The Top 10 Modern Soul Singers
Most of the classic R&B/soul artists of the 1960s—including James Brown, Otis Redding, and Marvin Gaye—have passed away. Thankfully, there are new stars carrying on their legacy, combining the classic sound of soul with influences from hip-hop, jazz, and pop. Modern soul has never been more popular, and these contemporary artists are making sure it stays that way.
Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige—also known as the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul—is one of the most successful R&B/soul singers of any generation. Her expressive voice is incredibly dynamic and powerful. First-time listeners should check out her essential songs “Real Love,” “Not Gon’ Cry,” and “Be Without You.”
Michael Archer, better known as D’Angelo, is a four-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter-musician who is known as much for his sex appeal as for his music. In addition to having a smoky, soulful voice, he’s also an outstanding guitarist and keyboard player. D’Angelo’s hits include “Brown Sugar,” “Cruisin’,” and “Lady,” all of which appeared on his debut album Brown Sugar.
Maxwell is a two-time Grammy-winning artist known for his sweet falsetto. He is one of the most lauded and commercially successful neo-soul artists of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Two of his most famous tracks are “Fortunate” (from the 1999 Life soundtrack) and “Pretty Wings.” Fans of soul should also check out his MTV Unplugged EP.
Singer-songwriter Erykah Badu is also known as the Queen of Neo-Soul. She has received numerous honors for her work, including four Grammys, three Soul Train Music Awards, and three Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards. Some of her essential songs include “On & On,” “Bag Lady,” and “Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop).”
The former lead singer of The Fugees, Lauryn Hill made history in 1999 when she became the first female artist to win five Grammys in one night, including Album of the Year, for her landmark album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Her most famous songs include “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and “Ex-Factor.”
Raphael Saadiq, formerly known as Raphael Wiggins, is a founding member of the groundbreaking 1990s neo-soul trio Tony! Toni! Toné! He also founded the short-lived R&B group Lucy Pearl. Saadiq is perhaps one of the most underrated soul artists of recent years. He has composed and produced songs for numerous stars, including Whitney Houston, Earth, Wind & Fire, Mary J. Blige, D’Angelo, John Legend, TLC, The Isley Brothers, Lionel Richie, and Babyface. Some of his essential songs include “Dance Tonight” (with Lucy Pearl), “Feels Good,” and “(Lay Your Head on My) Pillow.”
Anthony Hamilton is a soul artist from Charlotte, North Carolina, known for his passionate, down-home style of singing. Critics have compared his music to that of soul greats like Otis Redding. Hamilton’s most famous album is Comin’ From Where I’m From.
Joss Stone is an R&B/soul singer from England who became famous when she was still quite young. By the time she turned 20, she had already released three critically acclaimed soul albums. Along with Amy Winehouse and Teena Marie, she’s one of the most commercially successful white female soul singers of all time. Her hits include “Fell in Love with a Boy” (a cover the White Stripes’ “Fell in Love with a Girl”) and “Tell Me What We’re Gonna Do Now.”
Leela James is a Los Angeles-born singer-songwriter who has a deep, incredibly soulful singing voice. Her rich, gritty vocals have been compared to those of Chaka Khan and Tina Turner. James’ most famous album is 2005’s A Change Is Gonna Come.
Rahsaan Patterson, a former child actor, is a veteran artist who has released multiple albums since his debut in 1997. Although he has not achieved the commercial success of the other stars on this list, Patterson is just as soulful. He is also a talented composer, with credits including Brandy’s platinum single “Baby” and Tevin Campbell’s hit “Back to the World.”