Photos: Mia André, ro.lexx, Blair Caldwell, Myesha Evon Gardner, ro.lexx
R&B Isn't Dead: Listen To 51 Songs By Summer Walker, Josh Levi & More Artists Who Are Pushing The Genre Forward
Next-gen R&B artists like Jazmine Sullivan and Bryson Tiller are bringing their own flavors that are keeping the genre fresh — and very much alive.
In August, Diddy caused a commotion when he tweeted a simple, yet controversial question: "Who killed R&B?"
Though he later explained that his divisive remark was motivated by a desire to "bring attention to R&B," Diddy certainly sparked controversy. The larger conversation stemmed from the fact that this generation of singers does not have one sound that aligns with contemporary R&B from the ‘90s and 2000s — but that evolution is exactly what is keeping the genre alive.
Whether it's Josh Levi's soulful and electric sounds, Summer Walker's honest and vulnerable lyrics, or Kehlani's spiritual and sensual energy, the latest era of R&B acts are bringing new flavors and a range of sounds to the genre. It's a continuation of the boundary pushing that began with the neo-soul movement of the '90s, when artists such as Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, and D'Angelo (among others) moved away from R&B's polished commercial sound by adding live instrumentation, jazz grooves, as well as lyrics that were centered on love and consciousness.
More than two decades later, R&B is still not limited to one sound. Artists like Jazmine Sullivan remain traditionally soulful, while others like Bryson Tiller are hip-hop-influenced, and some such as Nao bring futuristic, alternative takes on the age-old genre.
To further explore today's R&B sound, GRAMMY.com put together a playlist with 51 artists who are pushing the genre forward. Whether they are hitmakers like SZA or rising stars such as Cleo Sol, they're all proving that R&B is still alive, well and in good hands.
Photo: Andrew Chin/Getty Images
New Music Friday: Listen To New Songs From SZA With Drake & Justin Bieber, Offset, Tate McRae & More
From highly anticipated collabs to long-awaited album teasers, take a listen to six new tracks that arrived on Sept. 15.
It’s yet another big day for music enthusiasts, as listeners were gifted with unexpected collaborations and fresh new melodies from artists of every genre on Sept. 15.
With an Instagram caption-worthy single from Drake and SZA , a playful, self-confident anthem from Tate McRae, and a chill, euphoric vibe from Noah Kahan & Lizzy McAlphine, there’s plenty of different sounds to dive into.
As you’re putting together your autumn 2023 playlist, add these six new tracks to the mix.
Drake feat. SZA - "Slime You Out"
Just hours after GRAMMY winners Drake and SZA announced they’d be teaming up for a new track, the pair unleashed "Slime You Out" promptly at noon ET on Sept. 15.
As the song’s title insinuates, the duo seem to express their thoughts on someone "sliming" them out — which, in this case, refers to someone playing with their feelings. "Tryna build trust, showin’ me your DMS, how they tryna bag you / Ironic how the news I got about you ended up bein’ bad news."
Drake’s clever wordplay paired with SZA’s mellow, hypnotic voice make the single a memorable one. But perhaps it’s even more memorable because it’s been a team-up long in the making: according to Drake’s eyebrow-raising line in his 21 Savage collab "Mr. Right Now," the two used to date "back in '08."
SZA feat. Justin Bieber - "Snooze (Acoustic Remix)"
As SZA fans awaited her song with Drake, she gave them another high-profile collab in the form of a "Snooze" remix with Justin Bieber. An alluring, stripped-down version of the original SOS track, the "Snooze" remix sees SZA and Bieber passionately harmonize; added guitar chords add a dreamy touch to the song.
The remix also marks a full-circle moment for the pair, as Bieber starred in the original "Snooze" music video, which was released on Aug. 25.
Offset - "Fan"
Kicking off what seems to be his Michael Jackson era, Offset has released this newest single, "Fan." This song features an infectious, hype beat with lyrics presenting a nonchalant ‘IDGAF’ attitude: "You supposed to hold me down, but it didn't happen (You supposed to hold me down)/ Now I'm over it."
"Fan" is a taste of Offset’s forthcoming second album, Set It Off, which he will release on October 13. The LP follows his debut solo album, 2019’s Father of 4, which landed him a Best Rap Performance GRAMMY nomination for the single "Clout" featuring his wife, Cardi B.
