20 Best R&B Albums of 2016

Frank Ocean, Solange, Alicia Keys and more

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Fantasia, 'The Definition Of...'
20
14/20

14. Fantasia, 'The Definition Of...'

The onetime American Idol champ skips across styles with blithe, deft charm on her fifth album. The heavy power chords that unexpectedly lead off opening track, "Crazy," blossom into full-on freaky funk-rock, and from there Fantasia skates atop blippy electronics, responds to the call of neo-soul horns and even kicks up dust with a country ballad. And Fantasia's emotional range is just as broad, whether she's scrunching her voice into playfully expressive shapes or expanding it cathartically. She's coolly drama-avoidant on "No Time for It," but when R. Kelly whips up melodramatic strings and percussive horns for the cheater's plaint "Sleeping With the One I Love," she brings the retro theatricality. So much genre-hopping could signal a personality crisis in a less assured singer, but Fantasia consistently sounds like her own woman here as she reminds us that both "rhythm" and "blues" are open-ended words. K.H.

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