After looking through the massive list of names performing at this year’s Coachella festival, there were many viable options for a “Hearing Aid,” but it seems like a change of pace might do some good. We could give a million alternatives for bands like Muse, Lana Del Rey, and Calvin Harris (all of whom might be future “Hearing Aids”), but why not change the pace a bit? Solange has won over hearts the past few years with her laidback brand of soul. While her sister Beyonce has reigned as queen over the entire world of pop, Solange aims more at the roots of music, with a dressed-down take on R&B and dance music. Some are quick to write her off simply due to her sister’s success (those people are dopes), but others recognize the sunny resilience in her style of funk that sometimes draws back to the’70s and other times dazzles with complex slowdances. Her repertoire isn’t vast but incorporates many styles, which makes this “Hearing Aid” so different.
Check out previous editions of “Hearing Aid,” our column taking bands you may like and offering other options:
Solange’s gentle warmth is very welcoming, so why not find a similar voice, and then layer and harmonize it? Mapei is kind of like that. The Rhode Island-born singer hit it big on the Internet with last fall’s viral smash “Don’t Wait,” wowing with her harmonized verses. Much like Solange, Mapei likes to incorporate eclectic instrumentation like Brazilian baile drums, but her roots as a rapper give her an edge when it comes to working with electronic production. If “Don’t Wait” is a sign of things to come for Mapei, she already seems to take a more hook-driven approach than Solange, but even shows signs of being treated as a singer-songwriter.
London-based songwriter and soul man Sampha may have gained traction when Drake put a spin on his song “Too Much,” but he also has an EP and a single culled from solo material that is quite fantastic. Sampha’s piano-based balladry is often so minimalist that his voice is able to take control. Like Solange, his voice shows great range but he relies heavily on a soft and chilling falsetto. Also, if you check out “Without” from last year’s “Dual” EP, it’s clear that Sampha, again much like Solange, can do a lot with some selective percussion. With a voice that sounds like an eerie take on Anthony Hamilton and a keen ear for production, it’s no surprise that he has been working with artists like Jessie Ware and SBTRKT, and could easily appeal to fans of Solange.
New York-based Emily King has been kicking around for almost a decade now, and even received a Grammy nod for her 2004 album “East Side Story.” It’s the material off of her 2001 “The Seven EP” that draws the most striking similarity to Solange. King’s voice reeks of natural talent, as she often chooses not to dress it up with any overproduction, except for her own backing harmonies. Much like Solange, King’s songs also twinkle with optimism, even on tunes like “No More Room,” which thematically don’t seem to match up.
Dev Hynes, also known as Blood Orange, has worked as a writer and producer for several years with acts that range from Sky Ferriera to Britney Spears. As a matter of fact, Hynes worked closely with Solange until the two had a bit of a falling out over Twitter. His latest Blood Orange album, “Cupid Deluxe,” is an experimental neo-soul thriller. His orchestral elements, new wave sheen, and Prince-like try-anything divo-ism gives him a leg-up over just about anyone in the R&B realm right now. Like Solange, his music has qualities that can make you dance and smile, and others that can make you feel just as vulnerable.
Mixing synthy experimentalism with softspoken soul, Brooklyn’s Lorely Rodriguez, also known as Empress Of, achieves a vibe quite comparable to Solange’s. While Solange gathers a more organic, bass-driven funk platform to sing upon, Empress of elects for a hazy wall of synths to match her whispered cries. Rodriguez’s reserved vocal style draws back to ’80s love-pop, like material that could’ve appear on the “Twin Peaks” soundtrack or that could have even been mentioned in the same breath as early Madonna. For Solange on a chillwave binge, check out Empress of.