20 Best R&B Albums of 2014

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

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Tinashe, 'Aquarius'

3. Tinashe, 'Aquarius'

Aquarius, Tinashe's major label debut, improves upon the feathery R&B of her three prior mixtapes, a new toughness being brought on by the big studio sound. That hard-soft edge has earned her Janet Jackson comparisons; and "2 On," her spry, spare, sweaty DJ Mustard-produced debut single, about the noble pursuit of having a great time with your friends, has anchored playlists since its January release. Aquarius also wrenches unconventional sounds from top shelf producers like Detail, Mike WiLL Made It, Evian Christ and Stargate. The best is "Bet," an icy mood piece pairing DJ Dahi and Blood Diamonds. "Pay no mind what the doubters all say," Tinashe's supple voice urges toward a trust fall as the song peaks, and then Dev Hynes shows up with a melancholy guitar solo easing you back down to earth. A.M.

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