Neo soul is a musical mix of ‘rhythm and blues’ and music pertaining to the soul. Melodyful enlists some of the top female neo-soul artists, who are known for their phenomenal contribution to this field of music.
Kedar Massenburg (a music industry entrepreneur) said that categorizing music leads to its early fading, but it becomes necessary when you want to spread it among the masses. Thus was born neo-soul music, which is an extension of soul music.
Neo soul, which literally means ‘young soul’, was the brainchild tactic of Kedar Massenburg, an American music producer. It’s vital to know that neo soul shares similarities with jazz, pop, fusion, African music, and the hip-hop genre, which appeal to the young; hence, the name came into place for this form of music.
The inception of this musical art dates back to the 1980s, but its presence was more felt during the 1990s, until it lost its charm during 2000, owing to multiple reasons. But during its prime, neo soul had some leading female artists, who attained great fame and success. Let’s take a closer view at them.
Erykah Aby Wright went on to be known as Erykah Badu, post the grand success of Baduizm, her first debut which set the grounds for her brilliant career as a neo-soul singer. The onset of neo soul and the release of Erykah’s first music album worked wonders for both. She has also been christened as ‘the queen of neo soul’, though the lady doesn’t take it in good spirits! Baduizm also earned her the Soul Train Music Award.
Her noteworthy works include Mama’s Gun, Worldwide Underground, New Amerykah Part One, New Amerykah Part Two, and Window Seat, etc. Badu has also showcased her acting skills in films like Blues Brothers, The Cider House Rules, House of D, etc. Some of the milestone awards in her kitty are NAACP Image Award, BET Award, MTV Video Music Award, Grammy Awards, etc.
Her niche in soulful singing earned her the title “Ivory Queen of Soul.” Wild and Peaceful was her first debut outcome in collaboration with Rick James, and thus was born Teena Marie out of Mary Christine Brockert. Since then, there was no looking back for this verbose artist, until she died in December 2010. Her eventful life came to an end with no signs of unnatural death.
Her other contributions to the world of music are Lady T, Irons in the Fire, Fire and Desire, It Must be Magic, Portuguese Love, with many others to follow through her magnificent career.
Lead singer of the band, The Supremes, Diana had much to offer to the genre of neo soul. In 1993, the Guinness Book of World Records conferred Diana as the most successful female music artist due to her significant acclaim in the US and the UK. Her debut album takes to her name titled, Diana Ross.
She has also proved her mettle in the domain of acting by winning the Golden Globe Award for the film Lady Sings the Blues. She also acted in other films like Mahogany and The Wiz and telefilms like Out Of Darkness and Double Platinum. Swept Away was a turning point in her life as it brought her into the limelight yet again.
In 2012, she was also honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. She also won the BET Lifetime Achievement Award. The other awards that she won are Kennedy Center Honors, Special Tony Award, American Music Award for Favorite Pop Rock Award and also for Favorite Soul/R&B Award, and NAACP Image Award World Music Legend Award for her outstanding contribution to the music industry.
After her own name, she released her debut entitled, Who is Jill Scott? She is one of the latest additions to the neo-soul squad of singers in around 2010.
She garnered world acclaim through The Light of the Sun, Cross My Mind, and her live album called Experience: Jill Scott 826+. She is known for her cinematic performance in Hounddog, Why Did I Get Married?, and Get On Up. She has been bestowed with the Grammy Award, Soul Train Awards, NAACP Image Award for Sins of the Mother.
Billboard magazine rated Alicia Keys at No. 10 out of the Top 50 R&B singers. She is an actress, a musician, a producer, a songwriter, and a pianist. She debuted with Songs in A Minor. This took her to new heights. She was proclaimed as the best R&B in 2001.
Her other notable works include The Diary of Alicia Keys and Unplugged. Her experience in films started with the crime film titled Smoking Aces. She has to her account several awards, which include the Grammy Awards for Song of the Year, Best New Artist, NAACP Image Award for outstanding song, MTV Video Music Award, BET Award, etc.
Born India Arie Simpson, she has been awarded a Grammy for the best R&B Album. From a very young age, she took keen interest in composing songs, which resulted in releasing her debut entitled, Acoustic Soul. She is well-versed in playing the guitar, apart from having great skills in keyboard and also in flute.
To her credit, Arie has The Christmas Song, Target, Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship, Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics, and many more in the league. She was awarded the NAACP for Outstanding Song, Outstanding Music, Outstanding Female Artist, Outstanding Duo, BET Award for Best Female R&B, Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration, etc.
Jocelyn Eve Stoker is one of the youngest additions to the family of neo-soul artists. She is renowned as Joss Stone. She debuted with The Soul Sessions in 2003. Her other albums on the list are Mind Body and Soul, You Had Me, Colour Me Free! among the others. The Soul Sessions Vol. 2 saw the light of the day in 2012.
A milestone incident in life was her participation in the BBC television show Star for a Night, which set the course of her celebrity life. She has also worked in a film called Eragon. She has to her account several awards like the BRIT Awards, Grammy Awards, Soul Train Awards, Glamour’s Women of the Year Award, to name a few.
Mary J. Blige
She made her foray into the world of music as a background singer. Her debut album was released under the title, What’s the 411? in 1992. Because of her distinct singing style, she is also known as the ‘Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.’
Her top productions include Share My World, Mary, No More Drama, and The Breakthrough, etc. She is the proud recipient of American Music Awards in several categories, ASCAP’s Pop Music Awards―also in multiple categories, ASCAP’s Rhythm & Soul Awards, The BET Awards, Grammy Awards, Lady of Soul Awards, Soul Train Music Awards, etc.
It’s been witnessed over the years that neo-soul artists have earned laurels in the whole plethora of the music industry, though many of them have expressed their disgust to be labeled as one. However, the genre has produced the best of musicians, whose work would be remembered (for all good reasons) for years to come.