The Best of the British Soul Invasion

Step aside, American R&B singers. British imports -- think Adele, V.V. Brown and Sharlene Hector -- are taking over. Check out our who's who of soul singers from across the pond.

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  • Amy Winehouse

    No list of British soul singers would be complete without Amy Winehouse. Winehouse made her debut in 2003 with Frank and rose to fame with 2007’s retro-styled Back to Black. Over time she became more well known for her substance abuse and legal woes than for her musical output. Her fans waited with bated breath for the return of the troubled singer, but sadly, their wait was in vain. She died on July 23, 2011, at the age of 27.

    Captions by Kimberly A. Hines

  • Adele

    With two chart-topping albums to her credit — 2008’s 19 and the recently released 21, which was number one on Billboard for two weeks — Adele is riding high while “Rolling in the Deep.” Born and raised in a working-class, single-parent household in North London, Adele grew up on a healthy diet of Mary J. Blige, Destiny’s Child, Aretha Franklin and Etta James. The vocal powerhouse won best new artist at the 2009 Grammy Awards.

    Captions by Kimberly A. Hines

  • Corinne Bailey Rae

    Fresh from the January release of The Love EP and with two albums to her credit (2006’s Corinne Bailey Rae and 2010’s The Sea), Corinne Bailey Rae continues to gain listeners with her sweet, folksy brand of soul. Fan favorites from the multiracial singer-songwriter-guitarist from Leeds, England, include “Put Your Records On” and “Closer.” Bailey Rae made headlines in 2008 when her husband, Jason Rae, died from an accidental drug-and-alcohol overdose.

  • V.V. Brown

    V.V. Brown is hard at work on her as-yet-untitled sophomore album, the follow-up to her 2009 debut, Travelling Like the Light. Hailing from Northampton, England, with Jamaican and Puerto Rican roots, the singer-songwriter-producer blends pop and soul with an eclectic, retro vibe on songs like “Shark in the Water” and “Crying Blood.” Brown was last seen on U.S. television as one of the performers on BET’s Black Girls Rock 2010 special. 

  • Nadine Charles

    West London songstress Nadine Charles has a degree in law and business from Middlesex University but decided to follow her passion after winning the Nokia Prince’s Trust Unsigned Award in 2005. She released her debut EP, Introducing Miss Charles, in the U.K. in 2010 with the flirtatious first single “You Are the One,” capturing stateside attention. In addition to being a singer, Charles is a single mother and model.

  • Sharlene Hector

    Fans of Bassment Jaxx and Reel People may recognize the name of vocalist Sharlene Hector, who has sung with both groups in addition to being featured on a British Coca-Cola commercial singing Nina Simone’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free.” The U.K.’s answer to Ledisi — check out her song “Are You Listening?” for proof — Hector independently released her debut EP, Expressions, in March 2011. 

  • Incognito

    Incognito has been going strong for more than 30 years. Founded in 1979 by Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick, Incognito released their first album in 1981 and have remained one of the foremost bands on the British soul, funk and acid-jazz scenes, with a steady rotation of vocalists in the mix, including Maysa, Jocelyn Brown and Tony Momrelle. They released their 14th studio album, Transatlantic RPM, in 2010 and are still a hot ticket to catch live.

  • Jessie J

    Her debut album, Who You Are, won’t be released in the United States until April 12, but Jessie J has already made an impression on U.S. audiences with her singles “Do It Like a Dude” and “Price Tag,” featuring B.o.B. Jessie mixes pop, soul and hip-hop in her music and has previously penned tracks for Chris Brown and Miley Cyrus. To experience her at her best, catch Jessie J performing live, as she recently did on Saturday Night Live.

  • Jamiroquai

    Led by charismatic and energetic frontman Jay Kay, Jamiroquai is nearing their 20th anniversary in the music industry. The wildly popular acid-jazz and funk outfit, which also dabbles in pop, rock, electronica and house, has released seven albums in that span of time, most recently 2010’s Rock Dust Light Star. Although the album has yet to get a proper U.S. release, fans of Jamiroquai who are willing to travel can catch them on their European tour this spring and summer. 

  • Naomi Jasmine

    Naomi Jasmine is a North London-based singer-songwriter whose sound is rooted in neo-soul and jazz, which can be heard on her 2010 self-titled debut EP. Jasmine counts Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald, India.Arie and Alicia Keys among her influences. She can currently be found performing around London with her band while working on new music for a full-length project. 

