2019 In Review: Day 4 – R&B And Soul

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2019 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

I’ve been harping about the growth of the R&B and soul scene for a few years now in this space, and 2019 saw that scene-saturating expansion continue. While these selections are perhaps less top-heavy than some previous years’, the initial list of candidates in the R&B songs category (before cuts) was longer than any other genre this year, speaking to the depth of the scene. Strongly featured in 2019 were excellent works from the various alternative-R&B genres, and they dominate the top end of our list.


  • The “next-best ten” and honorable mention lists are sorted by artist name.
  • The 2019 R&B and Soul Spotify playlist is here and also embedded below:


Best R&B and Soul Album 2019

Seiren - no caption version

Soma – Seiren [read our review]

In March, I wrote that Seiren’s marine theme gave thematic justification to Soma’s cut-with-a-knife vocal atmosphere and savory backdrops. The ocean as a place of self-discovery and struggle made intuitive sense, and some of the heavier tracks in this album plausibly sell the sense of being “underwater” in one way or another. But perhaps an understated aspect of Seiren was just how quirky it was while still being completely serious. Soma was going all in on a hardcore sensual jam like “Betty” one moment, and then running into sharks and planting her childhood into a savanna in the next. The constant inventiveness with which the artist told her intimate stories was a real treat, made all the more compelling by that ocean theme and deeply satisfying compositions.

The Runner-up

Not My Fault - no caption version

Dress & Sogumm – Not My Fault

Sogumm was probably the greatest discovery of 2019 for a lot of people (certainly for me), and her inscrutably hazy voice does carry long stretches of Not My Fault. But it bears emphasizing just how good Dress’s work on the album’s soundscape turned out to be. From the nostalgic, string-drenched lushness of “I Wonder” to the industrial sheen of “Dear”, the production was an unpredictable and consistently inventive treat throughout. And in turn, it was the crucial ingredient in making emotional sense of this album. The tender depths and earnestness of these backdrops allowed Sogumm to redeem her performance beyond its clinical veneer, into something real and vulnerable.

The Next-Best Ten (Alphabetical)

Bronze – East Shore

Brown Eyed Soul – It’ Soul Right

Frnkoslc – Saturate

Hippy was Gipsy – 불 (Fire)

Jeebanoff – Good Thing.

Samuel Seo – The Misfit

Sogumm – Sobrightttttttt

Sumin – Oo Da Da

Viann – The Baker

YNR – Always Afternoon


Best R&B and Soul Song 2019

Jclef – Mama, See

Written by Jclef; composed by Vsclm, Jaedontwave, Jclef; arranged by Vsclm and Gimjonny

One of 2018’s forceful rookie sensations – and our biggest miss in last year’s recap, by far – Jclef returned with a brilliant single that again captured her penchant for imaginative structure and instinctive singing-rap delivery. She’s also a gifted storyteller, and here navigated the timely (and difficult) conversation around gender and violence in the form of an earnest letter from a daughter who speaks on behalf of other daughters. The unflinching expression (“Mama, they say the world has grown large / But some deaths are still convenient”) delivers gut punches as the vocalist disarmingly glides around the pulsing arrangement, and the closing shift to apocalyptic imagery – not new to Jclef’s language – forms a lasting aftertaste alongside the lullaby melody.

The Runner-up

Soma – Mermaid (Feat. Khundi Panda) [read our review]

Written by Soma and Khundi Panda; composed and arranged by 2S and Soma

The wonderfully brooding “Mermaid” was a shining example of that thematic success Seiren had. Atop an echoing, nigh glimmering array of vocal pads, Soma seamlessly adapted the Little Mermaid’s bargain to the yearnings of an aspiring singer, making the tradeoff from the other side (“If you can got [sic] a singing voice, maybe you can’t walk again”). Khundi Panda brought the same drive for success and a quiet fury, and the track went on to provide a defining focal point for the whole album.

