Last year was an excellent time for R&B due to artists experimenting within the genre and veterans making a return to form. FKA twigs delivered one of the best albums of the decade with 'LP1,' Tinashe hit the charts with '2 On' and followed up with the great 'Aquarius,' August Alsina pretty much assumed his title as the bad boy who could produce a solid album with 'Testimony' and R&B Jesus D'Angelo came back to a genre that didn't necessarily need saving.
This is a great prelude to 2015 because greatness naturally attracts attention. By that reasoning, the new talent this year should get a better chance to shine and there are no shortage of them. You have newcomers from different corners of the U.S. and across the Atlantic with a solid catalog before they've even hit the mainstream. Ty Dolla $ign, Alsina, Tinashe, Sam Smith and PARTYNEXTDOOR all made our list of 15 R&B Artists to Watch in 2014 before taking that next step toward ubiquity, which means when we tell you to keep your eyes (and ears) on someone, don't sleep.
The 10 Singers You Need to Pay Attention to in 2015 -- which includes known names like Raury and others with bubbling hype like Seinabo Sey -- includes artists with very diverse takes on R&B, from dance-ready electronic to '90s grooves. Each one is credible because their potential for growth is evident. Check out what you need to know about the next crop of superstars below.
Fans of Avery Wilson have had more than enough time to get over his surprise elimination from ‘The Voice’ in 2012. It’s time to move on, and -- as he demonstrated on the show -- the 19-year-old has the tools to do just that. Not only does he have an excellent voice -- he's been singing since he was 8 years old -- but he has heavyweights like songwriter Sean Garrett (Ciara’s ‘Goodies,’ Beyonce’s ‘Ring the Alarm') and music executive Clive Davis (who's worked with Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston) in his corner. Wilson doesn’t have a single out yet. However, there should be one in 2015, but there are still the excellent covers he does -- like Justin Timberlake's 'Mirrors' -- to hold you over.
Justine Skye has been quietly making her mark in the game for some time, but we’re living in the age of the co-sign. The teen singer got another boost last year by having Tyga featured on her ballad ‘Collide.’ This doesn’t cloud Skye’s songwriting talents, though. Many upcoming R&B talents keep referring to the ‘90s as a well of inspiration. Skye is the same, but she’s not a staunch traditionalist -- there’s an immediacy to her music that draws from current sounds. The Atlantic Records signee also has some pop and electronic influences mixed into her songs and it remains to be seen if she can stir that pot to make a definitive body of work, but her 'Everyday Living' EP shows promise. At 19, the "Purple Unicorn" still has room to grow.
Denitia and Sene are another set of artists in the dark, electronic R&B sound. What sets the duo apart, though, is their chemistry. Not only do they have the male and female perspective going for them, they also have an almost telekinetic mode in how they feed off each other. That comes even though they met each other by chance at a party in Brooklyn, N.Y. Sene provides the sounds and Denitia is the voice that floats over the beats, whether its twinkling melancholy (‘It’s Your Fault’) or longing within lusciousness (‘Divided’). It's been two years since they released their solid debut album, ‘His and Hers,’ and although the genre is becoming crowded with new stars, there’s certainly room for more material.
With a forceful voice and an accent that adds an amicable lilt, Seinabo Sey isn’t a singer that will be confused with her peers anytime soon. Sey, born in Stockholm, Sweden, got the blogosphere’s attention in 2013, with 'Younger,' a song that features a soulful performance from Sey and glitch production. It’s well-structured, but it’s an off-center one, and that's what helps make her interpretation of pop alluring. The good news is that there’s more Sey to come. After dropping the ‘For Madeleine’ EP last October, she’s getting ready to tour the U.S. Her first tour date is Jan. 27 at New York’s (Le) Poisson Lounge.
Camille Safiya takes you back -- way back. However, she doesn't pull you back to the era old heads think about when they talk about “what the game’s been missing.” You hear her voice and think about those smoky clubs the singers once thrived in during the Harlem Renaissance. There’s this thing called jazz and it lives in Safiya’s oven-roasted voice and production. There’s also a sharpness in her delivery that speaks to her New Jersey hometown. Safiya, an abstract painter who graduated from Temple University's Tyler School of Art, draws inspiration from the likes of Nas, Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley and Billie Holiday, among others. The music isn’t genre-busting, but the down-to-earth style that she shares with her inspirational lineage injects vitality into her songs. She drops her new album, ‘24K,’ on Jan. 28.
Snoh Aalegra only recently came near the mainstream lens, yet still managed to work with the likes of Common, Killer Mike and No I.D., who produced the entirety of her ‘There Will Be Sunshine’ EP. The 27-year-old Swedish singer is more than just the names backing her, however. Aalegra is arguably one of the stronger singers on this list; she captivates with her bold vocal register and poignant lyrics. Just listen to 'Bad Things' to understand. Her influences range from Michael Jackson to Nas to Lauryn Hill, and they’re present in her work -- not just in style but in its mercurial nature. These tracks drive on dramatics, whether it’s with the orchestral sonic backdrops or her overpowering vocal performances. Aalegra hasn’t shown a proclivity for making songs that are immediately accessible yet, but with that voice and No I.D.’s guidance, she’s in good hands.
You’re naturally going to pique curiosity when you get signed to Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music. Kacy Hill, who was a backup dancer on the rapper's Yeezus tour, was an unknown before news broke that Yeezy added her to his roster last year. The freckled, new face is a 20-year-old from Phoenix who is a part-time model. She also fits West’s anti-radio/commercialism agenda. 'Experience,' her first single, has a bubbly riff that wraps around Hill’s high pitch, slightly off-putting singing voice. It’s a good start and her career will surely skyrocket if she lands a feature on West’s upcoming album.
Honesty is often synonymous with moodiness when it comes to R&B. Nineteen-year-old Oakland native Kehlani is honest, but she’s instantly likeable because of how lively her work is. ‘Cloud 9,’ her debut mixtape, is an effervescent listen that finds her mixing classical soul with club thrills. Of course, the production isn’t her crutch; Kehlani can switch up melodies without throwing off her dulcet voice. She’s known as the HBK Gang’s first lady (think Iamsu! and Sage the Gemini), but she’s the member who arguably has the most star power.
It didn’t take too long for 20-year-old Shamir Bailey to become a critic's favorite when he hit the scene last year. Music heads tend to favor cohesive, definitive bodies of works when critiquing. Shamir’s ‘Northtown’ EP doesn’t have that sort of gravity, but it stuns because of how it floats with its saccharine beats -- like it’s suspended in this nightclub filled with ultra-sharp neon lights under purple skies. The Las Vegas native impresses with his latest single ‘On the Regular.’ This year should see much more coming from one of 2015’s most interesting new voices -- one that just wants to dance.
After 2014’s media run and hype, it seems surreal that it was just a short time ago that Raury was known as the 18-year-old who got a good look for opening for OutKast. He hasn’t completely blown up, but it’s clear the singer is no fluke. The Atlanta native receives kudos not just for his versatility, but how that ability translates into song. ‘Indigo Child’ isn’t sitting at the top of the charts, but it’s clear Raury’s creative tendencies are second nature. The songs are accessible and he rarely indulges in experimentalism. He recently released ‘Fly,' a song made in response to the death of Michael Brown, which shows he likes to go deep and isn't content in making music solely for the spotlight.