The year 2007 was a great year for female R&B singers. Newcomer Chrisette Michele introduced herself to the world with her debut solo album I Am while seasoned R&B songstresses Mary J. Blige and Jill Scott released their latest projects. On a completely different note, T-Pain released his much anticipated sophomore album Epiphany.

I AM – Chrisette Michele (Def Jam)
If some people lament the demise of the “real singers” in current R&B music, Chrisette Michele’s debut album I Am should put them at ease. With thoughtful lyrics pinned by Chrisette herself, classic arrangements done by Babyface and John Legend, and production by Will.I.Am, her album has a well-rounded feel that is both cohesive and diverse. The album is basically an assortment of love songs, but I Am is not limited to the standard love song. “Your Joy” reflects and celebrates the bond between a father and a daughter, while “Best of Me” describes the importance of healthy self-esteem, and “Mr. Radio” is a thank you letter to the love songs that DJ’s play on the radio. In the end, the Chrisette’s vocal delivery, which is steeped in years of jazz and gospel performance, is what makes the album compelling and worth listening to…repeatedly.

growing_pains.jpgGrowing Pains – Mary J. Blige (Geffen)
Mary J. Blige has had an enormously successful career since her 1992 debut What’s the 411? This track record has not changed with the release of her latest album Growing Pains. Propelled by dance anthems like “Just Fine” and “Work That” Growing Pains reached #1 on the Billboard Charts and has sold over a million copies. Known for working with some of the most successful producers and songwriters in the business, this album includes the work of super producers Jazze Pha, Bryan Michael Cox, Ne-Yo, Dre & Vidal, and the Neptunes. The result of all their effort is MJB at her best and a complete album that has a song (mainly for women) in every stage of life.

the_real_thing.jpgThe Real Thing: Words and Sounds Volume 3Jill Scott (Hidden Beach)
The Real Thing is Jill Scott’s third studio album since her debut in 2000. Over that time she has made a name for herself as one of the most soulful and talented young R&B singers around. Her current album finds her in a different place emotionally and her personal struggles are evident in the sometimes aggressive and sometimes plaintive tone of this album. However, in true Jill Scott fashion, she’s upfront about her life and shares her story through her music. Songs like “Wanna Be Loved” is an honest look into her hopes for love and “Hate on Me” is a verbal assault on her critics, while “Celibacy Blues” is a soulful blues tune about her sexual struggles. Despite however she may be feeling these days, Jill’s vocal delivery and vocal creativity remains as high as it ever was. If you’re a longtime Jill Scott fan you’ll enjoy witnessing this current look into her life and if you haven’t experienced her music yet, The Real Thing is a good place to start.

epiphany.jpgEpiphany – T-Pain (Jive Records)
The year 2007 could be known as “The Year of T-Pain” between the release of his own solo album Epiphany and his appearance on top 10 singles such as Kanye West’s “Good Life,” Plies’ “Shawty,” Chris Brown’s “Kiss Kiss” and DJ Khaled’s “I’m So Hood.” Yet despite the threat of over exposure, Epiphany has sold almost a million copies and has spawned two Billboard Top 5 singles. Those top 5 singles, “Bartender” and “Buy You a Drink” made T-Pain’s music ubiquitous on radio stations all over the country. Of course T Pain doesn’t have the vocal chops of other R&B greats, but his music is fun, creative, and danceable. Epiphany is the music that’s made to soothe the R&B pop music itch.

100days_100nights.jpg100 Days, 100 NightsSharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (Daptone Records)
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, 100 Days, 100 Nights, was one of the great break-out albums of the year. The third release for Ms. Jones and the dynamic Dap-Kings, the finger popping and toe tapping 100 Days, 100 Nights is a prime example of the sixties Soul revival that is taking root right now. With more contribution and arrangement from the Dap-Kings, this album is a stellar return to the roots of rhythm and blues.

Posted by Fredara Hadley and Heather O’Sullivan