While most of Top 40 music we love relies on manufactured upbeat melodies and danceable tunes, every now and then we might need something a bit more sincere and touching. No music will speak to your soul better than the heartfelt words of a singer-songwriter, and next time you’re needing that fix, look no further than these amazing artists.
James Bay has had a pretty great year so far, from his crossover hit “Hold Back the River,” to winning the “Critics’ Choice” award at the Brit Awards. This British singer-songwriter is definitely on the rise, with his debut album Chaos and the Calm reaching number 1 in the UK and number 15 in the US. Though he only has one studio album, he has a lot of material from several EPs, so we have a lot to tide us over until he’s ready to get back in the studio again!
Sharon Van Etten
This American singer-songwriter takes the cake for being able to pen emotionally resonant pop-ballads (her 2010 song “Love More” from the critically acclaimed album epic will take you to the floor). She has five studio albums, including this year’s EP I Don’t Want to Let You Down, and though she continues with the emotionally driven lyrics that have become her signature, her new song “Words” (written and released for the Netflix documentary Tig) is more upbeat and hopeful than most of her earlier offerings. She has collaborated in the past with indie darlings such as The Antlers and The National, and shows no signs of slowing down with her newest offerings.
This British folk singer-songwriter has been around for a while, but hasn’t quite yet broken out in North America. Her sweet vocals have been featured already on five studio albums, the latest being this year’s Short Movie. Of her five albums, three have been nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize. Though she’s only 25 she has already had an incredible career, starting out as part of the band Noah and the Whale before going solo in 2008. She’s also had some wonderful collaborations with musicians such as Mumford and Sons (Marcus Mumford used to play drums in her touring band and they also dated briefly!), and fellow singer-songwriter Johnny Flynn.