LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - During the past 12 months, the R&B and hip-hop charts have been rife with comebacks, buzz-drawing upstarts and hitmaking assists.
Working his way up the comeback trail after the mediocre “Relapse,” Eminem hit a peak with the refreshing sequel, “Recovery” (Web/Shady/Aftermath/ Interscope).
Thanks to the popularity of his hit “Love the Way You Lie” featuring Rihanna — this year’s chart-topper on the R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Songs recap — and his earlier single “Not Afraid,” Eminem ends the year reigning over multiple recaps: Top R&B/Hip-Hop Artists, Top R&B/Hip-Hop Artists-Male and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album Artists.
“Recovery” is No. 2 behind Susan Boyle’s “I Dreamed a Dream” on the year-end Top Billboard 200 Albums recap, with 2.7 million in sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It’s a grand return that set the stage for Eminem’s Grammy Award nomination for album of the year.
Other members of the 2010 comeback class include Usher and Chris Brown. Usher had not one but two releases to show naysayers he definitely meant business after the lackluster sales of his 2008 album, “Here I Stand.”
His new album “Raymond V Raymond” (LaFace/JLG) ends the year at No. 6 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums recap. The set spun off the hit singles “Little Freak,” with the ubiquitous Nicki Minaj; the pop/dance-centric “OMG,” featuring Will.i.am; “Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home),” featuring Plies; and “There Goes My Baby,” which ranks No. 2 on the year-end Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs recap and No. 1 on the Adult R&B Songs tally. Usher’s “Versus” EP came in at No. 45 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums recap.
Brown, following his sentence for domestic abuse, worked on resurrecting his career. The tide shifted for Brown in June when he performed a medley of Michael Jackson songs at the BET Awards and broke down during “Man in the Mirror.”
Weeks later, Brown’s single “Deuces,” featuring Tyga and Kevin McCall, propelled him to No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Recorded after the release of his 2009 “Graffiti,” the song no doubt spurred renewed interest in that particular project: the Grammy-nominated “Graffiti” claims a respectable No. 28 on the year-end Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums recap.
Among the upstarts this year is Young Money/Cash Money hot shot Drake. Generating the most buzz by far of any artist in 2009, Drake wrapped last year at the top of both Hot Rap Songs and Top New R&B/Hip-Hop Artists — all off the phenomenal success of his mixtape’s hit single, “Best I Ever Had.”
This year, Drake more than satisfied the anticipation sparked by his first full-length studio album, “Thank Me Later” (Young Money/Cash Money/ Universal Motown). Closing the year at No. 5 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums recap, the CD spun off three key singles: “Over,” “Find Your Love” and “Miss Me.”
Drake stayed just as busy as a guest artist, gracing hits including Trey Songz’ “I Invented Sex,” Timbaland’s “Say Something” and Birdman’s “Money to Blow.” Among the singer/rapper’s additional year-end honors: No. 1 on the Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Artists recap.
Speaking of Songz, the young R&B singer came into his own as well in 2010. Staking his territory in the sexually provocative realm once ruled by R. Kelly, Songz was a major fixture on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs with “I Invented Sex,” “Neighbors Know My Name,” “Say Aah” featuring Fabolous and “Bottoms Up” with Nicki Minaj. On the year-end recaps, he is No. 6 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Artists, No. 4 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Artists-Male and No. 9 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album Artists. His album “Passion, Pain & Pleasure” is No. 17 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums recap.
Rivaling Drake for the most valuable assist crown this year is Minaj, another Young Money newcomer, whose debut album, “Pink Friday,” was released Thanksgiving week. But Minaj didn’t need an album to net fourth place on the Top New R&B/Hip-Hop Artists tally. She charted a whopping 16 titles on that list due to features on songs by Usher, Songz, Ludacris and others as well as her own track, “Your Love.”
Heading the list of new R&B/hip-hop artists is B.o.B, with two of 2010’s biggest hits: “Airplanes” featuring Hayley Williams and “Nothin’ on You” with fellow newcomer Bruno Mars.
Rounding out the top five on the Top New R&B/Hip-Hop Artists recap are Melanie Fiona (No. 2), Waka Flocka Flame (No. 3) and Wale (No. 5). Also among the new faces to watch: New Boyz and Cali Swag District, who gave lessons on how to Jerk and how to Dougie, respectively. Blues stalwart Malaco Records, a longtime presence in the traditional R&B and blues scene, strengthened its newly minted credentials in contemporary R&B by placing Dondria, a discovery on Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def imprint, at No. 8 on the new artist lineup.
Other emerging and established female singers left their imprints too. Alicia Keys takes third place on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums recap with “The Element of Freedom” (MBK/J/RMG) and first place on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart with the set’s hit, “Un-Thinkable (I’m Ready).”
Other notable names on the recaps: Sade, back on course after a 10-year hiatus; Rihanna, who ends the year with a second new album, “Loud”; Mary J. Blige; Monica; Erykah Badu; the Black Eyed Peas; and Michael Jackson. Monica, together with Fantasia, shined attention on the still formidable buying power of urban adults when their new albums sold significant physical amounts in this increasingly download-fixated world.
In hip-hop, it seemed like jail was the marketing tool du jour. Lil Wayne, behind bars for the greater part of the year, maintained a strong presence on the album and singles charts as he regularly blogged about his incarceration. A similar hiatus for Gucci Mane preceded the release of “The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted” (1017 Brick Squad/Asylum/Warner Bros.).
The attendant buzz following T.I.’s release from jail also bode well for the artist — until he was recently incarcerated again for violating probation on the eve of releasing his new album. Among other rappers enjoying a strong 2010 on the outside: Jay-Z, Ludacris, Soulja Boy and Rick Ross.
Adult R&B remained a vital force this year. At the top of the Adult R&B Artists tally is Jaheim, with Kem and Maxwell helping round out the top 10.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte