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Songwriter Claude Kelly Takes R&B to the Next Level

Angela Weiss, Getty Images

Claude Kelly is used to receiving accolades for his work with some of the biggest pop acts in the business. Indeed, the in-demand songwriter has written hits for Kelly Clarkson (‘My Life Would Suck Without You’), the late Michael Jackson (‘Hold My Hand’) and Bruno Mars (‘Grenade’) and recently collaborated with Britney Spears (‘Gasoline’) for the pop star’s upcoming ‘Femme Fatale’ album. But it’s another music genre that gets Kelly truly excited: rhythm & blues.

Kelly speaks most glowingly when he discusses his past studio time with Melanie Fiona (‘Priceless’), Chrisette Michele (‘Notebook’) and Fantasia (‘I’m Doing Me’). “I have a soft spot for female R&B singers,” he tells The BoomBox. “I’ve spent a lot of time working with Ledisi and Tamia. They are both amazing.”

Kelly says when it came to writing for these two distinct acts he approached both divas differently. For the critically acclaimed Ledisi, who was nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy in 2007, he wanted to take the singer out of her comfort zone. “Ledisi is very jazzy and soulful,” he explains of the New Orleans born vocalist. “We wanted to go for a more progressive sound. I am trying to help her make a mark in a way that she hasn’t before. I’m trying to get her the notoriety she deserves.”

As for platinum talent Tamia, who was first introduced to the public by lauded music giant Quincy Jones with the hit 1994 ballad ‘You Put a Move on My Heart’ and released her self-titled debut album in 1998, Kelly wanted to put the spotlight back on the unsung singer’s 5-octave vocal talents. “Tamia of course is a veteran with a great voice,” he says. “She’s doing R&B but we are taking it up a notch. I wrote some really classic R&B songs for her that I’m really proud of.”

One artist that Kelly says will take people by surprise is British raven-haired import Jessie J. The multi-talented performer, who rap and R&B legend Missy Elliot praised on Twitter in February saying, “I just wanted to say I enjoy hearing ya sang!,” is currently receiving mammoth buzz for her hit ‘Price Tag.’

“I had the opportunity to work with Jessie J on one of her first singles ‘Price Tag,’” he says of the upbeat track that features Atlanta rhymer B.o.B. “It went No. 1 in the UK and it’s picking up on the charts here as well. I mean this wholeheartedly, but I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of artists. And Jessie is probably the most impressive new artist I’ve ever worked with.”

Kelly continues: “Jessie J can sing-sing. She can go from R&B to pop to jazz and even show tunes. Her voice is un-real. The more that people will see her perform live and hear her they will understand what I’m saying. She’s going to be around for a long time.”


Watch Jessie J’s ‘Price Tag’ feat. B.o.B.

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