By Conner Yarbrough
Blog Content Contributor
Part one of a four part series.
For those of you that don’t know, March is Women’s History Month here in the good ol’ U.S.-of-A, and today (March 8) is International Women’s Day. Each of these events exist to celebrate the contributions of women throughout society in whatever role they fill in their daily lives. What better way for a college radio station employee (like myself) to celebrate than by sharing my favorite female-led albums of 2017 and my most anticipated female-led albums of 2018?
This mini-series, Fav Females, will take you through my music library genre by genre to feature my favorite female artists from this past year and the female artists that I think everyone should be on the lookout for this year. Each week, for the remainder of Women’s History Month, will be dedicated to a different genre of music and will come with a Spotify playlist (curated by me) filled with my favorite songs from the female artists that I write about – and probably a few honorable mentions. To start us off, this week will feature my Fav Females in the genre of R&B and Soul.
Solána, known as SZA, has had a long journey to the release of her critically-acclaimed debut album, Ctrl. She began independently releasing her honest and sensual music in 2012 with the release of her first EP, See. SZA. Run, followed by the release of her second EP, S, before she was signed to Top Dawg Entertainment in July of 2013 before the release of her third EP, Z, which featured artists like Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar. Though she exuded talent in her lyricism and continued to hone her almost raw-electronic sound, it wasn’t until Ctrl that she received the acclaim that she deserved. However, the accolades came in quickly as the album was named ‘Best New Music’ by Pitchfork and earned SZA five Grammy nominations – the most female nominations of the year. Her singles “The Weekend” and “Love Galore” are currently certified gold and platinum as she takes the cover of Fader magazine for their upcoming issue and discusses the possibility of another album already being in the works.
Kelela, Take Me Apart
Another rising star in the world of R&B, Kelela, takes storytelling to another level on her sophomore album, Take Me Apart. Her 2013 mixtape, Cut 4 Me, featured a combination of electronic stylings and soulful vocals that set Kelela apart from the rest of the music scene. With these soothing chords and hums, she truly established a sub-genre/style within R&B that no one else can seem to do as successfully. While her 2015 EP, Hallucinogen, seemed to be more experimental as she ventured into more trance-y sonic landscapes, Take Me Apart seems to be a step towards masterpiece. Lyrically the album revolves around themes like love and honesty both with oneself and with a partner. It was also named ‘Best New Music’ by Pitchfork and, while it didn’t garner any Grammy nominations, it solidified Kelela as an artist to look out for in the future.
Chloe x Halle, The Kids Are Alright – March 23
Up first are the 17 and 19 year-old sister duo, Chloe x Halle. The two have announced their debut album, The Kids Are Alright, as a followup to their 2017 EP, The Two of Us. The pair got their come-up when the Beyoncé Knowles-Carter came across their YouTube cover of her song “Pretty Hurts” and signed them to her label, Parkwood Entertainment. From their, the two girls accompanied Beyoncé on the European leg of the Formation World Tour as the icon’s opening act. At such a young age, the two represent the future of R&B music and have all of the songwriting, vocal and instrumental talent that I wish that I had.
Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer – April 27
In just the past month, Janelle Monáe has announced the follow-up to her 2013 album, The Electric Lady, dropped two wildly different singles, and premiered two new music videos that are set to be a part of her upcoming visual album, Dirty Computer, all while still coming off of the heels of her success in the blockbuster movie “Hidden Figures.” It is no secret that Janelle Monáe can tell a story through her music and with so much going on in the country (and the world), I wouldn’t be surprised if the album takes its opportunity to discuss themes like sexuality and race in modern society – with some sort of possible futuristic bent. Monáe is a multi-talented powerhouse; don’t be surprised if this album stacks up nominations next award season.
While there is no official word on whether we can expect a new album from NAO this year, her recent release of the song “Nostalgia” followed by the release of a mashup of her song “Adore You” and Khalid’s “Location” could be a sign that something larger is in the works. NAO’s style borders on upbeat electro-funk and her last album, For All We Know, was a go-to for me over the summer, so I would expect more to come in the coming months leading up to summer.
Recently, Kali Uchis has released three songs, “Tyrant,” “Nuestra Planeta,” and “After the Storm,” all while finishing up her own nationwide headlining tour with Phony Ppl as well as her supporting stay on Lana del Rey’s LA to the Moon tour. The songs are supposedly supposed to be the first few singles from her upcoming album, though no official album announcement has been made. Kali’s popularity skyrocketed after the release of her 2015 EP, Por Vida, which featured a mellow twist on dream-pop while maintaining cleverly sensual lyricism.
Listen below to this week’s Fav Females: R&B/Soul Spotify playlist to get a sense of how these women are redefining and pushing the boundaries of their genre. Then next week, be on the lookout for the next edition of the Fav Females mini-series!
Featured image by Conner Yarbrough.