Pop and Soul music by women and people of color
December 3, 2014 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend pop and/or soul music made by women and/or people of color.

This question is borne out of noticing that so much of today's pop music that has that soul, Motown, or funk sound is made by white men (Sam Smith, Mark Ronson) but inspired by or copied from the sounds of (or on the backs of) people of color who were probably not compensated appropriately or aren't getting credit where it's due. Also, I recently contributed to a campaign on PledgeMusic and their weekly emails have 90% pictures of white men and it actively bothers me.

So, I'm looking for more pop and soul music done by women and/or people of color. Attributes in this type of music that I particularly like are:
-vocal harmonies (I'm an acappella nerd so this is the most important thing)
-strong melodic structure
-orchestral/full band sounds (brass, strings, etc.)

Artists I currently really, really like:
-Vienna Teng
-Jukebox the Ghost
-Mayer Hawthorne
-John Legend
-Sam Cooke
-St. Paul and the Broken Bones
-Mary J. Blige's new album the London Sessions is great
(Also my favorite movie is The Commitments)

Other artists discovered through Pandora that I like:
-Aloe Blacc
-Lake Street Dive
-Nick Waterhouse
-JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound
-Chic Gamine

Current music is great, but older/classic stuff is welcomed too (just assume I'm aware of all the Motown and Atlantic artists from the 50s-60s). More points for independent artists, certainly.

Thanks in advance!
posted by sarahnade to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Have you heard of Sweet Honey in the Rock? Talk about harmonies. DAMN! It isn't pop but it is powerful amazing stuff.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:48 AM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Sharon Jones
anything Nina Simone
anything Aretha, but especially Amazing Grace and Aretha Live at Fillmore West
posted by sallybrown at 11:49 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Jill Scott
posted by ramix at 11:51 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Janelle Monae has lots of funk, soul, and jazz influences, and she definitely brings in the full band.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:55 AM on December 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

You might enjoy the 2002 album Don't Give Up On Me by Solomon Burke. None Of Us Are Free, from that album, features The Blind Boys of Alabama on backing vocals.
posted by clawsoon at 11:58 AM on December 3, 2014

Marlena Shaw
posted by gyusan at 11:59 AM on December 3, 2014

Lady Dottie and the Diamonds
Also, the varied and wonderful career of Bettye LaVette - she made Roger Daltrey cry with this performance (near the end)
posted by jbickers at 12:00 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: ugh, hit post too soon.
Brownstone - (excellent harmonies)
Angie Stone
India Arie
Leela James
Erykah Badu
Lala Hathaway
Heather Headley
Chrisette Michelle

D'Angelo (swoon)
Boys II Men
Tony Toni Tone
De La Soul
Musiq soulchild

All currently on rotation in my playlist
posted by ramix at 12:05 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


everything on daptone records

I'll probably think of way more later
posted by emptythought at 12:15 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you might like Dessa!

Songs: Dixon's Girl, The Chaconne, Go Home, Call Off Your Ghost.

Albums: A Badly Broken Code; Castor, the Twin; Parts of Speech.
posted by divined by radio at 12:22 PM on December 3, 2014

If you know the Motown and Atlantic labels, I'm guessing you also know Chess, Stax, Hi, Philadelphia International and TSOP. Just in case, though, I'll mention 'em.
posted by box at 12:31 PM on December 3, 2014

Little Ann!
Mitty Collier!
posted by ZipRibbons at 12:44 PM on December 3, 2014

Best answer: solange - "sol-angels and the hadley st dreams"

you can't go wrong with lauryn hill, erykah badu, or janelle monae.

queen latifah has a couples of jazz standards albums that you might like.
posted by nadawi at 12:47 PM on December 3, 2014

You should definitely give Caro Emerald a listen. Her music is a Dutch export product we can be proud of!
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:05 PM on December 3, 2014

Andreya Triana is amazing! Jazzy poppy soul. And a really lovely lady when I've seen her at gigs. Her soundcloud page.
posted by symphonicknot at 1:27 PM on December 3, 2014

Valerie June, ibeyi. Gorgeous music.
posted by mgrrl at 1:29 PM on December 3, 2014

Seconding Sharon Jones! Anything on Daptone Records, the label she owns, is great too.
posted by Otter_Handler at 1:51 PM on December 3, 2014

A few artists with recent albums I've enjoyed that may meet your requirements: King Khan & The Shrines (more of the garagey end of soul); Keb'Mo (maybe too bluesy); Hanni El Khatib (again more garagey); Jungle (very secretive band, appear to be mixture of POC and white members); FKA Twigs. And definitely echoing Janelle Monáe and Sharon Jones.
posted by Pink Frost at 2:21 PM on December 3, 2014

For older stuff, check out the album Sister Funk: The Sound Of The Unknown Soul Sisters. And Sugar Pie de Santo - listen to "Hello San Francisco" first. Hard to think of a better song.

More modern: Charles Bradley - also on Daptone.
posted by ontheradio at 3:09 PM on December 3, 2014

Second the recommendation for Sharon Jones.

You said you were familiar with Motown and Atlantic, but what about the Memphis soul of the 60s and 70s? There's Stax Records Carla Thomas, Sam And Dave, Otis Redding, The Bar-Kays, Booker T. and the MGs, Issac Hayes, the Staple Singers and so many more. And then there's Hi Records, with Al Green and Ann Peebles.
posted by vibrotronica at 3:17 PM on December 3, 2014

Maxwell. He's Marvin Gaye-ish.
posted by fuse theorem at 3:23 PM on December 3, 2014

You might like Raphael Saadiq (and also Lucy Pearl). Van Hunt is kind of more expansive than just neo-soul (I love his more rock-ish stuff almost as much as the more r&b-ish stuff), but he's amazing. Ryan Shaw has a great voice and I'm sad he's not more well-known. Ben L'Oncle Soul sings (mostly) in French but I enjoy listening to him.

As for women, I definitely second the recommendations for India.Arie and Leela James (her most recent album is one of my favorites from this year). Aṣa is so awesome and crosses a lot of genres, but off the top of my head, songs like "Why Can't We" and "The Way I Feel" might be closest to what you're looking for. I've recently been getting into Meklit, Lianne La Havas, and Y'akoto, who also might intersect with what you're seeking.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 1:06 PM on December 5, 2014

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