20 Best R&B Albums of 2017

Sharon Jones, Khalid, SZA, Miguel and more

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Kehlani, 'SweetSexySavage'
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9. Kehlani, 'Sweet Sexy Savage'9/20

9. Kehlani, 'SweetSexySavage'

Part of Kehlani Parrish's talent as an innovative R&B artist lies in her soft yet sandpapery voice. She evokes an inner toughness that isn't impenetrable: She feels, but she can wound you, too. "Piece of Mind," which alludes to her widely publicized suicide attempt last year, finds her at her most fragile, yet alive and pushing forward. She shrugs about her penchant for breaking hearts on "Keep On," and "Do U Dirty" finds her growling, "I'm a do you dirty/You think you love me now/I think you should be worried." She presents herself as a fully engaged and self-aware artist, and she pours her heart into music that transforms acoustic arrangements, sinuous synthesized landscapes and throwback R&B tropes – allusions to past classics from Akon, New Edition and others abound – into a glossy portrait of a young woman on the verge of greatness. M.R.

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