Okay, so I am officially in love with two new artists, and they both hail from the Big Easy, also known as the birthplace of jazz.
Although these artists are not affiliated with jazz, their music echoes the creative juices of the instrumental music and its endearing power.
Luke James is an up and coming R&B artist whose smooth lyricism and sexy falsetto create waves of silk every time he sings. James recently snuck up on my radar and ever since I heard his passionate ballad, “I Want You,” I’ve been smitten with the young, handsome artist. But, don’t go getting your mind in the gutter. It was not just his looks that caught my attention, it was his smooth style and angelic voice that had me craving more of his music.
James, who is currently signed to Mercury/Island Def Jam, is prepping for the release of his debut album, #Luke. Like many artists, he started out in the music biz as a background singer for artists like Brian McKnight and Tyrese. He was briefly a member of the duo Luke and Q and was signed to J Records, but after the group disbanded, he began penning songs for pop artists such as Justin Beiber, Britney Spears and Chris Brown.
He teamed up with seasoned record producer, Danja and from then on, its been a match made in heaven. James made his mainstream television debut on BET Honors and wowed the crowd with his fiery performance.
His debut single “I Want You” is steadily climbing up the R&B/Hip Hop Billboard charts. James starts off the song singing a capella with soft chanting in the background, which is somewhat reminiscent of the 50s doo-wop group musical style. The artist fervently declares that no matter how many times he tries to deny it, he knows he can’t live without the girl of his dreams. He confessesthat he was “just a broken record of one night stands” until the love his life came along, which further justifies his passionate plea. Sprinkled with pulsating percussion and piano chords, “I Want You” is an impressive tune and it showcases James’ diverse vocal ability.
His latest song “Soldier” is a mid tempo groove where the soulful crooner says he’s a soldier for love and his lady’s heart is a battlefield that he can’t get through.
James is definitely a soldier for his music and I look forward to seeing what weapons he will unleash in the future.
Now, this next artist has been on my radar for a while. I had been trying to wait until his new album dropped to dish all the goods about the musician, but I couldn’t talk about fresh young talent without mentioning Frank Ocean, another gifted newcomer whose eclectic musical style and creative lyrical ability blew me away.
Frank Ocean’s mixtape Nostalgia/Ultra was released in February 2011 and has gained critical acclaim from both fellow artists and critics. Ocean is a part of this futuristic collective that is pushing R&B in a new direction. (Take a listen to The Weeknd and you’ll see what I’m talking about.) Ocean is a member of the hip hop enclave Odd Future, which includes another talented musician Tyler the Creator. Like Luke James, Ocean also got introduced to the music scene by writing songs for some pretty major artists like John Legend and Brandy, and he has collaborated with major artists, most notably, with Kanye West and Jay-Z on their smash hit album, Watch the Throne.
Ocean’s sincere, nonchalant tone is actually the first voice heard on Watch the Throne, on the hardcore track “No Church in the Wild” in which Ocean sings the chorus.
The 24-year-old artist’s laid-back persona is further highlighted on Nostalgia, Ultra.
Not everyone can talk about popping pills in one song, gush about being in love, and then have a song that overtly voices their moral beliefs. His diverse perspectives on life may be a bit much for some, but the young singer/songwriter is is nothing short of amazing and is super non-apologetic about his artistic independence. He proved that by self-releasing his mixtape via his Tumblr page as opposed to relying on his record label to release the album.
He doesn’t need a bunch of big name artists to sell his music, that is for sure; instead he lets them come to him. But, you can surely hear subtle influences of popular names such as Drake and Chris Brown in his music. Elements of futuristic, electro pop and R&B are scattered throughout the mixtape, and Ocean switches between his falsetto and sing-rap vocal abilities on certain songs.
“Novacane,” the first single off the mixtape is a mysterious track filled with synths and documents his wild experiences with a girl whom he met at Coachella. The girl drugs him with Novacane and his crazy encounter consists of “cocaine for breakfast and “a bed full of women.”
What you get from “Novacane” is an unruly fantasy, but with songs like “We All Try” you get a wake-up call and a little preview into the liberal ideals of Ocean. On the soft, slow tempo track Ocean states his beliefs that “marriage isn’t between a man and woman, but between love and love” and that “we all sin, but we try.”
I could go on and on about the inner-most details of Ocean’s thoughts, which is translated through his music, like on the sentimental electro pop tune “There Will Be Tears” where he dishes about the rocky relationship with his father, or on “Swim Good,” a metaphorical dark adventure about a man whose relationship with his girlfriend drives him to commit suicide.
But, I’ll leave it to you to decipher Ocean’s music and get a glimpse of his creativity in action.
Ocean is currently signed to Def Jam Records and his album is expected for release sometime this summer.
Keep an eye out for both Frank Ocean and Luke James, who are definitely breathing some fresh blood into R&B, something that we could sure use more of.