K. Michelle was first introduced to us on the drama-filled VH1 reality series, Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta. Sure, seeing her twerk up a storm and shake tables was fun—but the singer is so much more than her ratchet television personality (not that being a little ratchet is a bad thing!).
K. (whose full name is Kimberly Michelle Pate) isn't new to this music game—her debut album Rebellious Soul dropped in 2013—but I don't think she has been given enough recognition beyond the R&B field that her undeniable talent deserves. From the romantic bop that was 2013's "V.S.O.P." to the most recent "Time" ballad, the artist isn't ashamed to point out her flaws and pour out every inch of her heart in her music. And it doesn't hurt that her powerful voice can run circles around some of your faves.
The singer's third studio album, More Issues Than Vogue, will arrive on March 25. If the previously released singles are any indication, then K. Michelle could be giving us one of the best albums—not just in R&B—of 2016.—Bianca Gracie
If you’re an R&B fan and have yet to experience the soulful, soaring vocals of Ledisi live, I just don’t know what you’re doing with your life. What I do know is, you need to change that, immediately. Combining pure power and passion with a skilled use of dynamic, control and technique, Ledisi has one of the most impressive voices in music today.
Whether it’s her sleek-yet-expressive R&B hits, a raw acoustic take, or stirring live tributes to greats like Chaka Khan and the late Natalie Cole, Ledisi never ceases to amaze. Check out Ledisi’s 2015 GRAMMY-nominated single “Like This” above now.—Mark Sundstrom
Between constant critical praise, fervent fans, and deals with global brands like Pepsi and Covergirl, there’s no doubt Janelle Monáe is one of music’s most-recognizable names and faces. I just can’t figure out why her albums aren’t multi-platinum and her singles aren’t topping every chart – because they damn well should be! Janelle first hit the scene with her independently released, forward-thinking Metropolis EPs. Her debut full-length, 2010’s The ArchAndroid, was an epic, cinematic journey through sound, and a breath of fresh air for R&B fans thirsty for something new.
Her 2013 follow-up The Electric Lady was a bit more accessible, but instead of stifling Monáe’s distinctive sound and aesthetic, built on them. The album is filled to the brim with bops, like the funky lead single “Q.U.E.E.N.” with Erykah Badu, and the album’s title-track featuring Solange Knowles (watch the dope video above). Perhaps most impressive is Janelle’s defiance of being stagnant or predictable. If 2015’s “Yoga” featuring Jidenna is any indication of where she’s headed next (or even if it’s not), I’m beyond ready for Janelle’s next project to blow us away all over again.—Mark Sundstrom
Kelela isn't your typical R&B chick—and we thank her for it! What makes the 32-year-old Ethopian-American so refreshing is that she doesn't have the powerhouse vocal ability that most would expect from R&B singers, but she turns up her It-factor with unique sonic experimentation.
The songstress first charmed our ears three years ago with her euphoric Cut 4 Me break-up mixtape, which boasts tracks like "Enemy" and "Bank Head" that excitedly blurred the lines between R&B, house, grime, electronic and dance. She then popped up Saint Heron, a compilation album released on Saint Records (Solange's label) and dropped her Hallucinogen EP last fall.
Kelela is a '90s nostalgia lover's dream, as she gives off Aaliyah and Total vibes, thanks to her delicate yet undeniably emotive vocals that are laid over wicked production. After giving "Rewind" a spin above, you won't help but to feel compelled to patiently wait for Kelela's debut album that is set to drop later this year.—Bianca Gracie
From stints with Danity Kane and Diddy – Dirty Money, Dawn Richard has consistently been the standout voice in her various groups. But now going full-fledged solo (going professionally by D∆WN), her music is getting more experimental and more fascinating as she evolves into the type of singer that demands your attention with her experimental productions and honest lyrics.—Jeff Benjamin
After a decade away from the scene, Tweet returned to serve some “real soul music" with her new album Charlene, released last month. While most of the public knew the neo-soul star for her early-'00s hits like "Oops (Oh My)" and "Call Me," she became a beloved favorite for her harmony-heavy, stripped-down songs like "Smoking Cigarettes" and "Taxi."
