20 Best R&B Albums of 2016

Frank Ocean, Solange, Alicia Keys and more

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Frank Ocean, 'Blonde'

2. Frank Ocean, 'Blonde'

In the four years following his triumphant 2012 debut, Channel Orange, Frank Ocean fans aggressively begged, pleaded and meme'd the low-profile superstar for new music. This summer, Ocean answered with the gauzy visual album, Endless, followed by Blonde: an intoxicating missive from the depths of his blue period. Heavily steeped in codeine, gaunt instrumentals are gingerly spaced between gospels ("Solo," "Godspeed"), a doting voicemail from his mother ("Be Yourself") and pouty soliloquies for loves long gone ("Ivy," "Self Control"). He slips in an epitaph to Trayvon Martin ("Nikes"). Legends like Kanye West and Beyoncé make oddly understated appearances along with support from indie faves Alex G. and Rostam Batmanglij. The result is challenging and unique. S.E.

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