20 Best R&B Albums of 2014

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

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Tink, 'Winter's Diary 2'

8. Tink, 'Winter's Diary 2'

Tink's music never fit the narrative of Chicago hip-hop — a mirror of the deadly blowback from the city's abandonment of poor, black communities — so she's not been a key figure in the microscopic dissections of the scene. But her brashly spit rhymes and fluid cooing have attracted plenty of music-industry attention (Timbaland is producing her official debut album). Winter's Diary 2, her fourth mixtape since 2012, focuses on fleet, frisky, mature, doleful love songs that recall TLC more than R&B's current leading edge — Miguel, Tinashe, Kelela. Already a sly songmaker, Tink projects a take-no-guff tenacity, even without a virtuoso voice ("Treat Me Like Somebody," "Count on You"). Shifting briefly into rap mode, she sparkles, trading nasty bars with Lil Herb on "Talkin' About" and busting out a fierce tribute to her faithful partner ("Your Secrets"). C.A.

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