Looking for emerging soul artists to listen to in 2021? These 9 musicians are on the rise.
Led by artists like Celeste, modern soul music is riding a wave which looks set to continue in 2021. Experimental, jazz and RnB influenced neo-soul artists are headed in increasingly interesting directions. Featuring big voices and tender voices that all implore to be witnessed live, this is a wide-ranging list of ones to watch in soul music in 2021.
Amahla’s sensitive songwriting, gorgeous vocals and skill with the guitar gained her a nomination for the Ivor Novello Rising Star award in 2020. As a result she won a year’s mentoring with Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers who said she ‘writes from her soul.’ The lyrics of captivating ‘Apathy’, showcasing Amahla’s shivering voice, take on a whole new level of meaning when viewed through the lens of these turbulent times.
Experimental socio-political neo-soul with a sound encompassing jazz, RnB and pop, Ajudha’s smooth voice soars like Jill Scott. Her reworking of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’ featured on the BlueNote Re:imagined album, and the coming months are sure to see her continue to collaborate with other rising stars from the UK soul and jazz scene.
The Gospel-influenced LA group, made up of singer Jacob Lusk and producers Ari Balouzian and Ryan Hope, have been slowly teasing out singles since 2018. They broke their silence by releasing a debut EP, Love and Hate at A Different Time, at the tail end of last year. The stomping title track with its looping piano and strings, deep choir voicings and harrowing call to action against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement, encourages you to dance but quickly makes you pause and think.
Neo-soul and pop beats laced with nostalgia from this Scottish talent who wound up on the BBC Sound of 2020 list. His wavering voice on Loyle Carner-featuring ‘I Wonder Why’ beautifully laments the inability to move on from losing someone. All being well, the UK tour booked for May this year will suit the sunny horns of ‘Does It Make You Feel Good?’ perfectly and introduce him to a host of new fans.
In the middle of the madness of 2020 East Londoner Tiana Major9 released her debut album. Aptly-named At Sixes And Sevens is jazz-inspired but with callbacks to her Jamaican roots and to classic turn-of-the-century RnB. Her versatile voice, reminiscent of Lianne La Havas, and clever songwriting has won her fans including Adele, who raved about ‘Same Space?’ on Instagram. A recent performance for NPR Tiny Desk showcased her stunning crystal-clear vocal and elastic approach to genre. Major9 is seemingly poised to ascend to another level in 2021.
2020 saw Giveon reach viral fame by lending his angelic voice to Drake’s single ‘Chicago Freestyle’, which has been streamed on Spotify 220m times. A singer with a searching voice with impressive range and depth, his four-track EP arrived in October. Expect him to continue to rise in popularity in 2021.
This Arizona-born independent artist has a rich, powerful voice that gifts us soulful pop melodies. Recently ‘If You Got A Problem’ showed her to be the hopeful voice we need as we head into the new year, and latest release ‘Mighty Die Young’ is a call to carry on, with bluesy guitar and uplifting chord sequences.
Creating a compelling mix of modern RnB and retro soul, Huron’s music is beautifully arranged, atmospheric electronic beats and other tracks led by simple, gentle guitar. As song ‘Loving You Is A Mountain’ heads for 4 million streams on Spotify, Huron’s other work, including his 2020 album Libbie, deserves to reach an even wider audience.
Ego Ella May
Ego Ella May released her debut album ‘Honey For Wounds’ in June last year to a rapturous response. With her beautiful, woozy voice she reflects on mental health, love, independence, and the social state of the globe on songs like ‘How Long ‘Til We’re Home’ and ‘Girls Don’t Always Sing About Boys’. Musically grounded primarily in a bubbly soulful RnB zone, her jazz inspirations come through on tracks ‘Table For One’ and ‘Alright’. The South London artist will continue to rise in 2021.