In the "Fan" music video, Michael Jackson is heavily referenced, with moments including Offset transforming into werewolf and zombie, and dance moves like the reverse moonwalk.
Tate McRae - "Greedy"
self-confidence single "greedy." This song is a testament to McRae’s inner thoughts, as the lyrics let listeners know she’s not tolerating insecurities — and definitely not enabling any "greedy" men.
"I would want myself/ Baby, please believe me/ I'll put you through hell/ Just to know me, yeah, yeah," she sings on the chorus.
Noah Kahan feat. Lizzy McAlpine - "Call Your Mom"
Folk-pop favorite Noah Kahan teamed up with rising pop singer Lizzy McAlpine to create a new version of "Call Your Mom," an emotional track from his hit 2022 album Stick Season.
Kahan recently brought McAlpine out as a surprise guest during his sold-out show at L.A.'s Greek Theatre on Aug.11, where the two singer/songwriters performed the song for the first time together.
Written about giving unconditional support to a loved one struggling with mental health issues and depression, the moving song reaches new heights with two voices on it. Kahan’s and McAlpine’s voices perfectly blend together and capture the lyrics’ powerful emotions.
Maren Morris - The Bridge
Maren Morris dropped not one, but two new songs, "The Tree" and "Get The Hell Out of Here," which both seem to focus on a new chapter in Morris’s life. "The Tree" feels like a farewell, as she proudly sings,"I'm done fillin' a cup with a hole in the bottom/ I'm takin' an axe to the tree/ The rot at the roots is the root of the problem/ But you wanna blame it on me."
"Get The Hell Out of Here" has a more mellow country melody that also talks about growth and navigating different areas of her life. Both songs share a different story, yet share the same theme of a transitional period in her life — and tease what’s to come on her next album, which will follow 2022’s Humble Quest.
As Morris said in a statement, "These two songs are incredibly key to my next step because they express a very righteously angry and liberating phase of my life these last couple of years, but also how my navigation is finally pointing toward the future."
Photo: Courtesy of Josh Levi
ReImagined: Josh Levi Adds A Powerful Twist To Jazmine Sullivan's "Lions, Tigers & Bears"
R&B singer Josh Levi offers a sublime rendition of Jazmine Sullivan's hit single, "Lions, Tigers & Bears," driven by a hypnotic string orchestra and his effortless, airy vocal runs.
Jazmine Sullivan's 2008 debut, Fearless, solidified her place as one of R&B's key players — especially thanks to a trio of hits, "Need U Bad," "Bust Your Windows" and "Lions, Tigers & Bears." The latter marked the final single from the LP, and later snagged Sullivan two nominations for Best R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song at the 2010 GRAMMYs.
Fifteen years after Fearless' release, R&B singer Josh Levi presents a heavenly cover of Sullivan's "Lions, Tigers & Bears," powered by his seamless vocal runs and an intense string orchestra. Levi places himself in front of an arrangement of lush greenery, only expanding the performance's paradisiacal essence.
Levi began his musical career over a decade ago, posting covers to his YouTube channel, and later appeared as a contestant on the third season of The X Factor. Today, Levi continues to perform covers across social media — most recently delivering his unique imagining of Beyoncé's "Dangerously in Love 2" on Instagram.
Aside from covers, Levi released his debut extended play, DISC ONE, in 2020. Since signing with Atlantic Records in 2021, Levi released the EP's follow-up, DISC TWO, in 2022, and issued a deluxe version, DISC TWO (SCRATCHED UP), in May.
Photo: Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images
Hype Up For Lovers & Friends Festival With This Nostalgic Playlist: Bangers From Mariah Carey, 50 Cent, Usher And More
The second annual Lovers & Friends festival in Las Vegas will see some of the biggest R&B and rap legends take the stage on May 6. Whether or not you'll be there, bump this 50-song playlist — and try not to jam.
The star-studded festival largely celebrates the R&B and hip-hop stars of the '90s and 2000s, with a lineup that boasts Missy Elliott, Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men, Usher, Christina Aguilera, Nelly, and 50 Cent, among countless other hitmakers. With a jam-packed roster, it's hard to believe the fest is only one day. But one thing is guaranteed: it's going to be a day full of bangers.
There's also a good chance that there will be some viral moments from the second annual Lovers & Friends fest. Several of the stars on the bill have delivered some smash hits together, and they may just take the stage together to perform them — whether it's Chris Brown and Busta Rhymes for "Look At Me Now," Frankie J and Baby Bash for "Suga Suga," or, yes, even Jagged Edge and Nelly for "Where The Party At."
