Best R&B/Soul Music of 2021

R&B – it’s the good stuff.

I didn’t follow the genre as closely as I did last year, but nonetheless here are some releases which caught my ear in 2021. As usual it was strongly dominated by music coming out of the UK.


When an r&b release is being covered on Resident Advisor you know something interesting is at play. There are moment on Tirzah’s new album when you can hear her clearing her voice – her new album is raw, stripped bare, and mesmerizing in its simple, sparse grooves. Nothing else out there sounds quite like it. But the highlight is her voice, in all it’s textured richness. Possibly album of the year for me. Listen in full on her Bandcamp.


AOTY? It’s not every day you see two brothers getting intimate in a music video, but hey it’s 2021 and we’re breaking barriers and all here for it. There’s a lovely, organic, minimal approach to the production underlying this album and it works wonders. The closing track ‘Fellowship’ is a highlight of the year. Be sure to also check out the Same Size Shoe video, another highlight. Listen on Bandcamp or All Platforms.

John GlacierSHILOH

Instant impact from South London. This is closer to rap or spoken word, but the vibe and aesthetic are close enough to r&b so here it is. The spell is cast from the very first note on the first song, and the album just flies by with short transfixing beats by Vegyn. A highly consistent piece of work from yet another great UK artist.


One of the best albums of the year. There’s also a clear contender for song of the year in Slow Down, even without the new Lucky Daye version. Sampling the same horns used by ‘Rump Shaker’ – this is one of the smoothest tracks of the year and captures everything great about the modern r&b sound. There’s great variety too with the D’angelo-like funk of ‘Surrender’ to the Dilla like bass stabs of ‘Roses’ to the 90s sound of ‘Come Over Again’ to modern trap and disco grooves a plenty. Listen on All Platforms.

Fousheétime machine

If her silky voice doesn’t get you, the smooth and sultry melodies backing them up will. Or the Depeche Mode cover. Or the long and meandering Steve Lacy feature. Or any of the other songs. Or the ever present lead guitar. Yep, a very solid album amongst the best of the year.

Listen: Spotify | All Platforms

Pink Pantheresstime machine

Along with Nia Archives, part of the new and very welcome jungle meets r&b trend coming out of the UK this year. Except this is a fully formed album, with at least half of it being jungle/drum & bass. Her high pitched voice sounds somewhat childlike but it’s pleasant to listen to. Closed out tactfully with an Adam F cover/remix. Let’s hope this trend continues. It’s a shame she deleted her Bandcamp (she’s blowing up), but you can listen on all other platforms here.


Tinashe does modern trap r&b as well as anyone – putting her in that same category as Jhene Aiko for me, with a voice to match. The beats are soulful and the melodies and hooks are catchy.  It’s pop music with class and depth. In another great trend in r&b music recently, several of her songs have a jungle/dnb sound, including the one below. Long Live the Queen. Listen on All Platforms.


These guys might blow up one day. I like pretty much everything they’ve put out. Hailing from Brooklyn NYC, they have a strong live element to their sound, lush with guitars and plenty of reverb. I’m surprised they aren’t bigger (less than 1k subscriers on YouTube!) as they are good enough to share the spotlight with the likes of Lucky Daye, Leon Bridges, and Daniel Caesar imo. Listen on Bandcamp and be sure to dive into their website where they breakdown each song with text and photos.

H.E.R.Back of my Mind

What a great debut album from someone who is obviously very big these days. If you like Tinashe then you’ll probably like this. Her remake of Goapele’s ‘Closer’ is classy but the grand opening track ‘We Made It’ is the show stopper for me. The album slows down in the 2nd half and puts the focus on her voice. And she can shred a guitar with the best in country music too. Stream on all platforms.

Lava La RueButterfly EP

There is something in the water in London and I’m not sure what it is – but it certainly produces incredible r&b talent.  I came across this by playing Nia Archives radio on Spotify, and glad that I did. This one’s a part of the excellent Butterfly EP here on her Bandcamp. Nia also remixed this song inna jungle style with Congo Natty.

Sinead HarnettReady is Always Too Late

Mature r&b for mature listeners! Perfect production paired with a rich voice, accompanied by strong supporting cast, that doesn’t try to be different, and excels in the process. For slow, relaxing evenings at home on the weekend. ‘Stay’ is one of the highlights of the year. Listen on all platforms.

Nia ArchivesHeads Gone West EP

So this isn’t strictly R&B. But who said you can’t mix jungle and soul? Nia fuses the classic UK jungle sound with her classic UK style r&b vocals – and the results impressively more than the sum of their parts. Her EP of the same name also made my list of best jungle records of 2021. Along with 4 other great singles this year, she’s my artist of the year within both the r&b and the jungle music scenes. An impressive year!






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