The bar is set pretty high for singer-songwriters in a world of powerhouse vocalists such as Beyonce, Amy Winehouse, Mariah Carey, and even Sam Smith, who made his debut not too long ago but made it known he's in it for the long run. Today, there are so many immensely talented vocalists. But it takes a certain human power to reach the right vocal capacity, range, and authentic emotionality to have the honor of being called a "powerhouse vocalist." We put together a list of 10 vocalists who vary from smooth R&B to futuristic pop that all have some serious potential in 2016.
Jess Glynne has been dominating the charts in the UK, with five number-one singles in the past two years. Her breakthrough moment was when Route 94 approached her to be the vocals on the dance-hit "My Love." When British electronic group, Clean Bandit, heard the track, they knew they wanted Jess Glynne's euphoric vocals on their smash-hit "Rather Be" in 2014. Since then, Jess Glynne has released a full-length album titled I Cry When I Laugh, which includes yet-another number-one single "Hold My Hand." Jess Glynne uses heartbreak from a past relationship to fuel her rich, soulful vocals in this upbeat and undeniably catchy album. She's definitely one to watch, as it's only a matter of time till Jess Glynne's voice takes over the charts (and the dance floors) in America.
The singer-songwriter started out like fellow Canadian Justin Bieber by releasing YouTube videos covering various songs when she was only 13. A few years later, she was discovered via her YouTube channel and signed with EP Entertainment and big-time label Def Jam Recordings in 2015. In May of last year, her anti-party R&B anthem, "Here," showcased her stripped-down, authentic vocals and expressive lyricism and became her first hit on Billboard Hot 100. At only 19-years-old, she has established an expressive, bluesy voice that adds to her R&B-infused pop sound.
Justin Vernon couldn't be left off our list. Not only does he play multiple instruments, he's also a singer, songwriter, and producer with a mesmerizing voice that has both soft, high notes and more gentle waves. He is best known as the frontman and voice behind the baroque pop/folk band Bon Iver. "Flume" on Bon Iver's 2008 album For Emma, Forever Ago is a perfect example of why we love Justin Vernon's floaty voice. In 2012, Justin Vernon walked away from Bon Iver for an extended break, but it seems they are doing a mini-tour in Asia this month. Let's hope for a new Bon Iver music this year so we can bask in his atmospheric voice.
The London-based singer-songwriter is a force to be reckoned with. She started out as a West End musical child star in Whistle Down the Road with Jessie J at the age of 12. Since then, she's done collaborations with Gorgon City, Magnetic Man, Raized by Wolves, and has gone on the road for two years with Rudimental. Her debut single "Karate" brings a textured, punchy, pop sound with experimental vocals. She describes her music as "fresh pop" but we'd like to add it has an R&B soulful energy; think Jessie Ware mixed with a bit of Aaliyah. She has the confidence part down as she aims to be as big as Beyonce and Sia. So let's see what you got, Anne-Marie.
If you think Kacy Hill has a familiar face, you may have seen her plastered all over American Apparel ads. But she isn't just a fresh face, she can play the oboe, the saxophone, and she was one of Kanye West's back-up dancers for the Yeezus Tour. But the most impressive factor of the Arizona-native is her intricate yet gripping voice that she pairs with a futuristic-pop/electronic sound. She made the bold move to leave the Yeezus tour to pursue singing, but Kanye didn't let her slip away that easily. Kacy Hill was signed to Kanye's record label, G.O.O.D, after he heard a sample of her first debut single, "Experience." Shortly after, she released a 5-song EP with vocals and electronic sounds that give off a slight FKA Twigs vibe. Kacy Hill pulls you in with her high-pitch falsetto and intriguing, innovative sound. We're curious to see where Kacy Hill will go this year after all, she is backed by Ye.
Another British artist to add to our list is piano-pop vocalist, Frances. She has released a few EPs in 2015, including Grow with her track "Let It Out," that displays the 19-year-old's harmonious, husky vocals over sparse piano chords. In her single "Borrowed Time," you see a soft-pop side of Frances where she switches out a piano for an electronic sound. It's hard not to think of Ellie Goulding when you listen to her sweet and wispy indie-pop flare. She studied at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and is signed with Sam Smith's management team, so let's hope she's destined to follow in his footsteps.
The Kentucky-native contemporary Christian/pop singer is the winner of NBC's ninth season of The Voice and we're pretty sure he is an angel put on earth to sing to us. In the semi-finals of The Voice, his execution of Queen's "Somebody to Love" bumped Adele's "Hello" out of the No 1 spot on the iTune's chart within 30 minutes of his performance. Since December, the 22-year-old made history on Billboard's Christian Songs Chart, sang the "National Anthem" at a NFL game, and sang "You Are So Beautiful" alongside David Foster at People's Choice Award. He blows listeners away with his powerful, high notes and gospel-styled singing.
Cloves has a musical style you don't see enough of these days. Imagine if Lana Del Ray, Etta James and Zooey Deschanel (of She & Him) could somehow make a vocal-baby, it'd probably sound like Cloves. Australian-raised singer-songer Kaity Dunston, aka Cloves, is on the right track of becoming a vocal powerhouse by idolizing Amy Winehouse and working with Justin Parker (whose produced music for Lana, Banks and Sia). She draws us in with her emotional nuances and heartfelt lyrics in her 4-song EP XIII. "Frail Love" from XIII puts her beautifully unique vocals on full-display. Cloves is only 19-years-old but she's undeniably talented with a timeless sound that leaves you longing for more. Let's hope for a full-length debut album this year from the Melbourne beauty.
Sweden-raised synth-pop singer, Tove Lo, is all about being unfiltered, raw, and authentic with her music. She explains how Swedish pop isn't about sugarcoating pop; it's about being slightly "dark and melancholy." Her Robyn-influenced track "Talking Body" (from her full-length album Queen of the Clouds) was a huge dance-hit of 2015. She ties dance-y pop with grunge and adds some pain and strength behind her voice (kind of like a sad Madonna). Her barefoot performance on Good Morning America proves Tove Lo does what she wants. And she has every right to, especially with a voice like that.
Last, but definitely not least, is angelic-sounding Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora. She started writing music at the age of 10, finding inspiration from Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. She signed with Glassnote in October of 2014 and released her first EP, Running with Wolves, in 2015, including the enthralling track, "Runaway." The 19-year-old pairs twinkly ballads with synth-laden narratives as she takes us off to a dream-like state in with each theatrical production. Katy Perry once tweeted that Aurora's sound makes her heart "a flutter," even calling her an "angel." Luckily, her first full-length album is set to release early this year so we won't have to wait long to hear more of Aurora's captivating voice.