Even if you didn't get a ticket to this year's sold-out fest, that certainly doesn't mean you can't get in on the nostalgia. GRAMMY.com has curated a 50-song playlist to highlight all 50 performers on the Lovers & Friends 2023 lineup (which also includes current stars like Summer Walker, Bryson Tiller and Partynextdoor), and it will undoubtedly get you pumped up.
(Top) Jim Dyson/Getty Images, Astrida Valigorsky/WireImage, Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic (Center) Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Frank Hoensch/Redferns, Munachi Osegbu, Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for CMT, Dave Benett/Getty Images (Bottom) Dave Benett/Getty Images for Givenchy Beauty, Jim Dyson/Getty Images, Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
15 Must-Hear Albums Out In May: Jonas Brothers, Summer Walker, Paul Simon & More
From Sparks' offbeat 'The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte' to the heartfelt storytelling on Lewis Capaldi's 'Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent,' and growth set to R&B from Lola Young and Arlo Parks, check out 15 albums dropping this May.
Spring is in full bloom, and with it comes a slew of inspiring records and unmissable tours. May brings upon us the return of giants and some promising newcomers, and whether you like the country music of Parker McCollum or the Mexican pop of AQUIHAYAQUIHAY, this month's releases offer something to please every taste.
This month, the Jonas Brothers finally make their awaited return with The Album, while Ed Sheeran completes his math symbols series with Subtract. Paul Simon will turn dreams into reality with Seven Psalms, and Tuareg collective Tinariwen will continue their desert blues exploration on Amatssou. Early aughts pop-punk outfit the Exploding Hearts will get a remastered, expanded reissue, and dance music maven LP Giobbi will make her studio album debut with Light Places.
Below is a guide with 15 must-hear albums dropping May 2023. Read on for known names that might reignite your passion, and budding acts who will make your curiosity flourish.
Ed Sheeran - Subtract
Release date: May 5
Completing Ed Sheeran’s series of albums titled after mathematical symbols, Subtract (stylized as -), will feature 14 cuts that deal with the singer’s "fear, depression, and anxiety" throughout the hardships that shaped his past year, according to an Instagram post.
Sheeran added that his wife’s tumor diagnosis while pregnant, the death of his best friend Jamal Edwards, and a 2022 plagiarism trial "changed my life, my mental health, and ultimately the way I viewed music and art," prompting him to scrap "a decade’s worth of work with my deepest, darkest thoughts."
Produced by the National’s Aaron Dessner, Subtract is billed as an acoustic album, ranging from "pared back, folk-leaning textures to bolder, full-band/orchestral arrangements," which can be seen through pre-release "Boat" and lead single "Eyes Closed."
Jonas Brothers - The Album
Release date: May 12
The Jonas Brothers’ sixth studio album has been teased since 2020, but after several delays (including the COVID-19 pandemic), the The Album will be unleashed into the world. The trio told Variety that the follow-up to 2019’s Happiness Begins "features elements of classic ’70s pop and Americana with a modern edge," and was inspired by another sibling trio — the Bee Gees — as well as rock bands the Doobie Brothers and America.
Produced by Jon Bellion (who is also the album’s only featured artist), most of its tracks were performed at the Jonas Brothers’ fifth and final Broadway show on March 18, 2023. However, expectations remain high as the album release will be accompanied by a yet-to-be-announced tour.
Kaytraminé - Kaytraminé
Release date: May 12
Fusing the talents of top-rated producer/DJ Kaytranada and rapper Aminé might have been one of the most ambitious efforts of 2023.
Although they have been frequent collaborators since 2013, including Kaytranada producing three songs out of Aminé's 2015 mixtape Calling Brio, this is the first time they unite forces for a whole record as Kaytraminé.
Parker McCollum - Never Enough
Release date: May 12
2021’s Gold Chain Cowboy set Parker McCollum on the path to becoming a country music star. The major label debut followed two self-released albums — 2015’s The Limestone Kid and 2017’s Probably Wrong, and ended up winning New Male Artist of the Year at the American Country Music Awards — as well as a double-platinum single, "Pretty Heart," and a gold-certified single, "To Be Loved by You."
