2013 in Review: Day 2 – R&B and Soul

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[The 2013 in Review Series]

0. Prelude – Best Album Art
1. Introduction
2. R&B and Soul
3. Rock and Alternative
4. Rap and Hip-hop
5. Dance and Electronica
6. Pop, Ballad and Folk
7. Jazz, Crossover and Other
8. Best Collaborative Work
9. Rookie of the Year
10. Song of the Year
11. Artist of the Year
12. Album of the Year
13. Staff Picks
14. Miscellanea and Loose Ends
15. Concluding Remarks

Welcome back to our 2013 in Review series. 2013 was a top-heavy year for the R&B scene: the year’s two best albums were some of the best in several years, with a little drop-off occurring after those. Some highly anticipated album comebacks did not happen – those of 40, Boni, and Taeyang, among others – which prevented 2013 from being a true landmark year. The scene did show signs of further diversification, however, with PBR&B trends being incorporated into both mainstream pop and more niche R&B albums even as sounds of dub, reggae and EDM found their way into the genre.

Important: same as last year, the Album of the Year and Song of the Year (and their runner-ups) are not included in the genre categories. That means that, for example, there could be an R&B album that isn’t being recognized on this page because it’s the album of the year. Also, note that honorable mention picks are sorted by alphabetical order of artist names.


Best R&B and Soul Album 2013

Zion.T - Red Light

Zion.T – Red Light (read our review)

The voice helps. No doubt. Zion.T’s tone and groove make him instantly recognizable, and the expert way in which he wields it helped him get to where he is. But the real story of Red Light, his solo debut, were the beats, instrumentation, and production. The artist and his supporting cast – all dependable names including Primary and Gray – craft an album at the intersection of the already-perfected with the experimental. We find flawlessly polished crowd-pleasers like Babay, 뻔한 멜로디 (Predictable Melody) and a new-look Click Me 2013, and Zion.T has the guts to also plug in things like irregular-beat jam Doop, topical dub track 지구온난화 (Global Warming), and metallic sound experiment Neon Director’s Cut. The result was an R&B album overwhelmingly triumphant in both quality and variety. The guy knows what he’s good at and how to maximize those strengths, which is more than you can say for an awful lot of people, but he’s already looking toward greater heights.

Runner-up R&B and Soul Album 2013

Jinbo - Fantasy

Jinbo – Fantasy (read our review)

One: Jinbo’s proven himself a student of these genres, and the scale of his musical references and spectra have produced some staggering results before. Two: Fantasy is a lot more electronic than his previous work and our Best R&B and Soul Album 2012, KRNB, and the synthetic soundset gives Jinbo a more flexible brush to paint with. Given these facts, it’s not hard to imagine a great album. Jinbo weaves deep soul melodies with chiptune, hip-hop with new-age pop, synthpop with blues. He doesn’t rely on contrast for cheap thrills, and instead focuses on making these discrete references work naturally to complete his imaginative vision. As a result, while Fantasy acknowledges and sometimes even borrows from the traditional vocal-heavy, Solid-influenced style and the modern urban style pursued by Amoeba Culture and associates, it sounds very different from any other strand of R&B and soul being made in Korea. This album pushes the boundary of a genre, and that’s cause for celebration.

Honorable Mentions

A June and J Beat - Soul Store

A June & J Beat – Soul Store

Cheeze - Recipe!

CHEEZE – Recipe! (read our review)

d.ear - Love Graphy

d.ear – Love Graphy (read our review)

Heenain - H9

Heenain – H9

Joo Young - From Me To You

Joo Young – From Me To You

Lee Hi - First Love

Lee Hi – First Love (read our review of Part 1 here)

Mayson the Soul - Jackasoul

Mayson the Soul – Jackasoul

Soulciety - Diamonds

Soulciety – Diamonds


Best R&B and Soul Song 2013

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Mayson the Soul – Holiday

Good songs tend to capture us – and Holiday does just that. From the ringing piano cadence to crooning guitars to Mayson’s easy falsetto, there is no piece of the song that isn’t entrancing from the first note. It’s a bit of an old-school throwback amidst the sea of sharply cut R&B music that defined the year, and Holiday appeals with a dreamy atmosphere and memorable chorus. It was quietly one of the year’s punchiest singles.

Runner-up R&B and Soul Song 2013

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Zion.T – Doop (Featuring Verbal Jint)

I don’t think anyone expected Zion.T to go in this sort of direction in his debut album. The ponderous slow-jam wasn’t something we had seen much of from him, nor was minimalist instrumentation in general. In Doop the artist pulled both off with the added twist of an unbalanced beat. There is an austere attractiveness to the track and Zion.T puts in one of his best performances ever, pulsing and punctuating along with the contours of the warm keyboard tones. Satisfying.

Honorable Mentions

All That – Iced Tea (Featuring Joosuc)
Dr. Gimm – Slow
ELO – Blur (Featuring Loco)
Gray – 깜빡 (Blink) Remix (Featuring ELO, Crush, and Jinbo)
Ha Dong-Qn – 지워도 남아 있는 (Clearing the Remains)
Henmi – 바라지 않는 Girl (Don’t Want It)
Hyolyn – Falling
JeA – 안아보자 (Let’s Hug) (Featuring Jung Yup) [read our album review]
Jinbo – Fantasy
Jinbo – Tape It Slow Baby (Featuring Ill Jeanz)
John Park – Imagine [read our album review]
Jungkey – Mama (Featuring Goo Yoon-hoi, Han Ye-seul, Shin Jong-wook, and Kim Na-young)
Lee Hi – It’s Over
Nieah – Belief (Featuring Kitti.B)
Nissi – 검은 나비의 목소리 (Voice of the Black Butterfly)
Rhythmking – Think About You (Featuring Bumkey, Shorry, and Yeeun)
Satbyeol – Do Me
Song Ji-eun – 희망고문 (Hope Torture)
Soulciety – 늘 (Always) (Featuring Nam Joo-hee)
Urban Space – Lost In Time
Yoo Sung-eun – 집으로 데려가줘 (Take Me Home)
Zion.T – 지구온난화 (Global Warming) (Featuring YDG)

Sources: Photos – Zion.T from Hiphoplaya; album covers from Daum Music; Videos – YouTube

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