October and November bring out fall colors, layering outfits, cuffing szn and most importantly, a revival of R&B music. While Travis Scott’s ASTROWORLD, Ariana Grande’s Sweetener and Nicki Minaj’s Queen represented the typical summer hip hop music, the changing leaves and chilly weather reflect R&B vibes.
Cuffing szn and R&B go hand-in-hand. Contemporary R&B songs are slower and sweet—music that you play while having a chill night in with your S.O. However, you might not blast “Foreplay” by Jalen Santoy during the summer because it doesn’t fit the mood. Songs are seasonal, hence why pop albums primarily release during the spring and summer and why R&B albums usually drop during fall and winter.
For example, 2016 spring and summer brought Views by Drake, Lemonade by Beyoncé and Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper—all three are primarily pop and rap. Starting in late August, Rihanna released Anti and Frank Ocean dropped Blonde—both of which are heavier on R&B. As you start thinking about staying in your dorm on a Saturday night to curl up in bed, play some R&B to fit the mood.
To initiate this year’s R&B cuffing szn music, Ella Mai released her self-titled album Ella Mai on Oct. 12. The album hasn’t received the best praise, but three songs stand out more than others: “Gut Feeling” featuring H.E.R.,“Close” and “Everything” featuring John Legend. The most streamed song from the album on Spotify is “Trip,” with over 42 million streams. However, “Trip” reminds me too much of “Boo’d Up,” which frankly is overrated.
All three tracks are perfect ~vibing~ songs, using a slow beat and not too many vocal additions. H.E.R. in “Gut Feeling” complements Mai’s voice, adding to the chorus throughout the song and providing a deeper harmony. “Close” has the most potential on the album. The song has a simple beat and Mai carries a smooth range the entire time. The lyrics are sweet and somewhat emo—great for fall. John Legend’s signature R&B voice in “Everything” complements the tone, and his voice is irreplaceable. Sadly, all three songs include commentary at the end, which I skip over every time.
Even though the album received mixed reviews, it contains gems that will carry over through cuffing szn.
Songs to bring back:
Now that we can bring back our slower music, let’s revive SZA, Daniel Caesar, H.E.R. and The Weeknd. These artists have songs that define R&B. Consider “Love Galore” and “Broken Clocks” by SZA; all of Freudian by Daniel Caesar; “Best Part” and “Could’ve Been” by H.E.R.; and “Rolling Stone” and “Often” by The Weeknd. Sure, The Weeknd produced some “happy music” for a bit, but Trilogy and Beauty Behind the Madness contain tons of R&B bangers.
Underrated songs and artists:
R&B artists like Kevin Garrett, Bruno Major, Jhené Aiko and Tinashe deserve way more attention. While in no way are they “underground,” their albums don’t shine in comparison to Rihanna or John Legend, though those artists are just as fantastic. One of the most beautiful songs to grace this planet is “Coloring” by Kevin Garrett, but it has only 28 million listens (which feels small compared to every other artist’s numbers). Similarly, Bruno Major produced “Easily,” a soft, R&B song perfect for chill vibes.
Jhene Aikó and Tinashe release music that leans more on the cuffing side of R&B. Both women have had major releases, and Jhené Aiko’s “The Worst” was nominated for a Grammy for best R&B song in 2014. However, her other music receives less attention, even though she’s dropped tunes that could literally define the genre.
Likewise, Tinashe’s album Aquarius (2014) put her on the radar, but she didn’t stay on it for long. “2 On” thrived on the charts that year and received the Soul Train Music Award nominations for both Best Dance Performance and Best New Artist. Her albums after Aquarius received very little attention.
Now that fall is in full swing and winter is rapidly approaching, get cozy with cuffing szn and pair it with your favorite R&B songs.