20 Best R&B Albums of 2014

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

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Toni Braxton & Babyface, 'Love Marriage & Divorce'
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5. Toni Braxton & Babyface, 'Love Marriage & Divorce'

Let's skip right to the climax here: ever-fearsome vengeful-boudoir queen Toni Braxton moaning, "I hope/I hope/I hope she gives you a disease/So that you will see/But not enough to make you die/But only make you cry/Like you did me" over gentle piano with quiet, devastating fury, like a baby grand landing on your head after a 10-story drop. Alongside ever-sumptuous mournful-boudoir king Babyface, she here unleashes the nastiest and lushest album-length kiss-off since Here, My Dear — and a dark-horse contender for the best R&B face-off since Marvin and Tammi's The Complete Duets. It's that great and that harrowing. Their fight rages from the bedroom ("Sweat") to the dance floor ("Heart Attack"), vacillating between bitter screeds and tender apologies with a Nineties sense of slickness but a very 21st century approach to public recrimination. R.H.

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