Soul music in the 21st century encompasses many forms. There’s neo-soul, smooth jazz, funk, electronic pop and many more musical flavors. The common thread in these 10 albums is that each emphasizes a type of spiritual commitment you’ll only find in music rooted in black culture. Still, race is hardly a factor, as the presence of Malaysian singer Yunaemphasizes. Everyone’s welcome to check out these 10 highlights of the past two months.
![Miles Davis & Robert Glasper](/content/images/2016/06/Miles-Davis-Robert-Glasper.jpeg)
Miles Davis & Robert Glasper’s Everything’s Beautiful
### **1. [Miles Davis & Robert Glasper, *Everything’s Beautiful*](http://news.rhapsody.com/2016/05/27/conversation-robert-glasper/)** This isn’t quite a remix album akin to the old acid jazz and house comps Motown, Blue Note and other legacy imprints used to issue back in the ‘90s. Instead, Glasper raids the Miles Davis archives for his croaky voice, handclaps, or any musical evidence of the late jazz master. The result is that Davis becomes an active contributor when shards of his recordings appear in homages such as Erykah Badu’s “Maiysha,” Bilal’s “Ghetto Walkin’,” and Stevie Wonder’s “Right On Brotha.” More than just a sampled trumpet, his spirit seems embedded in these songs. ### **2. Corinne Bailey Rae, *The Heart Speaks in Whispers*** This U.K. singer/songwriter’s return after a six-year absence is a departure from the plaintive acoustic strolls of past hits like “Put Your Records On.” *The Heart Speaks in Whispers* sounds lushly orchestrated and emotionally turbulent, and Rae sings about being vulnerable and in love on “Green Aphrodisiac” and “Do You Ever Think Of Me” with a voice that recalls Curtis Mayfield, Minnie Riperton and other icons of sensitive and vibrant pop and soul.
![Chrisette Michele](/content/images/2016/06/Chrisette-Michele-300x210.jpg)
Chrisette Michele
### **3. Chrisette Michele, *Milestone*** “They say I’m underrated/So why I got this paper?” Indeed, anyone who’s heard Chrisette Michele and her jazz-inflected neo-soul probably never expected her to flick her wrist over a trap beat like “Steady,” or call out a derelict lover over a throbbing electro beat like “Soulmate.” However, the unique vocal phrasings and diary-like lyrics that have long marked this R&B star’s work are very much here. ### **4. [Charles Bradley, *Changes*](http://news.rhapsody.com/2016/04/05/charles-bradleys-sweet-soulful-heartache-infuses-changes/)** There are two centerpieces in this New York soul and funk singer’s latest collaboration with the Menahan Street Band. The first, “Ain’t It a Sin,” finds Bradley growling against anyone who would “misuse” him over an infectiously scratchy dance rhythm. Then there’s “Changes,” which finds Bradley reinterpreting Black Sabbath’s FM-radio classic as a tribute to his recently deceased mother and a showcase for his anguished and ravished voice.
![Terrace Martin](/content/images/2016/06/Terrace-Martin-300x300.jpg)
Terrace Martin’s Velvet Portraits
### **5. Terrace Martin, *Velvet Portraits*** Producer, saxophonist and sometime-rapper Terrace Martin has released many projects over the years, but his recent work on Kendrick Lamar’s *To Pimp a Butterfly* has inspired him to assemble his most ambitious album to date. *Velvet Portraits *courses through soulful jazz, hard funk and gritty gospel, involves musicians like Kamasi Washington and Lalah Hathaway, and serves as a tribute to the West Coast spirit, from “Valdez Off Crenshaw” to “Oakland.” ### **6. Jacquees & Birdman, *Lost at Sea*** Cash Money’s latest upstart is a singer from Georgia with intricate braids and soft, handsome features that resemble Hot Boys-era Lil Wayne. His previous mixtapes found him crooning like another Atlanta-area singer, Lloyd. But on this collaboration with Cash Money baron Birdman, he riffs and sing-raps like Bryson Tiller and Trey Songz. There’s an edge to his words as he flosses and brags about the good life on “Dallas” and “Da Lifestyle.” ### **7. Dawn Richard, *Infrared *EP** Since breaking away from the Puff Daddy-sponsored ensemble Danity Kane, Dawn Richard has embarked on a stunning metamorphosis into an indie goddess who melds dance pop, bass music and Tumblr R&B with ease. Tastemakers and adventurous listeners have lauded her solo work, but a mainstream breakthrough has seemed out of reach. This EP, produced by Kingdom, and a recent signing with Sony Music heralds a year when that may finally change.
![Musiq Soulchild](/content/images/2016/06/Musiq-Soulchild-300x180.jpg)
Musiq Soulchild
### **8. Musiq Soulchild, *Life on Earth*** Musiq Soulchild often invites comparisons to Stevie Wonder. It’s not the way Musiq sings — he tends to lilt in a lower register than Stevie — but the way his tones flutter across bass notes, landing securely on each one like a bird settling on a tree limb. He’s remarkably consistent in his approach, so even as his seventh album shifts from the smooth jazz of “Alive and Well” to the woozy R&B of “Loving You,” he sounds like chimes in the wind. ### **9. Yuna, *Chapters*** This Malaysian singer’s third album is her most mainstream effort to date. Its breakout single, “Crush,” is a duet with Usher, and another single, “Used to Love You,” features Jhene Aiko. The same qualities that have made her a cult star in the States are present on *Chapters*, including a theme of love and heartbreak that she lyrically addresses with care and grace, and a downtempo tone that accentuates her melancholy. ### **10. Eric Bellinger, *Eventually*** Eric Bellinger may flood the Internet with mixtapes like an R&B version of Gucci Mane. But unlike most of his male urban pop peers, he tends to sing about love and commitment instead of dogging out girls at the club. His essential sweetness is the highlight of his latest ode to modern love and “cuffing season,” with “Lay Up” and “Designer” among the seductive highlights.