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Whether you call it “urban contemporary” or “left-of-center”, alternative R&B is the varying term for the enduring shift from the soulful style of contemporary R&B into something entirely new and hard to categorize. The Weeknd, Frank Ocean and Miguel have all been labeled the term, but it seems that everyday there’s a new face fusing hip hop, EDM, even rock or rock into their songs. Check out a whole new batch of artists to add to that list, if you haven’t already peeped.


Abra’s dance-pop rhythmic ballads are for anyone in an emo mood but still wants to dance. Known as the “darkwave duchess,” this Atlanta-based singer-songwriter dropped PRINCESS in July, a project filled with self-produced beats that tap into Miami bass and electronic sounds. Her debut album, last year’s Rose, gives similar vibes.

Abra is getting set for a European tour next month, so until she returns to the states, watch her video for the PRINCESS track “Crybaby” below.


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Nao’s (pronounced Nay-O) electro-funk style is so unique to her that she has coined the term “wonky funk” to describe it. Her voice also makes her music pretty distinct, leaving many people shocked that it’s not the result of autotune.

The East Londoner released For All We Know in July to some highly positive reviews and has been compared to Prince, so no pressure. For a proper introduction, listen to Nao’s “Bad Blood.”

Jorja Smith

Jorja Smith’s music titters on that line between pop and soul that has become popular over the last couple of years, but with a subtle British accent that many singers try to hide or abandon entirely. Songs like “Blue Lights” ditch the typical R&B love song for something much deeper, but other than that her discography is pretty bare at the moment.


This Texas 18-year-old is the man behind “Location,” an excellent track about moving an online love offline. Blending crooning R&B with pop and hip-hop production like a pro, it will be exciting to see where this guy goes. Take a minute to listen to “Location” if haven’t already heard it.


R.LUM.R songs sometimes incorporate EDM, like his biggest single to date, “Frustrated,” and sometimes his R&B sounds unexpectedly contemporary, like the smooth and slow “Be Honest.” Hopefully the Nashville singer has more singles up his sleeve.

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