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20 Best R&B Albums of 2017

Sharon Jones, Khalid, SZA, Miguel and more

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Kelela, 'Take Me Apart'
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5. Kelela, 'Take Me Apart'5/20

5. Kelela, 'Take Me Apart'

Kelela emerged from dance and beat culture's wing of soul-yearning originals, and her debut album, Take Me Apart, is a career-making manifesto – boldly envisioned, ambitiously sung and lyrically pointed, like the headier dance-floor partner to SZA's Ctrl. Opener "Frontline" states the terms – Kelela coolly depicts a maddening relationship – as Jam City sketches a darkly swirling, expectant mood (before they both freak the percussive "Why you testin' me?" outro). Then it's off on a series of delicately wrought rhythmic vignettes – the misty fantasia of the title track (with Jam City, Arca, Boots, et al.); the swoony fatigue of "Enough" and jittery stand-off of "Onanon" (both produced by Arca). But "LMK" is the peak, a rattling, twinkling love-in-the-club prowl (via Jam City), where Kelela's heart is vulnerable, but her mind's in charge ("It ain't that deep, either way/No one's tryna settle down"). C.A.

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