Charlene has a banger or two (like the Missy Elliott-featuring "Somebody Else Will"), but the record screams classic with its uplifting-yet-sensual sound. If you somehow missed Tweet when she initially came up, lucky for you she's back.—Jeff Benjamin
Andra Day is only 31 years old, but she has the spirit of an old soul. The headscarf-rocking vocal powerhouse echoes the raw sensibilities of the likes of Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, and she effortlessly translates that vintage aesthetic to modern times. She released her debut album, Cheers to the Fall, in December 2015 that rightfully snagged two nominations at the 2016 GRAMMYs. Day's smoky, rugged, bluesy tone isn't readily available in a post-Amy Winehouse world—and we're so glad she's here to bring warm soul in a sometimes vapid industry.—Bianca Gracie
To put it bluntly, Chrisette Michele is a neo-soul/R&B badass. The Long Island-raised singer brings an effortless swagger to the genre as she uses her voice as an instrument—which can range from fluttery romantic sweet nothings to boastful, throaty yelps. She hasn't released an album since 2013's Better, but based on her recent cover of Adele's "Hello," I hope there will be new music on the horizon. Many artists think they're the shit when it comes to ruling their respective genres, but Chrisette is one of a few who can actually talk that talk.—Bianca Gracie
This singer stands out from the R&B pack we've gathered on this list, as she is a non-Black POC who does the genre so much justice. Yuna, who was born and raised in Malaysia, has a light-hearted musical arsenal that draws from mainly R&B—but also soul, folk and pop. Nocturnal, her criminally underrated international sophomore album, dropped in 2013. This year, Yuna plans to follow up with her third studio effort, set for a May 20 release. Songs like the DJ Premier-assisted "Places To Go" and the delicate, lush "Crush" duet with Usher is more than enough to get you excited for the LP's impending release.—Bianca Gracie
This vocal charmer first captured my attention when she was a member of girl groups TG4 and RichGirl, and she soon kicked off her solo career in 2013 with her debut EP—Call Me Crazy, But.... Sevyn's (whose real name is Amber Denise Streeter) vibrant personality is reflected in her music. 2013's cooing "It Won't Stop" collaboration with Chris Brown, last year's dance-ready "Don't Kill The Fun" and her incredibly sexy version of Tory Lanez's "Say It" are all highlights not to be overlooked. The singer's debut LP On The Verge has not yet received a release date, but Sevyn will keep you on your toes with her steady stream of new tracks.—Bianca Gracie
Since she won the 2004 season of American Idol, Fantasia has been busting out consistently great R&B albums. Her upcoming fifth LP shows a ton of promise with lead single "No Time for It" forecasting that same feisty attitude we know and love Tasia for, but done so in a more slick and sophisticated manner. While we wait for LP No. 5, be sure to get into the single and her past, GRAMMY-nominated discography.—Jeff Benjamin
It's no secret that Odd Future is brimming with talent, so it was an exciting surprise when members Syd the Kyd and Matt Martians decided to branch off to form their own soul band—The Internet. They've been dropping albums since 2011, but it was last summer's Ego Death, filled with Syd's nonchalant demeanor in her vocals and lyricism, that immediately piqued my interest. If you're in the mood for organic, comforting, trip-hoppy, jazzy wonderment, then The Internet's music is the ultimate escape.—Bianca Gracie
It’s safe to assume most R&B fans are already listening to Jazmine Sullivan, and have been for quite some time. There’s a reason for that: The girl can saaang…and write the hell out of a song. Jazmine started in the biz writing songs for other artists and still writes nearly all of her own songs. Still in her late 20s, Jazzy’s voice and spirit resonate with fans like a soul icon from the ’70s or ‘80s with a modern sensibility.
Over the past year Jazmine’s been touring non-stop in support of her incredible, GRAMMY-nominated third album, Reality Show. Night after night she proves to sold-out crowds why she’s an important, one-of-a-kind artist for this generation. Listen to Jazmine’s “Let It Burn” above, which Fuse called one of the best songs of 2015.—Mark Sundstrom
Lalah Hathaway has been in the game since 1990, but for some reason (which diehard R&B fans don't comprehend) she hasn't ripped through the mainstream arena yet. The daughter of the legendary and late Donny Hathaway, she has followed her father's footsteps in making feel-good soul music mixed in with a tinge of gospel. Lalah's last album release was in 2011 with Where It All Begins, so we're crossing our fingers in hopes that she drops a few gems in the new year.—Bianca Gracie
Lizzo's been on the hip-hop/R&B grind for a moment, but we're extremely keen on the Detroit native's 2016. Her new single "Good as Hell" is being promoted as a single off the Barber Shop: The Next Cut movie starring Nicki Minaj, Eve and Common, among others. We think the exuberant single could catapult Lizzo into the mainstream conversation with this undeniably feel-good banger. We certainly know we’ll be jamming out to this alllll summer.—Jeff Benjamin
After earning critical praise with her sweet, a cappella-leaning Sing to the Moon debut album, the British songbird seems to be promising even more exciting things from her career with her upcoming sophomore record. New single "Overcome" features Nile Rodgers but still keeps the choral aspect that made Mvula's music stand out among other saaaangers. Her new album The Dreaming Room drops this spring and will prove why she's here to stay.—Jeff Benjamin