2018 In Review: Day 4 – R&B And Soul

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2018 In Review

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

Today, we move into a week of genre-specific recognition. 2018’s R&B crop was plentiful, continuing a trend of several years of growth all over the scene. It’s difficult picking the top twelve works each year, but the song category in R&B was one of the most competitive of any genre this season. From future bass infusions to old-school soul jams, here are our favorites from R&B and soul.


  • The “next-best ten” and honorable mention lists are sorted by artist name.
  • This year, we’re providing Spotify playlists of music featured in these lists (provided that Spotify carries the music). The 2018 R&B and Soul playlist is here and also embedded below:


Best R&B and Soul Album 2018

Naul – Sound Doctrine

Picking up where 2012’s Principle of My Soul left off, Naul submitted another love letter to the history of soul in Sound Doctrine. He spent generously to take us back to the heydays of Philly soul and funk: the album’s acoustic arrangements are warm and blooming, the synth fidelity rich, and the chorus backing smooth. It was a faithful recreation of the past at times (literally, in the case of the remake “Gloria”), but some of the album’s most inspired moments came when Naul orchestrated the blending of these eras, sometimes with the present: the ballad prechorus of “Feel Like”, the ambient underside of “Spring Song”, the new-age gospel of “Comforter”. Naul might be in a class by himself as a vocalist, and now he’s certainly in one as a producer.

Runner-up R&B and Soul Album 2018

Sumin – Your Home (read our review)

Your Home is so casual that it’s easy to overlook its greatness. Sumin’s debut full-length popped with colorful and intricate beats, spanned synthpop and gospel in a bold palette, and spoke in charming and visceral language. While endlessly inventive – an album that begins with the playfulness of “In Dreams” and ends with the veritable avalanche of “Sugar Fountain” must be – it was executed with such bravado and consistency as to sound effortless; we ended up with a deep, rewarding album that could be enjoyed just as well in light listens. We found traces of this kind of accessibly serious R&B elsewhere in K-pop this year (often because Sumin herself would be involved), but Your Home was its defining statement.

The Next-Best Ten

Divin’ – The Puzzle of Time

Guntac – Terminal EP

Hippy was Gypsy – 언어 (Language)

Horim – Metrocity

Jonghyun – Poet | Artist

Jung Jin-woo – Rotate

Junny & Yelloasis – Interior

Lofibaby – N

Saay – Claassic (read our review)

Samuel Seo – Unity


Best R&B and Soul Song 2018

Sultan of the Disco – 미끄럼틀 (The Slide) (Feat. Sumin) (read our review)

Aliens wasn’t even an R&B album, but Nahzam Sue reached out to Sumin for a hand and so here we are. “The Slide” captures an intimate, tender space suspended between the gazes of two lovers, and the moment really came alive in the intricate guitar and drumwork that characterize Sultan’s usual fare. It also had perhaps the year’s most striking and unexpected chorus: a three-measure-long melisma delivered with explosive power by Nahzam Sue atop burgeoning brass, a sonic representation of a wavy slide. Sumin’s slow breakdown heralded the song’s mesmerizing second half. In a genre that had no shortage of creative ideas, “The Slide” still stood out for its inventiveness.

Runner-up R&B and Soul Song 2018

Katie – Remember

A bit of a slam dunk out of nowhere, Katie Kim’s debut single “Remember” was viscerally satisfying in a way few other tracks from the year could match. It was loud and abrasive: from the echoing noise in the background to the abruptly blasting drums to the inscrutable veneer of backloaded synths in the chorus, everything in Kepler’s future-bass arrangement expands to fill the space in a dazzling array. The former Superstar K4 winner handled this dramatic yet monolithic backdrop with verve, toying with the rhythm and using her crisply dry tone persuasively. It was a special kind of sonic treat, and a reason to wait expectantly for what she does next.

The Next-Best Ten

Ann One – This Ain’t Love

Hippy was Gypsy – 순간 (Moment)

Jung Jin-woo – 색 (Color)

Leebada – Runnin’ Back

Lofibaby – World

Naul – 널 부르는 밤 (Feel Like)

Sojung – Crystal Clear (Prod. Paper Planet)

Sumin – 너네 집 (Your Home) (Feat. Xin Seha)

Sumin – 설탕분수 (Sugar Fountain) (Prod. Pomrad)

Yein – Cry

Honorable Mentions


40 – Blue Dawn
A.Train – Hello, My Name Is Insecure.
Alice Vicious – Flavors
B.O. – Comfort
Boni – 신보경 (Shin Bo Kyung)
Bumzu – 많지도 + 적지도: 스물일곱 (27)
Colde – Wave
Crush – Wonderlost
George – Cassette
Hippy was Gypsy – 빈손 (Empty Hands)
Jeebanoff – 주마등: 走馬燈 (Panorama)
Jimin Park – jiminxjamie
Jooyoung – Fountain
Mahogany King – 선 (About Me, Malc)
Mona – When
Muzie – New Wave City
Nashpeep – Through Nashpeep
Nuun – Good, After-Nuun
Nuz – 30 Nuz – The Painter
Oliver – Groove Yourself
O3ohn – jon2
Sam Kim – Sun and Moon
Se.A – Purple: EP
Soma – 봄 (Spring Breeze)
Soul One – SouLonely
Sunwo0o – Love,
Yang Da-il – Inside


40 – Wet
Ben – Bat
B.O. – Coffee
Boni – 밤밤밤 (2:30am)
Bumkey – 비 그리고 너 (Rain & You)
Bumzu – H.I.G.H
Changsoo – Mirrorball
Colde – Yayaya (Feat. Omega Sapien)
Divin’ – Cocoshine
Elz – 커튼 (Curtain)
Fla4free – 졸라 (Zolla) (Feat. Basick)
Ga Eun – Wall
George – 하려고해고백 (Gohaegoback)
Got7 – 너 하나만 (One and Only You) (Feat. Hyolyn)
Guntac – 동백 (Camellia)
HA:TFELT – 위로가 돼요 (Pluhmm)
IU – 삐삐 (Bbibbi)
Jimin Park – 하나 빼기 둘 (Count You Out)
Jonghyun – Take the Dive
Jonghyun – 빛이 나 (Shinin’)
Jooyoung – Fountain
Junny & Yelloasis – Problem
Kim Han-se – Out of Time
Kriz – Bad (Feat. Woodz)
LCHOI – Life Goes On
Leebada – 수채화 (Painting)
Leebada – 야몽음인 (夜夢陰人) (Night Dream)
Lofibaby – Love (Feat. Kei.G)
Mahogany King – Baby I
Mona – Run Away
Mona – Time Stops
Naul – Baby Funk
Naul – Gloria
Nuun – Go Go Picnic
Nuz – 잊혀져 가 (It Goes Forgotten) (Feat. Soma)
OLNL & Hippy was Gypsy – 여름비 (Summer Rain)
Rico – 까지까지까지 (Come Around) Live Ver. (Feat. Yeseo)
Ryu Jisu – 족쇄 (Shackles)
Saay – Encore
Saay – Overzone
Saay – Stay
Samuel Seo – Happy Avocado
SE O – King
Solid – Into the Light
Soma – Comb My Body (Feat. The Quiett)
Soma – 고마워 (THX)
Soul One – 좋더라 (Wondering) (Feat. Satbyeol)
Taek – 생일 축하해요 (Your Birthday)
Te Rim – FaceTime
Yoon Mi-rae – Peach (read our review)

Lyric translations by author. Artist profile and album cover images from Bugs Music.

Read our past series:

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review