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2021 in R & B offered a year of honest-to-god favorites coming back to the close up and plenty of new stars primed to carry the blowtorch into 2022. In the final examination calendar month of the year, fans received new songs from some of the genre ’ sulfur finest. SZA, Alicia Keys, Brent Faiyaz, The Weeknd and more all dropped .
Every month, HipHopDX puts a foreground on the tracks that stand out from the surfeit of releases throughout the year, highlighting everything from Billboard chart-friendly singles to substantive album cuts .

The Top R&B Songs of 2021 (January 1 – December 31)

“Rent Free” – 6lack

“I Hate You” – SZA

Soundcloud leaks are back like they never left. SZA softly dropped a fixed of unreleased tracks earlier this year, with “ I Hate You ” being a clear standout. The song began to course on Tik Tok and ended up becoming her beginning count 1 song on the R & B songs chart. Cooped up in a glass sheath of emotions, SZA bares her person over a simple, yet magnetic funk production. Her melodies tug at the heartstrings as she laments about the failures and misgivings of her fan, singing “ lost in the lie of us/lost, ain ’ thyroxine no discover us. ” It ’ s pain at its most infrastructure, and it ’ s impossible to tear away from. – David Brake

“Tears In The Club” – FKA Twigs f. The Weeknd

“Poison” – Aaliyah f. The Weeknd

“Plentiful” – Alicia Keys f. Pusha T

Alicia Key ’ s new double-LP sits at 26-tracks, but possibly no birdcall stands out ampere much as the intro. “ bountiful ” is a perfect blend of satiny piano chords, hard drums courtesy of Swizz Beatz and standout melodies from Keys. Pusha T and Alicia Keys aren ’ t inevitably the two names that come to mind when you think of your dream melodious duet, but the dichotomy of Key ’ mho heart wrenching vocals and Pusha ’ s menacing bars leaves you hoping for a articulation EP ( ideally it would be produced by Swizz besides ). – Jeremy Hecht

“Midnight River” – Pink Sweat$ f. 6lack

“I Can Escape (Freestyle)” – Frank Ocean

Being a Frank Ocean stan is unmanageable because every workweek you wake up to see his name trending on Twitter and hope that this time it ’ sulfur because a fresh sung was released – only to be let down by the fact it was just people begging for him to drop new music again. But on Christmas of 2021, Frank stans were blessed with a new 8-minute freestyle from their favorite artist. Frank ’ sulfur playpen is ampere potent as ever on “ I Can Escape ” as he delves into God, loss, lies and love in the shape of rocky knock stanza layed over top of beautifully simple piano chords. – Jeremy Hecht

“Crash For A Couple” – Marc E. Bassy

“Hrs & Hrs” – Muni Long

Muni Long has been one of the game ’ s top tier songwriters for years ( penning hits for Rihanna, Fifth Harmony and more ) but Muni ’ s songwriting talent shines through on her latest solo plan. “ Hrs And Hrs ” is a masterclass in mixing beautiful melodies with memorable lyrics. Every argumentation from the song could either serve as an IG caption or a piquant text message to your current partner. even Doja Cat was impressed. – Jeremy Hecht

“MERCEDES” – Brent Faiyaz

“Drones” – Terrace Martin f. Kendrick Lamar, James Fauntleroy, Ty Dolla $ign, Snoop Dogg

Terrace Martin has an unprecedented skill in getting the identical best from his sport artists, and on the eponymous track on his latest project DRONES, the genre-bending artist wrangled excellent verses from Kendrick Lamar, James Fauntleroy, Snoop Dogg and Ty Dolla $ ign. Grandiose, yet accessible, “ Drones ” is pure pat / R & B excellence .

“Intimidated” – KAYTRANADA f. H.E.R.

“Smokin Out The Window” – Silk Sonic

male bitter normally doesn ’ thymine bid well in music. But there ’ s something about Bruno Mars yelling “ this gripe ” and proceeding to list out all the things he did for a former lover before finding out she was cheating on him that ’ s equal parts endearing and relatable. To be cheated on is to feel dazed, thinking back on all the inconveniences, issues and things you did for that person because you loved them. “ Smokin Out The Window ” illustrates this riddle, using Mars and Anderson .Paak as two differing emotions : Mars giving voice to the jilted and pissed off lover, while Paak evokes disappointment and bewilderment. It ’ mho one of the times where Mars and Paak become when one, playing off each other to show off Silk Sonic ’ s true electric potential .

