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As the “King of R&B” debate has finally wound down, we find it essential to highlight the women who are proving to be some real game-changers when it comes to the beloved subset of Rhythm & Blues. While the genre has been criticized in the past for losing its footing — especially as the 2010s got underway — a fresh batch of talent has been on a mission that’s set on reviving the traditional and timeless elements of R&B, while offering their own unique takes.
In doing so, we’ve seen a considerable shift in production, lyricism and content — and we’ve been introduced to brash vulnerability. The past year has given a platform to fascinating female acts who include the likes of H.E.R., Summer Walker, Ari Lennox, Ella Mai and Chloe x Halle, only to name a few.
In that spirit, we’d like to offer up a few more names to throw into the ring — a set of women who are pushing beyond convention with their sound and consistently offering cohesive tracks that display calculated range at all times. There’s always enough room for more dynamic talent within the sphere and when you listen, your ears are sure to thank you for it. In honor of Women’s History Month, check out a list of seven rising R&B talents below.
In 2016, a budding Jayla Darden debuted with her 118 project and it marked her return from music after a noticeable break. She produced her own sounds and settled into a wonderfully balanced style that finds its strength in aural beauty and consistency. Such elements shine through on the singer’s Ideas series, which boasts two volumes of tracks that advertise cohesiveness and never skimp on quality. Now a new member of the Interscope roster, Darden is sure to keep such solid tunes going this year and leave behind no valid reason to be overlooked.
At RCA, the Keep Cool imprint is busy building a roster of artists who will surely prove to be some of the greatest in R&B (Normani, Lucky Daye). The latest names to join on have been sister duo VanJess, who first found fame during the golden era of YouTube covers. Releasing their Silk Canvas album in the summer of last year, VanJess tapped a plethora of talent that included Masego, GoldLink, Berhana, Leikeli47, and Little Simz; flexing their range of blending genres and pushing boundaries. Offering up something fresh in their music, VanJess will certainly prove to be an essential addition to your playlists for years to come.
Self-describing her sound as “a mix of alternative R&B mixed with a little tribal and topped off with a little soul,” Amber Mark is another Interscope signee who has won over hearts for her textured deliveries. Finding considerable success in her DRAM-assisted “Put You On” cut, her catalog is a crafted mix of nostalgic and contemporary hints of pop and R&B. Mark easily weaves through backdrops that serve to underscore a set of smoldering vocals that set her apart from the pack, and it doesn’t hurt that Sade, herself, has given the 25-year-old a weighted co-sign.
The top of 2019 marked the arrival of ASIAHN’s Love Train 2 project. This was an effort that has been steadily brewing for the singer, who first found success behind the scenes as a songwriter, earning three GRAMMY nominations for her work. Finding a home on the Since The 80s roster, ASIAHN has emerged as a voice who keeps the traditional elements of R&B alive, while melding in her own contemporary twist. Taking a listen to cuts like “NOLA” and “Like You” will prove as much.
Snoh Aalegra is best denoted by smoky and retro-contemporary tunes. That is to say that most of her catalog’s tracks can easily be labeled classic for years to come. Aalegra has displayed an impeccable amount of vulnerability in her craft, and the results are infectious and relatable tracks about love, and heartbreak that you can’t help but run to when in need of emotional succor. After dropping of 2017’s full-length FEELS, Aalegra finally arrived with an official delivery with this year’s “I Want You Around” single. This hopefully points to yet another project so well-constructed that skipping a track seems sinful.
English singer NAO ushered in a new chapter last year when she delivered on her sophomore SATURN album, an ode to the Saturn Return said to be experienced in the late 1920s. It’s an astrological belief rooted in the idea of finally coming of age and it seems that NAO has done just that as far as her music is concerned. Through the years, NAO has proven her growth as an artist time and time again, and continues to blossom as a solid talent who consistently invites listeners to peek at that cultivation with each new output.
Tayla Parx is another talented songwriter who can make real magic happen when stepping into the spotlight. Aside from her talent as an actress — prominently starring in the 2007 remake of Hairspray — the hyphenate is also well-known for penning hit tracks for music biggest stars including Ariana Grande. As a result, it’s no surprise that Parx’s sound leans into more pop-infused and upbeat outputs. She’s a vibrant talent and it doesn’t hurt that her lyrics are some the best in the game. April 5 is the date that her debut album hits our speakers, and if tracks like “I Want You” and “Slow Dancing” are any indication, it’s sure to be an effort that properly places Parx on the map.
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