2021 is already thriving with multiple up-and-coming artists, carving out an eclectically soulful grounded-in-R&B sound.
It was super difficult to whittle a list down to just four, but we’ve focused primarily on contemporary R&B artists who really built momentum on the music scene over the course of 2020.
These artists are taking R&B/Soul music to places that feel familiar, yet are fresh and uncovered; infusing Jazz, Funk, Blues/Old Soul, Afrobeats, Trap, Electro, Hip Hop and R&B elements.
British Soul music has been bubbling up over the past few years, and that nexus of R&B meets gospel meets Neo-Soul has resulted in many new voices making the scene.
It’s an exciting time to be a lover of this genre!
Without further ado, here are our 2021 top four contemporary R&B artists:
Born in Germany and raised in London with Nigerian roots, Odeal is a multi-genre artist, more recently honing into his R&B/Soul sound.
Odeal gained attention in 2020 for his collaboration with UK rapper Abra Cadabra, together producing ‘On & On‘. He also secured a platform of several radio stations and featured on Nines’ EP ‘Crabs In A Bucket‘ alongside Headie One.
After releasing his single ‘More Life‘, which delivered a contemporary afrobeat hit with a provoking message, Odeal released his 2020 album ‘OVNMBR: Roses’ featuring eight songs, including the most popular track ‘24/48‘.
’24/48′ displays effortless choir vocals that wrap around his smooth tone, with the lyrics expressing the feeling of losing the person who makes you happiest.
The visuals present Odeal wearing his heart on his sleeve as he’s with his love interest which makes for an incredibly emotional performance and one which resonates with many people.
The album is guaranteed to have you in the feels as you listen and take in the soulful voice that is Odeal.
Ragz Originale is lauded in his own right; the London artist displays his unique sound as a result of fusing together elements of rap, R&B and neo-soul.
As someone who is constantly advancing, Ragz has shown he can work as an individual and a collaborator. After releasing ‘Nature‘ in 2018 and dropping ‘WOAH‘ last month, we know what he is worthy of, but he is also a collaborator, producing for the likes of Skepta on ‘Shutdown‘, and recently working with FKA twigs.
Listen: OG lullaby
Zimbabwe-born Soul singer Shiv has made an impressive start to her career. Raised in Kildare, Ireland, the singer-songwriter has been soaking up the success of her EP ‘Me 2 ME‘ released in December 2020.
Her EP features six tracks, all telling similar sentimental stories on releasing all the bad things people hold onto and becoming your true authentic self. Her songs also touch on love and how relationships work out in the end, whether that’s with someone else or one with yourself.
Shiv’s voice presents a soft, silky and uplifting charm, ranging from a deep, haunting bass to a natural raw, occasional vocal break. Her vocal scale is an emphasis on the already emotional word play allowing the listener to engage with a poignant set of songs that are uniquely distinctive to her.
Listen: Letting You Know
Nigerian-born singer-songwriter Shaé Universe has made it her mission to remain creatively fearless in her music.
When we mean fearless, Shaé fused R&B with Drill last year to create her track ‘Levels‘, an empowering track paying homage to the black women who came before her.
Looking back on iconic moments in music history from the likes of Aaliyah, Rihanna, Missy Elliot and Erykah Badu, Shaé Universe became inspired her to create this track.
In the single ‘You Lose‘, Shaé’s distinctive Neo-Soul vocals can be heard, setting her aside from many contemporary R&B artists. She is not afraid to mix styles together, as she can be heard again merging drill into her initially soul-sounding track.
Could R&Drill be the latest music genre?!
Shaé Universe reunited with Kojey Radical to create ‘Royalty‘ as her first release of 2021. The R&B, drill-infused track features the triple threat of production from OJ Hodding, the angelic voice of Shaé, and Kojey’s intricate lyricism. The song centres around finding self-confidence and knowing your worth.
Listen: You Lose
Let us know what R&B artists you think we should be listening to @pieradioUK.