Friends & Lovers
Though this is only her second solo album, Marsha Ambrosius' résumé explains why the illustrious Dr. Dre lends a rare guest verse to Friends & Lovers, on the standout track "Stronger" (her take on Sade's "Stronger Than Pride"). Ambrosius got her start as half of the mid-'00s R&B duo Floetry; she's written tracks for Alicia Keys and Michael Jackson and sang vocals for Kanye, Nas, and many others. Her pedigree shines through here as she fuses '80s quiet storm to the ethereal production of contemporary R&B, such as that of Frank Ocean. "69" has a murky underwater groove to it, while "Shoes," about pining for an ex, is classic lilting soul. This is modern R&B that's compellingly fluent in the genre's roots.