“I Deserve” – Smino f. NOS

directly after a affectionate and soulful sample welcomes the hearer to Smino and NOS. ’ randomness latest single, Smino voice wraps around the instrumentals as a abstruse 808 kick begins to rumble through the track. “ I Deserve, ” the St. Louis-born knocker ’ s fourthly one of the class is a fluent record with a Houston bounce propped up with a dark piano flick .

“Concrete” – Orion Son

“La cumbia me está llamando” – Nubya Garcia f. La Perla

“Coming Back” – James Blake f. SZA

James Blake is responsible for some of your front-runner melodies. He ’ south been used as a hook-killer for a act of different Hip Hop artists ranging from Kendrick Lamar to Travis Scott, but it ’ randomness on his solo make that his imagination is in full realized. “ Coming Back ” plays with a delicate melody and combines Blake ’ s songwriting talent with SZA ’ s heady voice, making the track one of this calendar month ’ mho best in R & B, but all of Friends That Break Your Heart is worth a listen .

“Stars Align” – Majid Jordan f. Drake

“I Hate You” – SZA

Soundcloud leaks are back like they never left. SZA softly dropped a stage set of unreleased tracks late last month, with “ I Hate You ” being a authorize standout. Cooped up in a glaze case of emotions, SZA bares her person over a simpleton, even magnetic funk production. Her melodies tug at the heartstrings as she laments about the failures and misgivings of her fan, singing “ lost in the lie of us/lost, ain ’ metric ton no recover us. ” It ’ s pain at its most base, and it ’ s impossible to tear away from .

“For Tonight” – Giveon

“Have Mercy” – Chlöe

Hearing Chlöe Bailey over a Murda Beatz implemental international relations and security network ’ t something that you would have immediately thought you needed, but the duet created a singular fathom for the singer ’ s beginning official solo single. Chlöe displays asterisk exponent on the chase that has fans excited for a wax length body of work .

“Come To Life” – Kanye West

“In The Dark” – Swae Lee f. Jhené Aiko

“Promises” – Cleo Sol

The beauty of “ Promises ” lies in the simplistic production from Inflo and the candid songwriting of Cleo Sol. With the album ’ sulfur transitions and product about similar to a studio crush school term amongst talented musicians, the standout track from Cleo ’ s newest album bares the person of the artist through themes of amour propre, forgiveness, vulnerability and accepting one ’ s flaws as focal points of healing. As Sol lightly vocalizes lying to herself in arrange to adjust to the changes occurring as she evolves as a woman, she finds that through the song ’ second ravel, these lies are equitable her way of protecting herself from the truths she didn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate want to face .
It is this reality that many women in their early twenties find themselves — at a intersection of what they instinctively know from the women in their direct pedigree and what they learn as they heal those generational wounds tied to love and curative relief. By the goal of the transcendent masterpiece, Sol questions herself, questions the desertion she faced, and realizes that love was never the enemy but the missing while she needed to heal. The unclouded declaration of self-love and boundaries in “ Promises ” makes it one of the most arresting R & B songs of 2021 .

“Just For Me” – PinkPantheress

PinkPantheress has never made a bad sung. The English university scholar, who besides moonlights as a bedroom garage artist capable of Tik Tok virality, holds a talent that is undeniable. “ Just For Me ” is the latest in her run of abbreviated, snippet-like tracks that have gripped Gen Z listeners ’ ears. Powered by a delicate string sample iteration, PinkPantheress muses about the ins and outs of an idyllic love. She yearns to the lone subject of her fan ’ second desires, as she sings on the hook : “ When you wipe your tears, do you wipe them merely for me ? ” She utilizes a wave echo effect at the end of every line on the refrain, allowing for each abstain to loop in the brains of everyone that comes into contact with the cut. It ’ s the latest case of the ceaseless region of possibilities that exist for PinkPanthress as she continues to drop goodies for her fans

