Soul music almost disappeared for a while. The classic genre, that birthed some of the greatest singers of all time like Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding, melted with R&B. That genre forged into the future combining with trap and experimental electronica, ultimately leaving the classic nature of soul behind. It recent years, however, there's been a resurgence. Few are belting like Aretha once did but there's a return to gospel-infused, motown-inspired R&B that revolves around the voice and the rhythm.
In the last few years we've seen names like Anderson .Paak, Jorja Smith, H.E.R. and Daniel Caesar move away from modern R&B in favour of something more classic. Now, there's a whole new crop of names like that coming through and it's time we spoke about them.
This young Brit described her music to Dazed as "psycho-acoustic soul". It's a sub-genre of soul that the classics probably never saw coming through but here we are. It's distinctively British but it's also inspired by the moderns like Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. Essentially, it's lyric and vocal-focussed. I Wish I Missed My Ex is a torn-out journal entry while Grateful is a tender, bedroom moment. If you're looking to turn it up ever so slightly, current jam Simmer is the right stuff.
AUGUST 08 is an old soul living in a modern world of music. He sings like he's cutting vocals for vintage R&B tracks but the production is futuristic. While early cuts like Lately allow him to really sing, he's taken it to the dancefloor with more recent drops Blood On My Hands and Simple Pleasures. He's also recruited some of the most groove-focussed rappers around in Smino and GoldLink respectively. Few can body a rhythmic beat like them and they take AUGUST 08's music to another level.
serpentwithfeet is truly one of the most unique voices on this list. He's inspired by theatre and avant-garde vocal arrangements. At times his vocals are transporting while at other times he's damning and haunting. His latest drop Receipts recruits Ty Dolla $ign for one of the most stripped instrumentals of Ty's career. Together they sit back in it and let us hear their vocals which turns out to be some goosebump-inducing stuff.
Dijon was part of duo Abhi//Dijon who made a name for themselves with dance-centric R&B but with his solo work he's pulled it back to basics in a way. His debut solo EP Sci FI 1 was a stripped back project that focussed around vocals and raw instrumentals. It's truthful music that takes you straight to his soul. There's no trickery, just the voice and often one instrument. Dog Eyes is almost post-apocalyptic in its minimalism and Cannonball floats on a bed of plucking guitars.
Amber Mark delivers an Erykah Badu-cross-Prince kind of funk/soul with a modern slant. Her vocals are calm and silky, drifting along with groove-infused instrumentals. She's already impressed the likes of Chromeo, DJDS and DRAM but she's only just beginning. If velvety cuts like What If and Mixer don't make you feel some kind of way then this article really isn't for you.
Jamila Woods is one of the most socially astute artists around right now. Her most recent record LEGACY! LEGACY! tips its hat to her heroes with everyone from Zora Neale Hurston to Eartha Kitt given a track. She uses visionaries of the past to create a view of the future and she does so with immediate, funk-infused soul music.
Summer Walker nabbed a co-sign from Drake last year but she was already making waves with her debut project Last Day Of Summer. It's a collection of slow-moving, elongated R&B that puts her lightly smoked vocals on display, She moves from the dreamscape of Baby to the frozen, woozy pace of Prayed Up. It's modern soul music made for the AM.