CONCHITA WURST - "CONCHITA"
After a brief stint as a member of an Austrian boy band in 2007, Tom Neuwirth decided to put on a wig, wear a pretty dress along with a full beard and became Conchita Wurst. The singer received plenty of notice for her look and talent which eventually lead to Wurst representing Austria in the popular Eurovision Song Contest in 2014. Wurst's entry of "Rise Like a Phoenix" took home the top prize (the country's first in over fifty years) and catapulted the self-proclaimed "bearded lady" to international acclaim.
Now comes the inevitable first album simply entitled, "Conchita". Wurst's androgynous look is certainly attention-grabbing but it's the music that really counts and the singer delivers. Fans of shameless Euro-pop will enjoy this lively collection of songs about love and empowerment.
"You Are Unstoppable" - Conchita Wurst (2015) mp3
MIGUEL - "WILDHEART"
Two years ago, L.A. based musician, Miguel released a very sexy love ballad, "Adorn" from his second album, "Kaleidoscope Dream". The song was one of the biggest hits of that year and won the singer a well-deserved Grammy for Best R&B Song. The long-awaited follow-up album, "Wildheart" is now out and clearly he had no interest in making a predictable soul record.
With a nod to one of his idols, Prince (right down to the album's artwork), Miguel has created an introspective work of guitar-driven funk with a pulsating sensuality driving through each song. While it certainly doesn't fit comfortably in the rigid terrain of current pop radio, "Wildheart" is bold, inspired and deserves to be heard.
"Coffee" - Miguel featuring Wale (2015) mp3
TORI KELLY - "UNBREAKABLE SMILE"
Everybody was wondering "Who is that girl?" performing a fiery version of "Who's Loving You" during a tribute to Smokey Robinson on the recent BET Awards. That girl is Tori Kelly and she's on the verge of breaking out in a major way. At the age of fourteen, Kelly turned to You Tube as an outlet for her music and found an small audience. She auditioned for "American Idol" at sixteen and made it through to Hollywood week on the program but was eventually eliminated. Kelly continued to work on her music by releasing self-produced EPs until Capitol Records took an interest and signed her to the label.
The twenty-two year old has just released her debut studio album, "Unbreakable Smile". It's a solid pop/soul record with slick production by hit makers Max Martin and Toby Gad. But Kelly is not a parrot and was completely involved in the writing and production of her album. Fellow musician, Ed Sheeran (who Kelly opened for on tour) pops up to lend a hand on a track.
"Should've Been Us" - Tori Kelly (2015) mp3
LEON BRIDGES - "COMING HOME"
Growing up in Fort Worth, TX, Leon Bridges wanted to be a singer. Like most teenagers today, Bridges was inspired by hip-hop and performed at open-mikes in the area. A friend asked if he was a fan of Sam Cooke but Bridges was unfamiliar with the legendary soul singer. This prompted him to seek out the music of Cooke and other artists of the era. Bridges connected so strongly to this particular sound in r&b that he decided this was the style of music he wanted to make.
For his first album, "Coming Home", Bridges teamed up with Austin-based rock musicians, Austin Jenkins and Josh Block of the band White Denim to help write and produce. The singer 's warm voice, masterful songwriting and the retro styling perfectly reinvigorates the fading artistry of classic soul music.
"Smooth Sailin"" - Leon Bridges (2015) mp3
The British neo-soul singer, Lianne La Havas found great success with her 2012 debut, "Is Your Love Big Enough" throughout the globe except here in the states. She is back with new music and hopefully will receive more attention in this country. Here is the music video for the second single, "What You Don't Do" from La Havas' upcoming sophomore release, "Blood" due out later this month:
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