“You Want My Love” – Earth, Wind & Fire f. Lucky Daye

“Unlock It” – ABRA f. Playboi Carti

ABRA hasn ’ t precisely been placid since her introduction album, but she has been choosy. She ’ mho dilute verses for ball-shaped pop superstars ( Bad Bunny, Charli XCX ) and kept close to AWFUL Records collaborators ( Ethereal, Father ) across a handful of features over the past five years, played a adolescent hellraiser in Sam Levinson ’ randomness Assassination Nation and refined her own sound with a steady drip of SoundCloud loosies .
Her reunion with early labelmate Playboi Carti on “ Unlock It ” is less eldritch than their alone work, about unnervingly slick. ABRA ’ second verse is brief, the merest flash in the pan, but her songwriting shines through, waltzing round and over the pocket of the beat, stopping and starting like a sailboat gently bobbing over cresting waves. interim the sinuate beat, courtesy of Boys Noize ( best known for Frank Ocean ’ s “ DHL ” ), cockily throb and snaps, accentuated by chanting voices and a pristine dial tone .
“ Unlock It ” is ABRA ’ s read and one of the few features where Carti feels like he ’ randomness being sucked into person else ’ south orbit, quite than the early means around. If this is just a taste of things to come, it ’ south easy to envision ABRA sticking out with her refract return on the intersection of rap, popular and R & B. She doesn ’ t need any shortcuts : she ’ s got the key .

“Stay High” – Brittany Howard & Childish Gambino

Remix albums frequently produce a mix bulge of reworks and retreads. New efforts can either muddy the artistic management of the original songs or unlock a new lane fully of singular elements that elevate the track ’ south quality. Brittany Howard released a amply revamped version of her 2019 solo secrete Jaime, with a clear up standout being the remix of “ Stay High, ” which features a performance from renaissance man Donald Glover .
The remix trades in the crescendo of strings and glockenspiel for a more electronic-based orchestra of production elements. alternatively of Howard ’ randomness robust and grating voice, fans get Glover ’ south delicate, falsetto singing voice to match the celestial production. It works to perfection, creating a dreamlike track that runs latitude to the original track ’ sulfur personality and quality .

“Selfish” – Tink f. Yung Bleu

“Tangerine Dream” – Snoh Aalegra

The heartbreaking languor of Tangerine Dream lone far adds to the allure of Snoh Aalegra. Highlighting her strengths as a capture writer and singer, the album ’ sulfur standout track chronicles her chew over over the brief anticipation of reigniting sparks between lovers and the sudden loss of such affection she was able to control in her illusion. The starry-eyed opinion of yearning for what international relations and security network ’ thymine rooted in truth and the disappointment of that falsehood is expressed through bright imagination of her and said lover somehow landing on the same flight yet remaining emotionally distanced from one another .
Aalegra ’ s endow of conveying re-imaginations of closeness and fantasize over conjectural infatuations not only fits the album ’ s thematic landscape but elevates the overall sonic travel through Aalegra ’ s impermanent daydreams of love and, at times, melancholic but bittersweet moments of world .

“Bouncin’” – Tinashe

“Fast Car” – Syd

The masses became mindful of Syd after Tyler, The Creator shouted her out on his mainstream breakout individual “ Yonkers. ” But since then, the erstwhile Odd Future affiliate and current front man woman of The Internet has grown to levels many couldn ’ t have seen coming. Her latest singles have been diverse in healthy and writing style and “ Fast Car ” adds another color to her palette.

There ’ s a ex post facto feel to the track, like it ’ sulfur lifted straight from the late 80s. Shimmering synth pop keys mix with gate reverb-filled drums to give the track a vintage spirit, even closing with an 80s hair’s-breadth metallic element guitar solo. It evokes the spirit of driving on the Pacific Coast Highway on a bright Sunday good afternoon, gliding through the road with the windows down, frozen in a moment of bliss .

“Wasting Time” – Brent Faiyaz f. Drake

Although Brent Faiyaz has become the latest recipient role of the Drake stimulation software, his catalogue already stands on its own without a verse from Aubrey. On “ Wasting Time ” the two artists serve as the perfect match, serving up hilariously toxic lyrics masked by fluent melodies and flows. Brent ’ randomness hook is evocative of a simple time in R & B and Drake comes through with a verse that has enough quotables to supply everyone with Instagram captions for the rest of the summer .

“Tragic” – Jazmine Sullivan

Following up her critically acclaimed album Heaux Tales from earlier this year, Jazmine Sullivan released “ Tragic ” in the final week of June. Sullivan has found that there ’ sulfur nothing more tragic than time wasted as she recalls a fail relationship, boasting her boom voice over consummate, bass-heavy production from Leven Kali. At 34-years-old, with over a decade of experience working in the music industry, Sullivan knows what she wants : don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate yank her around.

