with in relationships at this stage in life, the girl can write and sing. WELL. The way she can speak to what women are going through and nail their emotions is something not too many can boast about. And don’t even get me started on the phenomenal song opener that is “I ain’t taking your shit today, I ain’t taking your shit tomorrow” on “Unloyal.” She gets a 10/10 from me for that alone. Sorry, not sorry.
Honorable Mentions: Before I wrapped, I wanted to shout out SAULT, India Shawn, Brent Faiyaz, Kenyon Dixon and Kehlani for their respective projects, as well. You all dropped some undeniable heat and that shouldn’t go unmentioned.