R&B has seen new life in the decade or so. With the great popularity of R. Kelly and Usher in the early 2000s, the autotuning T-Pain and Chris Brown in the late 2000s, and now stars like Jhene Aiko, Frank Ocean and
The Weeknd, R&B has not been as prominent in years! Behind these shining singers, though, is a new
class of soulful serenaders - BJ The Chicago Kid, Elijah Blake and now, Island Records' Luke James.
Born and raised in New Orleans, 30 year old Luke James has been a singer/songwriter in Los Angeles now for years. He’s written (and opened for) Tyrese, as well as Britney Spears and Keri Hilson. James inked a solo deal with Island Def Jam back in 2011, coming off the hype of his #Luke mixtape and single "I Want You," which would go on to receive a 2013 Grammy Nomination. Since then, it's been a waiting game for James' debut to be finalized and released. This year, after dropping the Rick Ross assisted "Options," James and Island decided on September 23rd for his debut. While it was a roller coaster for this record to finally come to fruition, it was well worth the wait; Luke James might just be the best R&B album of the year.
The album features concise, minimal instrumentals, which often times explode into multi-layered choruses. Take the lead single, “Options,” for example; the track starts with a simple piano riff, and transforms into a monstrous head bopper featuring live guitars and knocking hip-hop hi-hats. James’ lyrics range from super confident- “I stepped up to her, asked ‘what’s your size?’”- to relatable relationship mess-ups-"I know I messed up when I missed your birthday.”
Including disco/80s-pop inspired tracks like "Dancing in the Dark" and "Expose," as well as modernized- but not compromising or trend following- R&B/Hip-Hop crossovers such as "Options" and "The Run," Luke James delivers a collection of beautiful love songs that evoke emotion, whether you’re doing imaginary pull-ups to the bass hits on “The Run” or slow-dancing to James’ chilling cover of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me.”
Even though Luke James is not the conceptual masterpiece that say, channel, ORANGE is, it is an awesome collection of breakup songs (see: "Options," “Glass House” and "Exit Wounds") and baby-making soul music (see: "Dancing in the Dark," “Make Love to Me” and "I Want You"). For someone who opened for Beyonce on her last solo world tour, James deserves a comparison to Queen B, rather than his male R&B counterparts. Like Bey, James has an impeccable voice that cannot be mistaken for anyone else’s, and we're all looking forward to hearing what comes next!