“Been Through That” – Majid Jordan

“Marvin’s Room” – Queen Naija

A decade after Drake ’ s classical song dropped in 2011, it continues to be the quintessential dissolution song for person missing their ex-husband. In an Amazon Exclusive, Queen Naija puts her own spin on the Take Care track, and provides it with newly life. If you ’ re toast after the baseball club, listen at your own hazard .

“All Pride Aside” – Shelley FKA DRAM f. Summer Walker

Shelley FKA DRAM is not the same artist as when he dropped “ Broccoli, ” the artist ’ s break single from 2016 ’ s Big Baby DRAM. now going by Shelley, his given identify, the 32-year-old artist has undergone a rebranding and reimagining of himself as an artist. The resultant role is the charming Shelley FKA DRAM .
Reintroducing himself to the global, now tinted in an steep R & B imbue, Shelley ’ s new album is highlighted by “ All Pride Aside ” featuring Summer Walker. The intro to Shelley FKA DRAM, “ All Pride Aside, ” features a invigorate Shelley, flexing the wide range of his spokesperson, which was previously boxed into the boundaries of tap. now rid from constraint, Shelley is a burgeoning force to be reckoned with in R & B .

“I Like Dat” – T-Pain & Kehlani

T-Pain and Kehlani are a bewitching if not an unexpected combination of artists, but their modern joint unmarried “ I Like Dat ” cursorily dispels any criticism. After the pair teased their new collaboration by chatting on Instagram Live, the individual was released earlier this May. Featuring thick, driving 808s and a flit hi-hat, produced by T-Pain with DJ Montay, “ I Like Dat ” evokes nostalgia of the reign of T-Pain, while Kehlani ’ s elegant pitch tints the racetrack with a modern heavy .

“Funeral” – Miguel

“Come Through” – H.E.R. f. Chris Brown

“Kiss Me More” – Doja Cat f. SZA

“Fck Boys” – Blxst f. Russ

L.A. singer and HipHopDX Rising Star Blxst ’ s 2020 come-up was swift and catalyzed by his applaud No Love Lost (Deluxe) album — which aligned the singer with West Coast headliners such as Ty Dolla $ ign, Dom Kennedy, and Tyga .
Though momentum of the project has carried over into 2021, Blxst remains firm in his approach to releasing life style vibration enhancing grooves whilst besides delivering purposeful collaborations. Take the bikini Just For Clarity one “ Fck Boys ” as attest of Blxst ’ s committedness. The birdcall features Russ serve as the soundtrack to modern chivalry for the hood ’ s rebirth man .

“Leave The Door Open” – Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, Silk Sonic

The results of combining two Grammy Award-winning, neo-soul and R & B genre bending artists is without a doubt Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak ’ s inauguration Silk Sonic duet one “ Leave The Door Open. ” The smooth-rolling, sensual bedtime banger is a looking-glass window into the fortunate old age of the Motown voice. Overflowing with soulful outspoken performances and funky instrumentality, “ Leave The Door Open ” is that good-good R & B our parents told us about while growing up .

“On One” – Joyce Wrice f. Freddie Gibbs

Joyce Wrice has been making music since 2015 but seems to be pushing the proper buttons for a break in 2021. After scoring a viral hit in 2020 with “ That ’ s On You, ” including a remix featuring fellow rising R & B artist UMI, the 28-year-old Japanese-American has dropped her debut album Overgrown to glowing praise .
The gay cut features a bouncy groove evocative of Brandy ’ s “ Best Friend, ” Her Hip-Hop/R & B fusion is a welcome recall to great sounds of the past like Ashanti and Mariah Carey, with Wrice making the style her own. There ’ s besides rival for best rapper in the game, Freddie Gibbs, casually coming through for a thugs-need-love-too feature done mighty .

“Caution” – Kaytranada

A beatnik from Kaytranada international relations and security network ’ t merely a platform for artists to rap over. Each track is an expansive world, built carefully and intentionally from smaller components — a snare drum hit here, a slightly contort synth notice there. The canadian producer approaches his work like a painter with a fine brush, filling the sail with blend notes .
“ Caution, ” the latest individual from the 28-year-old musician, is lavish and off-kilter. The influence of celebrated Detroit manufacturer J Dilla is apparent throughout the song, though it ’ s besides ripe with motifs from Afrobeats and even the digital sounds of House music. While Kaytranada has produced excellent tracks for rappers including Vic Mensa, Syd and GoldLink, “ Caution ” is a refreshing traverse that creates room for the manufacturer to shine .

