20 Best R&B Albums of 2016

Frank Ocean, Solange, Alicia Keys and more

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Dawn, 'Redemption'

8. Dawn, 'Redemption'

On 2015's Blackheart, Dawn Richard plunged headfirst into the dusky squalor of stardom and destroyed the forcefield between techno and soul with finesse. ("Everyone laughed at it and told me I was overambitious," she told Rolling Stone.) On this year's Redemption, the final and most dazzling installation of her trilogy, Richard sets aside her mythical personas from previous albums – Goldenheart's Joan of Arc, Blackheart's dance-floor Persephone – and brings it all back home. "Home" can mean one of two things for the avant-garde visionary: Sometimes it's Louisiana, other times it's Venus. So Richard rounded up her own cosmic Arkestra of fellow New Orleans talents, such as Trombone Shorty and Maroon 5 keyboardist PJ Morton, ushering them into her bizarre alt universe. Big brass breaks the dizzying prog-rock spell of "LA," and parades into the rave in "Renegades." Richard ziplines back in time for a classic duet with a Hammond organ in "Vines," plus a lush nod to Prince in "Hey Nikki." Richard has never been a better version of herself. S.E.

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