20 Best R&B Albums of 2014

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

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Jessie Ware, 'Tough Love'

4. Jessie Ware, 'Tough Love'

The breathy, Purple Rain-soaked title track is an all-timer, humming along on little more than a LinnDrum heartbeat and a touch of falsetto ennui. It also immediately airlifts Jessie Ware out of the lucrative but stifling Sade Impersonator racket on her sharp, lithe sophomore album, wherein she tries her hand at Bee Gees-style mirror-ball pathos (the Dev Hynes jam "Want Your Feeling"), chest-beating power balladry (Ed Sheeran's fingerprints are welcome on the towering "Say You Love Me") and slinky bedroom-eyes majesty (Miguel drops by for the NC-17-sounding "Kind of…Sometimes…Maybe"). So she's malleable, but she never loses her stentorian vocal grandeur, or her breathtakingly gloomy view of modern romance: "If this isn't love, then I don't want to know," she wails with elegant desperation on "Keep On Lying." R.H.

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