2015 was a preposterously good year for R&B.
Here’s a short list of things that happened in the genre last year: Janet Jackson made a comeback, Jeremih and Ty Dolla $ign both released albums fans were getting beyond impatient for within weeks of each other, we saw new music released by everyone from Tamia and Babyface to Jazmine Sullivan and The Internet to Van Hunt and Raheem DeVaughn — and, oh yeah, just about everyone on FACT’s R&B artists to watch in 2015 won.
And while we were crying, “Fuck alt-R&B!” from the top of our lungs, the world listened and acknowledged that these innovations were more than just a quirky trend. We saw it with Tessa Thompson’s character and her musical output in the enormous Rocky movie Creed and we understood it was going away even better when The-Dream demanded people knew that R&B is always the alternative until it becomes mainstream. And then R&B finds new ways to be, once again.
A lot of the people finding those new sounds are in this list. They are global artists pulling from varied influences, whether it’s a former K-pop idol looking to lap the still-popular Chris Brown or a group of kids from West London bringing back the sorely missed R&B group dynamic. There are singers who are activists, L.A. girls who know how to make the Beach Boys sound like soul and much, much more.
These are the 10 R&B artists in 2016 to watch, but, really, the whole genre demands your attention.