I think it’s safe to say that 2011 was a pretty good year for R&B. As we get closer to 2012, we eagerly wait albums from the newest and brightest in rhythm and blues. Take a look at the top ten new R&B artists of 2012.
There hasn’t been buzz as interesting as Toronto-born singer The Weeknd’s since his fellow Canadian co-signer Drake. After releasing his mixtape House of Balloons earlier this year, The Weeknd–born Abel Tesfaye–was given the stamp of approval by Young Money member Drake via his Twitter page. Still unsigned, The Weeknd is looking to continue his ascent into the American market in 2012 by releasing his new mixtape Echoes of Silence along with his as yet titled LP. Check out The Weeknd at http://www.the-weeknd.com.
This summer, a bright eyed, bushy haired songstress captured the attention of rhythm & blues fans with her infectious single “Only Wanna Give It To You” featuring up and coming rapper J. Cole. Signed to RCA Records through MBK Entertainment (former management home of Alicia Keys), Varner has developed a strong following with her raspy vocals and energetic performances. Her debut album Perfectly Imperfect will be released next year. Find Elle Varner on the web at http://www.ellevarner.com.
Not too much noise on the R&B front has come from Alabama in the last few years, other than American Idol Ruben Studdard. Out of Montgomery comes crooner J. Marsh. A throwback to the rhythm & blues of the 90s, Marsh’s nostalgic approach to the genre brings back memories of crooners like Joe, Rome, and veteran R&B group Silk. His debut single “Zodiac Sign” is currently soaring the airwaves in the southeast and looks poised to take over Urban AC radio in 2012. It doesn’t hurt that the video for the single has over 40,000 views on WorldStarHipHop.com. You can find out more about J. Marsh via his official site, http://www.jmarshexperience.com
Atlanta, GA has produced multiplatinum girl bands like TLC, Xscape, Kut Klose, and Cherish, but in the last few years the charts have been missing some girl power. Enter NoraLynn Rowe. Nora Fox, Lynn Tate, and M. Rowe make up this colorful ensemble whose swagger is just as vibrant as their voices. Ushering in a new era of Atlanta R&B, these ladies seamlessly merge R&B and hip-hop in a way that hasn’t been displayed by a female group in years. Learn more about the ladies at http://www.noralynnrowe.com.
Two of the most successful producers in R&B have endorsed this young man. Mentored by Troy Taylor (Trey Songz, Dave Hollister) and signed by Jermaine Dupri, this So So Def crooner is setting up to make a serious impact on the R&B world next year. Though the Detroit native advanced in the famed American Idol competition at age 17 and landed a Universal Motown contract via R&B group Vybe, it was his EP In Search Of that garnered him his much deserved attention and subsequent So So Def contract. Hines’ untitled album is due in 2012. Stay up to date at http://www.brandonhinesmusic.com.
We think we know everything about former Danity Kane starlet and Dirty Money singer Dawn Richard, but we have no idea. Evident by her recent releases “Saving Myself From You” and “December Sky”, Richard’s solo music is rooted more in R&B than the infectious pop hits she put out with her former Making The Band alums and the hip-hop laden “Train Music” orchestrated by Diddy (Puff, Puffy, P. Poppa Diddy, or whatever his name is these days). As a soloist, Dawn Richard will release her debut album GoldenHearts next year via Bad Boy/Interscope. Her official website is http://www.dawnrichardblog.com.
Over the last few years, R&B groups have been relatively quiet. Gone are the days when Boyz II Men, Jodeci, Silk, and BLACKstreet ruled the airwaves and the bedroom. Born on the basketball courts of east Atlanta, GA, R&B outfit Hamilton Park made a splash onto our airwaves in 2011. Determined to fill the void that’s been missing in urban music, Mr. Marcus Lee, Royce P., Chris Voice, and Anthony have already had two top ten videos on BET’s 106 and Park, toured nationally with the famous Scream Tour, and are co-signed by one of black music’s legendary impresarios, André Harell, via his Harrell Records partnership with Atlantic Records. Visit http://www.hamiltonparkmusic.com.
In a perfect world, RCA Records singer K. Michelle would be preparing her sophomore album right now. For the R. Kelly protégé and Florida A&M alum, things haven’t worked out the way she planned, but 2012 may provide a slight advantage for her. Since signing with now defunct Jive Records in 2008, K. Michelle has worked with myriad artists including the aforementioned Kelly, Usher, Rick Ross, and Ruben Studdard, in addition to developing a loyal online fan base. When K. Michelle does drop her long- awaited debut, she will approach it as that of a seasoned veteran, and that could place her in the forefront of R&B. Check out her website, http://www.kmichellemusic.com.
Not many can say that they went from working at McDonald’s straight to working for Diddy, but Qwanell Anthony Mosley, better known as “Que”, can lay claim to that with a two-year #1 rated program on MTV and two #1 R&B albums as a member of Day26 as proof. After being dismissed from Day26 in December 2009 due to continued disagreements, Qwanell (rechristened as Anthony Q) immediately hit the studio and has released two mixtapes–The Q Files and Guitar Her*–along with launching an acoustic tour. After releasing the song “Medicine” and its accompanying video, Anthony Q goes right into 2012 with plans of releasing the Guitar Her* EP and debut LP soon after. It looks like he has a few good “days” ahead of him. For more information, go to http://www.guitar-her.com.
Cinderella with a Motown-like spin is the story of K’La the Lyricist. Born and raised in Gary, Indiana, K’La realized that though she loved her town she would have to follow in the footsteps of Gary’s most famous family, The Jacksons, and move towards the excitement. While waiting tables after relocating to Atlanta, K’La met music executive T. A. Tate. Tate signed the singer to his Music Line Group (which also boasted Ciara, Roscoe Dash, and J. Holiday on its roster for a time), and after scoring a regional hit single “All Your Love” signed a deal with Island Def Jam. Singing and rapping her way to her debut album due out in spring 2012, K’La is looking forward to making her mark on R&B. Get the details at http://www.klathelyricist.com.
Nick Eden is a songwriter/blogger/R&B junkie based out of Atlanta, GA. Experience his love for Rhythm and Blues at www.RnBLova.com, and follow him on twitter @nickeden.