McCollum continues to look forward with Never Enough. Among its 15 tracks, there is the first time he ever said "beer" in a song, as well as singles "Handle on You," "Stoned," "I Ain’t Going Nowhere," and "Speed." The singer is also extending his tour through the summer, with the participation of fellow country artists like Larry Fleet, Randy Rogers Band, and Flatland Cavalry on some dates.
LP Giobbi - Light Places
Release date: May 12
Boundary-bender musician, producer and entrepreneur LP Giobbi believes in "letting yourself get lost and finding out it’s exactly where you were supposed to be."
The statement, and title of her debut studio album Light Places, follows lyrics from the Grateful Dead’s "Scarlet Begonias": "Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places / if you look at it right." Giobbi, who is also a confessed Deadhead, said that the lyrics are one of her father’s favorites, "and almost a philosophy for the way he lives and taught my brother and me to live."
Produced almost entirely during flights while she toured the world with her "one-woman jam band" DJ sets, Light Places expands Giobbi’s classical jazz training into buoyant dance rhythms, and features collaborations with DJ Tennis, SOFI TUKKER, Caroline Byrne, and more. As a preview, she recently released singles "Can’t Let You Go (feat. Little Jet)" and "All I Need."
AQUIHAYAQUIHAY - NO ME BUSQUES DONDE MISMO
Release date: May 12
The forerunners of M-pop (Mexican pop) and a self-professed "anti-boyband," AQUIHAYAQUIHAY are known for blending traditional Latin genres with R&B and hip-hop. The 20-something quintet are set to release a new album, NO ME BUSQUES DONDE MISMO.
Formed in 2016, AQUIHAYAQUIHAY released their debut album, DROPOUT in 2019 and signed with DJ/producer Steve Aoki’s Latin underground label, Dim Mak en Fuego. The group dropped two EPs in 2021, titled :) and :(.
Summer Walker - Clear 2: Soft Life
Release date: May 19
"Y’all ready for some new music?" Summer Walker asked the crowd during her set at April’s Dreamville Festival. The question was preceded by the announcement of her upcoming EP, Clear 2: Soft Life.
Clear 2 is a sequel to Walker’s first EP, 2019’s Clear, which was released just nine months before her breakout debut studio album, Over It. Debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart, the LP earned the biggest streaming week ever for an R&B album by a woman, and set the singer as a force to watch. Her 202 sophomore album, Still Over It, surpassed its predecessor and debuted at No. 1 on the same chart.
"This one — I want it to be a lot longer so I can really get that sound out," Walker recently told Billboard about her upcoming EP. "I make what I got to make for the radio, but I’m very excited for [Clear 2]. Hopefully, my budget will be permitted."
Lewis Capaldi - Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent
Release date: May 19
"If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it" seems to be a saying that Lewis Capaldi currently lives by. The Scottish sensation said in a press release that he doesn’t want to "create a new sound for myself, or reinvent myself," and therefore his much-awaited second studio album, Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent, will follow his usual emotionally-driven delivery.
The album was recorded with a minimal set-up, consisting of only a "small interface, laptop, speakers, and a Shure SM7B vocal mic," as well as the same team who worked on his first album, 2019’s best-seller Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent: TMS, Phil Plested, Nick Atkinson and Edd Holloway.
Preceded by singles "How I'm Feeling Now," "Forget Me," "Pointless," and "Wish You the Best" — of which the last three topped the UK Singles Chart — it looks like Capaldi’s right to bet on his tried and true formula, with enough skills to spark curiosity from the audience, over and over again.
Paul Simon - Seven Psalms
Release date: May 19
Seven Psalms is Paul Simon’s fifteenth album, and his first of new material since 2016’s Stranger to Stranger. According to the six-decade-spanning singer, the project came to him in a dream and was inspired by the Book of Psalms.
Including seven acoustic tracks that are meant to be listened to as one uninterrupted piece, the album also features British vocal group VOCES8 and a participation by Simon’s wife, singer/songwriter Edie Brickell.
Seven Psalms is said to be a departure from any of his previous work, which encompasses the illustrious Simon & Garfunkel albums Bridge Over Troubled Water, Sounds of Silence, and more. An accompanying documentary, In Restless Dreams, is also set for release.
Juanes - Vida Cotidiana
Release date: May 19
While Juanes found immense success in 2021 with his cover album Origen, winning Best Pop/Rock Album at the Latin Grammy Awards and Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album at the GRAMMY Awards, his latest original work dates back to 2019, with the LP Más futuro que pasado.
