2016 in Review: Day 2 – R&B and Soul

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[2016 in Review]

1. Prelude (Best Album Art)
2. R&B and Soul
3. Rock and Alternative
4. Rap and Hip-hop
5. Dance and Electronic
6. Pop and Ballad
7. Folk and Country
8. Jazz and Crossover
9. Best Collaborative Work
10. Rookie Artist of the Year
11. Artist of the Year
12. Song of the Year
13. Album of the Year
14. Staff Picks
15. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

For the second year in a row, the R&B scene continued its massive resurgence – through efforts both within the music (trend-setting sounds and scopes) and around it (strengthening collaborative networks within the mainstream and underground scenes), R&B musicians are more than ever an indispensable piece of the industry. Today we recognize the cream of the crop among their work.

Important: as in previous years, 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 all “First Ten Out” and “Honorable Mention” picks are sorted by artist name.


Best R&B and Soul Album 2016

Jay Park - Everything You Wanted

Jay Park – Everything You Wanted

It’s a lengthy album, at 19 tracks, that also happens to be running the gamut of subgenres from PBR&B to future bass and following up a similarly long but very different album from just a year ago. That could have been a recipe for disaster, but it’s a testament to Jay Park’s presence that Everything You Wanted holds up as a cohesive work. Borrowing only sparsely from other voices, Park rhythmically, deftly handles the album’s varying challenges with a consistent bravado. Passionate tension and heady boasting abound, and he’s real good at it, but the album also packs a few reminders of his breadth: “Forever” and “The Truth Is” contain earnestness and interesting expression, and Park’s Korean lyric-writing exhibits significant growth in content (even though he still saves most of his wit for the English lines). Cha Cha Malone‘s production is the album’s other star, providing sleek veneer alongside explosive and even breathtaking progression (“Forever” is up there as one of 2016’s best beats). It’s hard for an album to do even one thing well, let alone as many as Jay Park takes on. It really was everything we wanted.

Runner-up R&B and Soul Album 2016

Hwayobi – 8

Hwayobi really committed to acoustic and live-session sounds for this, and it pays off. The instrumentation is brooding yet crisply autumnal and creative, lending hefty weight to Park Sung-il‘s compositions and accentuating their atmosphere. Listen to the subtle violin, the plodding bass and accordion that provide a deliciously smoky backdrop in the second verse of “연애인” (“Can’t Wait for Love”); the interplay of three instruments passing the same riff onto each other and building up the cathartic chorus of “꿈은 참 예쁘다 (“Dream’s Beautiful”). And as she navigates the forceful performance after the evocative, the rousing after the vulnerable, the 16-year vet sounds effortlessly good – her voice is really settled into a deeper, soulful style at this point, and it’s a snug fit with the arrangements. Do you remember those Park Hwayobi classics from the early 2000s? Add a whole album to that list. 8 is the work of a premier vocalist, better than ever, at a new height of her creative power.

The First Ten Out


Best R&B and Soul Song 2016

Chancellor – Rodeo (Featuring Paloalto)

“Rodeo” is really carried by that three-note guitar riff, a simple motif that proves to have remarkable staying power. As a keyboard, bass guitar and drums add crisp depth on top, that guitar keeps the beat moving and takes no breaks. It provides both a suitably percussive backdrop for Paloalto’s rapping and melodic foil for Chancellor’s singing, as the two performers also complement each other’s delivery – Paloalto with his signature dry monotone and Chancellor with an intentionally laid back, falsetto-driven smoothness. Easily one of the most addictive singles of the year.

Runner-up R&B and Soul Song 2016

Choyoung – What Is Your Color?

Choyoung is probably my pick for 2016’s best R&B rookie, her handful of singles showcasing a penchant for persuasive groove and absorbing storytelling – and in the case of “What Is Your Color?”, mesmerizing mood-setting. Piano and voice take turns in cascade and arpeggio, casting a dreamy net of sound over the lazy bass; Choyoung cycles through the color wheel and asks “which one is yours”, as if this is the most important question in the world during these two minutes. Which is entirely too short – all three tracks in the What Is Your Color collection are more like sketches, at under three minutes apiece – but just enough to sell us on the lush, verdant composition.

The First Ten Out

Ailee - A New Empire

Ailee – Home (Featuring Yoon Mi-rae)

Car, the Garden – Little By Little

Hoody – Like You

JERO & Dok2 – Paradise

Jun.K – Think About You

Kim Hyun-seok – Take It Out (Featuring Kim Ho-yeon)

Minje – Do

Jay Park - Everything You Wanted

Jay Park – Forever (With DJ Ale Mora) (Featuring Cha Cha Malone)

Jonghyun - She Is

Jonghyun – Moon

The Stray - Divide

The Stray – 짙어 (Deep) (Featuring Kriz)

Honorable Mentions


Bumkey – U-Turn
Chic – Just You
Crush – Interlude
Crush – Wonderlust
Dean – 130 Mood TRBL
Jimin Park – 19에서 20 (19 to 20)
Jun.K – Mr. NO♡
Kream – Talking to the Moon
Lee Hi – Seoulite
Lee Bada – Hope
Lundi Blues – Wake Up
Minje – Mojo
Nuz – Natural Blue
Ovcoco – Ovcoco
Retro Funkee – Seoul
The Stray – Divide
Sumin – Beat, And Go To Sleep
Yang Da-il – Say
Yang Da-il – Us


2LSON – Look Into My Eyes (Featuring Nihwa, Jeebanoff)
40 – 꿀 (Honey)
As One – 아픈건 좀 어때 (The Pain I Caused)
Baek Yerin – 그의 바다 (His Ocean)
Bevy Maco – 텅 빈 (So Faded)
Brown Eyed Soul – 밤의 멜로디 (Night Melody)
Cas.T X Lee Sang-ah – Boy A (Featuring Taebal)
Choyoung – Our Thing
Choyoung – Mmm
CJ – 침대에서 (In Bed) (Featuring Lil Cham)
Crush – Castaway (Featuring Miso)
Crush & Han Sang-won – Skip
Dean – D (Half Moon) (Featuring Gaeko)
Dilli Jinn – Swayy
ELO – Tattoo (Featuring Jay Park)
Hwayobi – 연애인(Lover)
Jay Park – All I Wanna Do (Featuring Hoody, Loco)
Joe Rhee – Insane (Featuring San E)
Jung Jin-woo – B Side U
Kimm Chaan – Love Flow (Featuring Sorbal)
Kream – Good Morning
Kyungmin – 완벽한 날씨 (Perfect Weather)
Loki – Wake Up (Featuring Tommy)
Mamamoo – Emotion
Minromi – Calling You (Featuring Nahyun)
Na Aram – Lay It Down (Featuring Huckleberry P)
Na Aram – The Time Is Passing By
Nieah – Cactus Flower
Nieah – No Way (Featuring Kamo)
Ovcoco – Caroline
Samuel Seo – Sandwich (Featuring Jung In)
Sienna – Cool Thang
Taemin – Drip Drop
Taemin – One By One
Taylor – Crazy Luv
Taylor – Swimming Pool
Yang Da-il – loveagain (Featuring Solar [Mamamoo])
Yeseo – Let It All Go
Yoon – 중독 (Addiction) (Featuring Tan)
Yoon Mi-rae – 잠깐만 Baby (JamCome On Baby)
Yoo Young-jin & D.O. – Tell Me (What Is Love)

Sources: album art from Bugs Music and; Jay Park header image from AOMG official Facebook page

Read our past series:

2015 in Review

2014 in Review

2013 in Review

2012 in Review

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