By all means, “indie” R&B has arrived. The alternative take on modern rhythm and blues sometimes called “PBR&B” has reached such popularity in 2015, the trend may even be on its way out. From Frank Ocean to The Weeknd, Miguel to How to Dress Well, Jhené Aiko, Rhye, and so many more, over the past four years this sub-genre has seen a massive rise to prominence. What started as slow jams for the arty sect is now mainstream, as its artists find success with a wide audience as well as pop acts that have started taking note.
Though it’s done so often, predicting the demise of any style of music seems somewhat futile. After all, it was often suggested to Elvis that rock and roll was dying just a few years into his career. But considering how public interests change quickly these days (as well as the creativity that either directs that, or mimics it), it’s hard not to be at least somewhat critical when more and more artists have incorporated the genre’s smooth ’90s-inspired aesthetic touchstones into their music, where there had once been none.
“It’s like going trip-hop in 1996 or ‘IDM’ in 1998 or dance-punk in 2002 or freak-folk in 2004 or chillwave in 2009 or synth-pop in 2011,” writes senior news editor Chris DeVille in a 2014 essay titled “Indie Rock’s R&B Movement Reaches Its Saturation Point.”
No matter how soon this alt R&B will be on its way out — if the bubble will burst at all — that it’s here now is what’s most interesting. Early influencers such as Drake, Kanye West, The Weeknd and How to Dress Well have spawned an abundance of good, soulful tunes that’s not to be balked at.
Here are a few of the acts you should know:
Very much an eccentric elder statesman of the scene, after experimenting with punk and folk music through the 2000s, Blood Orange aka Dev Hynes has become a go-to songwriter and producer for smooth, fun and funky jammers. The London-born artist helped cull the sounds that have defined indie R&B on his early work producing Theophilus London and Solange Knowles but is just now seeing more widespread recognition. From behind-the-scenes to the main stage, Hynes is primed to make a big impact with his next move and the music world is waiting and watching with anticipation to see what that will be.
Blood Orange: “You’re Not Good Enough”
If you don’t know FKA Twigs yet, it’s time to start paying attention. The avant-garde British singer, dancer, fashionista and more is probably best known for dating Twilight star Robert Pattinson (the two are now engaged) but is also making some of the most interesting music out today, falling somewhere between Bjork and Aaliyah. Following her debut full length last year called LP1, her third EP is due out soon with much anticipation. Already a favorite of the artsy crowd and festival goers, Twigs is well poised for mainstream success and has all the tools as an artist to get there. It’s just up to her whether that’s what she wants.
FKA Twigs: “Glass & Patron”
From the Northwest hipster haven of Portland, Ore., Dan Vidmar of Shy Girls has us waiting on the debut full-length still but has done plenty to keep us interested. From 2013’s Timeshare EP that was a proper introduction to his 4wz mixtape that was released earlier this year, as well as features on tracks by Cyril Hahn and Odesza, he’s already proven a first grasp on this genre with smart songwriting and sincerity on subtly catchy songs.
Shy Girls: “Still Not Falling”
From a couple of Tyler, the Creator’s Odd Future compatriots, The Internet’s profile is growing steadily and this year’s new album, EGO DEATH, looks to be a pivotal point for the six-piece band. Their attitude is ever-cool, ingrained with typically minimal, relaxed funk that props up Syd Tha Kyd’s smooth neo-soul singing. With features from Janelle Monáe, Tyler, the Creator, and Vic Mensa on this new LP that’s due out June 30, there’s a some good attention directed at this Los Angeles combo that seems to play by its own rules.
The Internet: “Dontcha”