Music diversification has been a hot topic lately, and for very good reason at that. With the influx of artistes crossing genres and closing the gap thanks to their creativity and talent, music has never been more universal than it is today. If you put music streaming services in the picture, listeners are spoilt for choices on what to listen to, so they end up listening to the same thing repeatedly (I feel ya).
Upon closer inspection however, there are hidden gems in the industry that are worth noticing simply for their raw talent. This time around, we’ve got five ladies hailing from various parts of Southeast Asia that deserve a song or two in your playlist. Take a look below for some pre-weekend recommendations from my personal playlist to yours.
Long before she was taken under 88rising and dubbed as an r’n’b princess straight outta Indonesia, Nicole Zefanya covered songs and posted her originals on YouTube, garnering a huge amount of viewers per video for her simple sounding covers made distinct by her smooth r’n’b runs. As her sound progressed, so did her style and this year, she was rebranded as NIKI with the worldwide debut single called ‘See U Never’. Young and sweet are the first few things you’d think of when you see her in videos, but musically, one can’t help but think of songstresses like Jhené Aiko and Tinashe when NIKI sings.
Sam Rui (SG)
Over here at JUICE, we can’t get enough of Sam Rui. So after the release of her debut record Season 2, I knew I needed to acknowledge the Singaporean’s craftsmanship and “wear my heart on my sleeve” type lyrics into this listicle. With her bright hair and nigh autotune-like vocals (her voice is naturally like that, by the way), diss tracks about exes have never sounded so good. Her songwriting skill is akin to Taylor Swift’s – but with melodies wired more towards r’n’b and more succinct songwriting. Overall, listening to Sam is like achieving mental clarity after a bad situation.
The song ‘honest oceans’ might be new, but there’s no stopping the fresh-faced Malaysian from taking over the local music scene with her impressive production skills, evident in the single itself. Vocally, JAIE’s strength lies in her lower register. Tie that together with her multi-faceted instrument work, you’d get a solid body of work that is more mellow. If you’re a fan of Wet or Jorja Smith, you will be able to appreciate the slower side of r’n’b from JAIE, who perfectly nails the lowtemp aspect of this beat-heavy genre.
Low Leaf (PH)
With her love for all things spiritual and a good hand at the harp, it’s impossible to classify Low Leaf simply as an r’n’b artiste. If anything, I’d prefer calling her a living art, mainly for her beautifully crafted tunes like ‘Smthng Abt You’ and ‘June Gloom’. Born as Angelica Lopez, Low Leaf’s rendition of r’n’b is ethereal and otherworldly. She has the ability to take listeners into a completely different landscape through her earth-friendly tunes that are seamlessly combined with her Filipino roots. Enjoy listening to Solange’s new music? You might love Low Leaf.
Cherry-picking one artiste from South Korea’s underground scene (okay, okay, 4 SEA artistes plus 1 East Asian act) isn’t easy. However, Nieah stood out in a sea of female vocalists for being an artiste who singlehandedly handles her own work that is wholly r’n’b – and churning out high-quality work at a consistent pace at that. There’s no doubt that the girl can sing, her voice is clear-sounding and she also has excellent control (listen to her Timeless EP). The song ‘Cactus Flower’ exhibits Nieah’s warm vocals, making it the standout single from the entire EP.
Need an entire list of recommended albums from 2017? We’ve got it covered here.