Popular music is often what gets the most attention in today’s generation, but there’s always someone waiting in the wings to break through and introduce a new feel to music that we’ve never heard before. Some have a better chance than others, while some simply don’t get the recognition they deserve. These are the artists that have created amazing music yet are still overshadowed by those in the pop genre.
From the beginning, it was clear that BANKS’ sound was something new and different. Most of BANKS’ songs are mid-tempo, dark, dramatic and pretty chill, which can all be heard in her debut album Goddess. Yet her sound mixed with her saccharine voice in her follow-up album The Altar depicts her at her most confident and most empowered. The Altar seems almost like a diary with BANKS exposing her insecurities and making references to her manipulative ex.
“F*** With Myself,” the leading single off the album, is an icy glorification to self-love but just as much an admission to self-sabotage. Though the stellar song for me here is “Weaker Girl,” this dark R&B track is sultry and tempting with the repetitive chorus, “I’ma need a bad motherf***er like me.” She recalls when she was a “weaker girl” and how her ex still wishes she was that girl. This song is an ode to her newfound badass-ness! BANKS is artistic and personal; she navigates her way through life, pain and love. Just like us, she is also human, and she learns from her mistakes with no shame. This is BANKS on her Altar — she is unafraid and uncensored.
2. Xavier Omär
If there was a lab that created R&B stars, Omär would be the perfect creation. Formerly known as SPZRKT, Omär writes sexy songs that celebrate women and never objectify, with lyrics such as “Body like a queen / but it ain’t about your body, baby / it’s about your being,” which can be heard on the standout single “Blind Man” from his EP The Everlasting Wave.
Omär’s confident voice and mature sound can be heard on this EP, offering a transparent view into his love life and a woman he is very enamored with. Yet, the stand-out song for me comes from Omär’s latest EP Pink Lighting called “The Title.” The beat on this beautiful song is stripped back, and an emphasis is put on the lyrics, as he asks for his relationship to become official. It is obvious that Xavier Omär has so much more to offer, and this is only the beginning of what could be a successful career in music.
The identity of this artist would be kept secret. The concept of H.E.R.’s first EP, simply named H.E.R. VOL 1, was created in the studio, while the singer was struggling with the heartbreak over a toxic relationship. The EP features a mixture of deep and soulful cuts. In an interview with L.A Times, she revealed her goal:
“[For] women to really feel how honest and vulnerable I am and to understand that they are not alone and that these are all human emotions.”
This goal is easily achieved in her second EP H.E.R. VOL 2. “Every Kind of Way” finds H.E.R. owning her sexuality and affectionate lovemaking — her voice is silky and light. Also with “Gone Away,” which encapsulates that moment of feeling slightly separated from a lover. Although there have been rumors that H.E.R. could be Gabi Wilson, her anonymity allows for there to be a sense of mystery and for women to place themselves in her silhouette.
The man with the unforgettable voice. Rationale writes lyrics that cut to the core and a sound that stretches across genres and eras — it is clear that he has obtained the recipe for making meaningful music. His voice is one that’s truly unique with a low depth and powerful projection. His EP Vessels serves as an example of his influence of R&B singers and numerous rappers, highlighting his power of range and impeccable vocal control.
“Vessels,” which is the opening track of the EP, echoes the subtle and poetic lyrics, sung to us from a mature and experienced standpoint. “Tethered,” which is perhaps Rationale’s most heartfelt record, is slow and pensive. He sings with the depth of emotion that exhibits personal experiences; Rationale opens R&B to a new level of vulnerability. The ability to communicate emotion so beautifully and so effectively is what makes Rationale deserving of his status as an artist.
5. Kacy Hill
Once a backing dancer for Kanye West, Kacy Hill is now a woman with a phenomenal debut album. Like A Woman is an exploration of the possibility of pop music and focuses on the elements of love and femininity. It is an intimate and honest portrayal of Hill as an artist.
The opening and title track “Like A Woman” is a beautiful, stripped back piano ballad. A few tracks later, she explores an emotional and shimmering electro-pop dream in “Hard to Love,” then further on we are revisited with a rendition of “Lion” — once an enchanting, desert-themed piece, this one is now stripped back and slowed down, allowing Kacy Hill’s voice to take center stage. Hill’s voice and music depict so much vulnerability and yet such strength in her words. I definitely look forward to seeing her grow as an artist.