Aug 1, 2016

Feature: @thisisNAO written by Katriece Davis

The evolution of R&B music is something I never get tired of talking about. It's always changing, the composition and narratives contextualized by the world we live in, and today's independent labels have the virtual monopoly on it. 

There is a whole crop of young, innovative artists whose sounds and aesthetic are experimental, but familiar. Apple Music has called artists like Lion Babe, SZA, The Internet, and now NAO the new faces of R&B, makes sense. SZA and duo Lion Babe are like pure Soulquarian homage. The Internet definitely gestures towards acts like Groove Theory. I've heard all of these artists referred to as Neo-Soul and Alternative R&B,  but even those seem too confining. All of the same perplexities come to mind for East London singer Nao. 

British electro-R&B singer NAO released her single Fool to Love back in May. The song is one of three singles she's released from her first full length Album For All We Know which dropped this past weekend. You see NAO is hardly an up and comer. The singer-songwriter and producer already has two impressive EPs out So Good and February 15th. She's also announced her first American Tour earlier this month via Twitter. She's been mentioned in the same breath as acts like SZA and FKA Twigs and was a featured vocalist and writer on Disclosure’s UK number 1 album, CaracalCritics describe her sound as soul combined with electronic, funk, and R&B, but Nao plays with so many disparate influences and it's hard to put her in a solid box.If you miss Prince as much as I do, NAO brings the funk but also adds muted washes of dubstep in Inhale Exhale and Zillionaire.  No matter how you'd classify her by genre, the main draw is definitely her unique and mesmerizing voice. You'll see what I mean when you hear NAO flex her upper register throughout Bad Blood and Fool to Love below. The video features a man getting his behind beat in an apartment by an invisible force. Whether or not he's the protagonist or the antagonist seems open for interpretation. 

Jonathan C. Ramsey
Jonathan C. Ramsey

Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

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