“80/20” – Chloe x Halle

R & B could never be dead while Chloe x Halle are making music. The R & B couple, comprised of sisters Chloe and Halle Bailey, have overtaken the writing style with a ferocity. First with Ungodly Hour  and immediately with Ungodly Hour (Chrome Edition),  which includes two new tracks and a vinyl melt .
“ 80/20, ” one of the two bonus songs, is a coquettish overwork, with the girls singing about desiring more than what their monogamous spouse can offer, while looking elsewhere for the 20 percentage they need. They flip traditional stereotypes on their heads, running through boys with zeal. They shun conventional sex expectations through a banteringly tease and a bubbly delivery .

“Gravity” – Brent Faiyaz & DJ Dahi f. Tyler, The Creator

DJ Dahi immediately sets the tonicity for “ Gravity ” with a soft, roll surfboard guitar iteration, driven by a spare, dragging kick back drum. It ’ s a lilt, bare output that leaves enough of space for Brent Faiyaz ’ second layered harmonies. The Columbia, Maryland-born singer might alone be 25 years honest-to-god, but he writes love songs like an old soul, detailing his romances with wag and a ripe candor .
Faiyaz tapped Tyler, The Creator for his latest, a serviceman who besides knows his direction around a good love song. Tyler ’ s more abrasive part marries perfectly with the smooth production of DJ Dahi and Faiyaz ’ s soulful crooning .

“Good Days” – SZA

The Queen of R & B is back. All eyes turned to her with death year ’ south release of “ Good Days, ” which besides featured Ty Dolla $ ign. Her latest track “ Good Days ” has now arrived and the ball is in the TDE singer ’ south court. SZA ’ s run of especial production continues, with an all-star fabrication of Los Hendrix, Nascent, Carter Lang and outspoken magician Jacob Collier .
“ good Days ” besides marks SZA ’ s first entrance into the Billboard Hot 100 as a solo artist, peaking at the No. 10 spot weeks after its release. SZA seems to be leaning back into the sounds from her instant-classic Ctrl, a welcome return key for her fans .

“He Said” – dvsn f. Miguel

Alternative R & B doesn ’ t quite classify DVSN ’ s Amusing Her Feelings track “ He Said ” sport Miguel because it truly exists in a space of its own. Ignited by what is arguably pop/punk-tinged production and a very moody, semi-somber feature from Miguel, “ He Said ” crosses-over multiple genre guidelines in the best possible ways .
And with lead-singer Daniel Daley ’ s sexualized lyrics cascading over the circus tent of the apocalyptic instrumentality, “ He Said ” is easily one of the most memorable tracks from the OVO couple ’ sulfur late deluxe offering .
Check back at the beginning of every month for updates and check out our other lists below :
Editor’s note: Songs from this list were released between December 1, 2020 – December 1, 2021.
Contributing writers : David Brake, Trent Clark, Kyle Eustice, Jeremy Hecht, Devon Jefferson, Dana Scott, Kia Turner, Ben Brutocao, Michael Saponara, Anthony Malone, Matthew Ritchie & Josh Svetz.


  • “MLK Dr” – Smino
  • “On It” – Jazmine Sullivan f. Ari Lennox
  • “ Comeback. ” – Gallant


  • “Still Yours” – Bryson Tiller f. Big Sean
  • “Fight For You” – H.E.R.
  • “ Lead The Way ” – Jhené Aiko


  • “By Yourself (Remix)” – Ty Dolla $ign, Bryson Tiller, Jhene Aiko, DJ Mustard
  • “All To Me” – Giveon


  • “ Party Life ” – Miguel
  • “Gone” – Jorja Smith
  • “Get Into It (Yuh)” – Doja Cat


  • “What Are We?” – Inayah
  • “Motorbike” – Leon Bridges
  • “Bussdown” – Jorja Smith f. Shaybo


  • “Running Blind” – Lucky Daye
  • “Lost You” – Snoh Aalegra


  • “Got Me Like” – Amaria & Mick Jenkins
  • “Wild Side” – Normani f. Cardi B
  • “Aura” – Mariah the Scientist


  • “Angels” – Tinashe f. Kaash Paige
  • “Boomerang” – Yebba


  • “Altar” – Kehlani
  • “Ex For A Reason” – Summer Walker f. JT


  • “Nothing Feels Better” – Pink Sweat$
  • “Nineteen” – PinkPantheress


  • “Unloyal” – Summer Walker f. Ari Lennox
  • “$payforhaiti” – KAYTRANADA f. Mach-Hommy