20 Best R&B Albums of 2014

The year in tough lovers, elusive chanteuses, purple royalty and more

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, 'Give the People What They Want'
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20. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, 'Give the People What They Want'

When Sharon Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, went through chemotherapy and returned to appear on a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float in 2013, the world discovered the light-footed 58-year-old soul singer's strength. Those familiar with her music were less surprised. On Give the People What They Want, recorded before the diagnosis, but released this January, she sounds more confident than ever, doing her usual twist on Sixties-style R&B but sounding as strong as any contemporary Numero Group rare-groove reissue. Lyrically, same story: When Jones sings, "You'll be lonely after I'm gone" you know she means it; and when she tells you to retreat, you know which direction to run. N.M.