  • Tony Momrelle

    With a sound reminiscent of both Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway, Tony Momrelle is one of the busiest men on the U.K. soul scene. He is one-half of the soulful house group Reel People, who just released their third album, Reel People Present Golden Lady; is the lead singer for the acid-jazz band Incognito; and is also a background vocalist for Sade — another British R&B superstar. He can be heard on her song “Babyfather” from Soldier of Love. Catch Momrelle on tour with Sade this summer, and look out for a new solo release in the future. 

  • Omar

    Described as the “Father of British neo-soul,” Omar has enjoyed international success since his debut album, There’s Nothing Like This, was released in 1990. Twenty-one years and five additional albums later, he is still a popular figure and much-sought-after live performer. Omar’s last record, Sing (If You Want It), was released in 2006, and he recently lent his voice to the single “Special,” produced by fellow Brit Maddslinky in 2010.

  • Alice Russell

    Called “one of Britain’s best-kept secrets,” those who know about Alice Russell know that her albums Under the Munka Moon, My Favourite Letters and Pot of Gold are required listening for lovers of soulful, heartfelt singing. In addition to her solo releases, Russell has collaborated frequently with other acts, including Bah Samba, Quantic and Nostalgia 77. Her soulful house remake of Teena Marie’s “Portuguese Love” with Bah Samba is one of the best you’ll ever hear.

  • Andreya Triana

    Andreya Triana has quickly become a U.K. soul darling since bursting onto the scene in 2009. Positive word of mouth from tastemakers and videos of her spine-tingling live performances have helped to spread the word about the South East London native online and off. Triana’s debut album, Lost Where I Belong, includes the popular cuts “A Town Called Obsolete” and the midtempo title track.

  • Ben Westbeech

    Ben Westbeech is prepping for the release of his sophomore album, There’s More to Life Than This, following his 2007 debut with Welcome to the Best Years of Your Life. If you like your soul music with more of an electronica-house feel, then Westbeech delivers all that and more on his current single “Falling.” The singer-producer-DJ is also a trained cellist and has recorded with Jazzanova.

  • Jamie Woon

    Many who have heard it are already adding Jamie Woon‘s album Mirrorwriting to their 2011 “best of” lists, although the record won’t be released until April 18 in the U.K. Woon sings with soul atop funky soundscapes on songs such as “Night Air” and “Lady Luck,” which have quickly become online favorites and can both be found on Mirrorwriting.

  • Joss Stone

    Emerging in 2003 with her debut album, then-16-year-old Joss Stone impressed British and U.S. audiences with her soulful vocals bathed in blues on The Soul Sessions. Stone has released three additional albums since that time, with a new record produced by Dave Stewart, formerly of the Eurthymics, on the way in 2011. The Grammy Award winner embraces hip-hop and neo-soul in her work and has recorded music with Raphael Saadiq, Common and Lauryn Hill.

  • Sade

    The band Sade, led by ageless frontwoman Sade Adu, is celebrating almost 30 years together. The beloved Brits have six studio albums to their credit, most recently 2010’s Soldier of Love, for which they won a Grammy, their fourth overall, for the album’s title track. Sade’s records are must-haves — Sade: The Ultimate Collection goes on sale May 3 if you need to catch up — but it’s their live show that is not to be missed. Adu and company will be embarking on the Soldier of Love world tour this spring, with U.S. dates starting in June.

  • Marsha Ambrosius

    Most famously known as the Songstress in the duo Floetry, Marsha Ambrosius is coming into her own as a solo artist with the March release of her debut album, Late Nights & Early Mornings. The Liverpool, England, native has lived in the States for the past few years and is both a singer and a songwriter, having penned songs for Michael Jackson, Alicia Keys and Jamie Foxx. Ambrosius is currently headlining the BET Music Matters Tour and promoting her album’s second single, “Far Away.”

  • Natalie Stewart

    Fusing spoken word with sultry soul, Natalie Stewart, aka the Floacist, has found that there is life after Floetry. After enjoying success with their three albums, Stewart left the group in 2007. Shortly thereafter, Stewart began working on her solo debut, which was finally released in 2010. Featuring guest appearances from Lalah Hathaway and Musiq Soulchild, The Floacist Presents Floetic Soul is as close to the sound of Floetry as fans of the duo will get.

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