The Next-Best Ten (Alphabetical)

015B & Fil – 325km

Bang Yong-guk – 야해 (Ya)

Bronze – Door (Feat. Sumin)

Hippy was Gipsy – 춤 (Dance)

Limhara – Color Me

Lofibaby – Body Painting

Moon Yeon – 런어웨이 (Runaway)

Summer Soul – Golden Time

Sunwoojunga – Fall Fall Fall

Viann – Got It All (Feat. Jinbo)

Honorable Mentions


Bang Yong-guk – Bangyongguk
B Jyun – Sovisionary
Fred – 너의 가림막 (The Curtain)
From All To Human – Resistance
Gaho – Preparation for a Journey
Gila – Fragments
Hersh – Thoughts.
Hoody – Departure
Houdini – Hollow
Hyngsn – Damdi
Jerd – Too Many Egos
Jiji – Jiji_EP_001
Jung Jin-hyeong – Soar
Junny – Vivid, Part 2
Katie – Log
Kirin & Sumin – Club 33
Ku One-chan – 일지 (Log)
Leebada – The Ocean
Mamamoo – Reality in Black
Protonebula – Born
Summer Soul – Five Senses
Thama – Pre
Voyoon – Unstable
Yeo Journey – Paradise
Yerin Baek – Our Love Is Great [read our review]
Yonko – Diary


75 & Gracie – 까딱 (Ggaddak)
Ateez – 안개 (Mist)
A-Train – 코르크 (Cork)
Baekhyun – UN Village
Bibi – 자국 (Step?)
Bobby Kim – 왜 난 (Why?) [read our review]
Brown Eyed Soul – Better Together
Brown Eyed Soul – 그대의 밤, 나의 아침 (Night and Day)
BTS – Home [read our review]
Choyoung – It Is Not That I Don’t Love You
Code Kunst – XI (Feat. Lee Hi)
Dress – Baby (Feat. Penomeco, Sogumm)
Dress & Sogumm – 궁금해 (I Wonder) (Feat. Jay Park)
Dress & Sogumm – 일기 (Diary) (Feat. Punchnello)
Eunsong – What About Me
Gaho – 떠날 준비 (Preparation for a Journey)
Gilla – We Don’t Have to Try (Feat. Slchld)
Guntac – Bangkok
GWSN – 밤의 비행 (Night Aviation – The Interpretation of Dreams)
Hoody – 춤 (Dance) (Feat. Jclef)
Hyngsn – 깊고 긴 바다처럼 (Like Deep and Long Sea) (Feat. Easymind)
Jeebanoff – 너와 같이 (Me and You)
Jiji – Feelings
Jiji – Praise You
Jooyoung – 아름 (Pure Happiness) (Feat. George)
Jung Jin-hyeong – Drug=Love (Feat. Sik-K; Prod. Gxxd)
Junny – Say (Feat. Tobias Dray)
Katie – Love Kills
Kim Eun-bi/EB – Damage (Feat. LoF!)
Luna – Do You Love Me (Feat. George)
Moonscent – Nine Million Miles
Nashpeep – 시선 (Gaze)
Nau Ryu – 아이슬란드 (Iceland)
New Authors & Moon So-yeon – What Is Love
Onha – 휘청휘청 (Sway)
Ooa – Time to Love
Ovcoco – 원해 (Want) (Feat. Q the Trumpet)
Park Bom – 봄 (Spring) (Feat. Sandara Park)
Primary – 우주 (Woozoo) (Feat. Sumin, Qim Isle)
Protonebula – Cradle (Feat. Slchld)
Red Velvet – Sunny Side Up! [read our review]
Red Velvet – 눈 맞추고, 손 맞대고 (Eyes Locked, Hands Locked)
Ryu Jisu – Say You Hate Me
Ryu Jisu – 나 I Flow (I Flow)
Samuel Seo – Yi Yu
Sogumm – Holdinon
Sole – Think
Soma – Betty [read our review]
Soma – The Shark in My Window (Feat. OLNL)
Sumin – Love Dance
Sumin – Stardust
Sultan of the Disco – 내부순환 (Naebu Expressway)
Suzanne – Unfortunately
Thama – Sing It
Voyoon – Swimmer
Woogie – Call My Name (Feat. G.Soul)
Woorim – 무화과 (Fig) (Feat. Verycoybunny)
Yerin Baek – Our Love Is Great [read our review]
Yerin Baek – 야간비행 (Merry and the Witch’s Flower)
YNR – Always Afternoon (Feat. Wilcox)
YNR – We Got to Love
YNR – 바다 (Dive)
Zico – 남겨짐에 대해 (Being Left) (Feat. Dvwn)

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

Read our past series:

2018 In Review

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review