Considering the events the world went through, 2019 feels more like a century ago. Therefore, Vida Cotidiana (or "daily life," in Spanish) arrives as a testament to the Colombian star’s reflections and changes during this turbulent time.
The 11-track collection also marks Juanes’ return to rock and Latin American folk foundations, while examining "love, marriage, family, and his country," according to a press release. So far, he released three lovelorn advance singles off the album: "Amores Prohibidos," "Gris" and "Ojalá."
Tinariwen - Amatssou
Release date: May 19
Amatssou means "beyond the fear" in Tamashek, the native language of the Tuareg collective Tinariwen — which, in turn, means "deserts." Known for their sociopolitical resistance and commitment to portraying the struggles of Mali, Amatssou stands as a fitting title for the band's ninth studio album.
Recorded inside a makeshift studio tent in Algeria, the record was produced in L.A. by GRAMMY winner Daniel Lanois) and features country musicians Wes Corbett and Fats Kaplin, furthering the collective’s link to the musical style. In a press release, Tinariwen are said to "have always been a country band, albeit a North African take on that most North American of genres."
Tinariwen will embark on a U.S. and Europe tour starting on May 27 in Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. They will also perform at festivals including Glastonbury and Roskilde.
Arlo Parks - My Soft Machine
Release date: May 26
Contrasting with her delicate voice, British singer/songwriter Arlo Parks said in a statement that her sophomore album, My Soft Machine, is all about "the mid-20s anxiety, the substance abuse of friends around me, the viscera of being in love for the first time, navigating PTSD and grief and self-sabotage and joy." In summary, it’s a record about "what it’s like to be trapped in this particular body."
With an exceptional talent to transcribe raw emotions into contemplative, spacious music, Parks has given a taste of what to expect from this release through the singles "Blades," "Impurities," and "Weightless." She will also celebrate this moment by touring Europe and Asia in the following months, including performances at Spain and Portugal editions of Primavera Sound Festival
Lola Young - My Mind Wanders and Sometimes Leaves Completely
Release date: May 26
"And I like to think that I'm growing up and that I'm learnin'/But I've no idea what's underneath," reflects the south Londoner Lola Young on "Stream of Consciousness," the lead single for her upcoming album, My Mind Wanders and Sometimes Leaves Completely.
Following up on her 2021 EP After Midnight, the release is said to reflect Young’s "journey towards being a woman and figuring out who I am." Through her poignant lyrics, the 21-year-old gives a glimpse into the joys and pains of love in the 2020s. "I swear it don't hurt / You're looking at her / I'm looking at you," she muses in "Annabel’s House (From The Train)."
Nominated for the Rising Star Award at the 2022 BRIT Awards, she also revealed in an interview for NME that the album will be "slightly different" from her previous work, featuring more retro, alt-rock, and indie influences with a "raw edge."
The Exploding Hearts - Guitar Romantic (Expanded & Remastered)
Release date: May 26
The short-lived but still impactful Exploding Hearts will get a brand new chance of reaching more fans this spring. Their 2003 album of power-pop classics, Guitar Romantic, is being reissued to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
Soon after the album release in 2003, three members of the band tragically passed away in a van accident while returning home from a gig in San Francisco. Surviving members King Louie Bankston (who passed away last year) and bassist Terry Six maintained their legacy through the duo Terry & Louie. Now, Six partnered with the band’s original producer, Pat Kearns, for the album reissue, and plans to play tribute shows in the upcoming months.
Guitar Romantic (Expanded & Remastered) will feature unreleased material, like conversations from the members, a King Louie Mix of "I’m A Pretender," and an unheard version of "So Bored."
Sparks - The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte
Release date: May 26
"So many people are crying in their latte" is the kind of musing about the contemporary world that only outlandish duo Sparks could have transformed into an engaging, nifty track. The lyrics come right off "The Girl is Crying In Her Latte," a preview single from their upcoming studio album of the same name.
Starring Cate Blanchett and her dandy dance moves in the music video, the track is proof that Sparks still have their finger on the pulse of culture, even after five decades of activity. "Veronica Lake," the second single off the project, keeps that same vein, bringing a modern spin to the narrative of actress Veronica Lake changing her hairstyle in order to protect factory workers during World War II.
The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte arrives after 2020’s A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip, and will be their first release under Island Records in 47 years. The pop rock pair is also scheduled to tour multiple cities in the U.S., Europe, and Japan in the summer.