What Were You Hoping For?
As a classification, R&B was debated as intensely as ever in 2011. The genre contained a multitude of sounds and approaches: pop-oriented acts more invested in hooks and modern productions than traditional songcraft, "grown folks" traditionalists, heavily hyped newcomers who were slightly left of center, and veteran artists who merely carried on, either sticking to their roots or continuing to poke at the genre's margins. In other words, there's no reason why R&B can't be just as varied as its offspring, rock -- whether an artist is clinging to the past, absorbing cutting-edge inspirations, or doing both. That's something not understood by adults who listen to a couple hours of Top 40 radio, hear music made for a younger audience, and declare the form dead. The diverse likes of Lloyd, Marsha Ambrosius, Van Hunt, Saturn Never Sleeps, and Escort, along with dozens of other acts, maintained the genre's vitality and development throughout the year.

Marsha Ambrosius - Late Nights & Early Mornings
Beyoncé - 4
Dennis Coffey - Dennis Coffey
Escort - Escort
Goapele - Break of Dawn
Anthony Hamilton - Back to Love
Lalah Hathaway - Where It All Begins
Jennifer Hudson - I Remember Me
Van Hunt - What Were You Hoping For?
Nikki Jean - Pennies in a Jar
Ledisi - Pieces of Me
Lloyd - King of Hearts
Mint Condition - 7...
Meshell Ndegeocello - Weather
Frank Ocean - Nostalgia, Ultra
Rahsaan Patterson - Bleuphoria
Nicholas Payton - Bitches
Kelly Rowland - Here I Am
Raphael Saadiq - Stone Rollin'
Saturn Never Sleeps - Yesterday's Machine
Jill Scott - The Light of the Sun
Thundercat - The Golden Age of Apocalypse
Venice Dawn - Something About April
Amy Winehouse - Lioness: Hidden Treasures
Betty Wright & the Roots - Betty Wright: The Movie