Barry Walters of Spin characterizes the unconventional style as an “exchange between EDM, rock, hip hop and R&B’s commercial avant-garde,” and cites The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness and Thursday, Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dream, Kelela‘s Hallucinogen, Holy Other‘s With U, Drake‘s Take Care and Kenna‘s Make Sure They See My Face are works associated with alternative R&B.
Brandon Neasman of The Grio observes a “changing of the guard in R&B, from the smooth, cool heartthrobs to these vulnerable, off-kilter personalities” amid the prevalence of social media in society. Neasman finds the subject matter of “these new-wave artists” to be more “relatable” and writes of alternative R&B’s characteristics:
[A] lot of the production is echo-laden and lofty, often using a lot of synthesizers and filtered drums—sonically giving a nod to Prince‘s vintage ’80s sound. Additionally, for the most part, it doesn’t feel as if these artists are selling sex as their main entrée. Granted, they still sing about the topic, and in explicit detail, but it’s in equal proportion to drugs, spirituality and personal philosophies. You don’t get that same diversity in subject matter from the majority of modern R&B singers. ~courtesy of wikipedia~
Alternative R&B is probably one of the most fun R&B sub-genres to compose in because it allows me to bring in my influences from genres like Psychedelic 60s Rock, J Dilla, Jazz, EDM and so much more. If your are into the weirder more artsy side of R&B these are the tracks for you.