This Fresh Finds Fridays column curated by Flisadam Pointer features releases from K Michelle, Solomon Headen, Taite Imogen, Leela James, Keke Palmer, Brent Faiyaz, Alina Baraz, Ego Ella May, and Elmiene.
Check out this week’s roundup and don’t forget to let us know who you’re listening to in the comment section below.
K. Michelle – I’m The Problem
It’s so hard to say goodbye. But it is especially hard when you have to depart with a musical force of nature. Recording artist K. Michelle, the R&B music titan that we’ve come to love over the past decade or so, is leaving the genre. But on her way out, she was sure to put her cowboy boot into her final album in the genre.
I’m The Problem is not just for K’s die-hard Rebel fans. The 19-track project is for anyone who has ever claimed to know her. K. Michelle, Kimberly Pate, and Puddin all make an appearance, making the body of work the ultimate sign-off before she goes to frolic in the greener pastures that is country music.
As her final album under the stage name K. Michelle, it would’ve been easy to just slap together 12 tracks and call it a day after all of the criticism she has received from the industry. However, K. Michelle has too much artistic integrity for that. I’m The Problem is an indisputable display of her versatility not only as a vocalist but as a songwriter, producer, and, of course, her classically trained musicianship.
Past singles “Where Ever The D May Land” with Gloss Up, “Blame Yourself,” and “Scooch” demonstrate K. Michelle’s understanding of what R&B fans want. Her professional pockets know no limit. “Where Ever The D May Land” shows her awareness of the growing movement of younger acts coming out of her home state. “Blame Yourself” is for the grown and mature side of the genre. “Scooch” is the commercial radio-ready R&B that led K. Michelle to dominate the airwaves across the country. Although “Man In Diguse” is notably missing from the tracklist, it isn’t missed. Again, this goes to show how meticulous K. Michelle is when it comes to her art.
This project is filled with hits, but the standout tracks for certain are “Memphis,” “No Pain,” “You,” “This Man,” and I’d be remitted if I didn’t list “Scooch.”
On her official Instagram page, K. Michelle opened up about the project, saying, “If you know me, you know everything about me. My life and what I go through. I think I ran from music so much – over the opinions the past couple of years of what people think about me or say,” said K.
She added, “So, I’ve been working on this album for like 2 and a half / three years.” The stretch of time spent crafting this project shows in every note played and note sung throughout the project.
I’m The Problem is the perfect way to end out on a high note, and by closing with the country track “Tennessee,” you can rest assured that her next musical venture as Puddin will care on that soulful legacy K. Michelle forged in R&B.
Solomon Headen – Love FM Deux
Atlanta-based singer Solomon Headen isn’t interested in having his music collecting dust in a vault. Headen wants his work to be heard and subsequently felt by all R&B lovers. In July, the musician dropped his debut EP, Love FM. But now that fans have had time to get familiar with it, Headen has decided to double back with a few records that didn’t make the initial release.
Billed as an official album, Love FM Deux, is a hearty 10-song offering from the songwriter. In addition to the original 6 songs, Headen piled on four more tracks. The supplement records include “The Truth,” “Be Alone” with Janiah Tashae, “Slow” with Olivia Escuyos, and “Time Heals” with DaShean Porter.
Love FM Deux continues in the first edition’s thematic senses, which helps to fuse together the newer tracks that slightly depart from what listeners might’ve come to expect back on the original installment. Of the tracks, it is a challenge to choose the best ones, but “Slow” and “Time Heals” are currently at the top of the pile.
Everything I’ve previously written about Love FM, applies to Love FM Deux, especially the bit about Headen’s incorporation of sleek harmonies. However, what makes the deluxe project apart from the standard EP is the well-roundedness of the newer tracks. None of the four records sound alike, as each of them pulls from a different R&B pocket, but they still manage to gel together effortlessly. The growth shown in a matter of weeks is astronomical. I can’t imagine what a 2024 project from Solomon Headen will sound like.
Headen shared an exclusive note with ThisIsRNB about Love FM Deaux. “I made so many songs while I was preparing ‘Love FM.’ Originally, I only wanted [to create] 6 songs [for the project]. But after the release, I started listening to the other songs and said to myself, ‘Yeah, these have to come out,’” said Headen.
Solomon Headen has moved up on my R&B rookie rating sheet.
Taite Imogen – Jordan Year
The coming-of-age story isn’t just a theme you hear in music. This is the reality for every living being. For British singer Taite Imogen, that painstaking process is at the center of her new EP, Jordan Year. Ahead of the 5-track project’s release, she treated the public to two singles, “Here” and “Rock With You,” both of which are top contenders for the title of breakout records from the body of work.
The project, named in connection with the impressive athletic legacy of NBA Hall of Famer, Michael Jordan, is also representative of an individual’s life goals when they enter their 23rd year of life. Imogen, like many others before her and who will come after her, uses this time to shed their adolescent way of thinking, acting, and more with the hopes of propelling their life into unfathomable success across the board.
For Imogen, as heard on the project, those areas include self-love, self-esteem, and romantic relationships. It’s a clouded journey of mental wellness guided by angelic, breathy vocals, cohesive production, and honest writing. Yes, past singles “Here” and “Rock With You” are stellar, but “Fool” is the true star.
The project features just three main credited producers, including LOELASH, Toch Ejimofor, and Komikamo. Usually, for an EP of this length, it is best to sit with one other creative mind, but the trio seamlessly worked together to current a constant and steady sound for Imogen to continue to build upon in the future.
As Jordan Year progresses, you can slowly hear Imogen’s confidence in her voice grow. She never peaks, nor does she valley, which is a compliment to her as a newer artist. The only inconsistency of the project is the way in which the vocals are mixed, an easily forgivable offense in a musician’s earlier stages. Imogen’s songwriting shines on Jordan Year, but the range of her vocal abilities isn’t as fiercely showcased.
ThisIsRnB received a statement from Taite Imogen about the project. “I began creating this project back in 2021 during lockdown. Some of these songs started as seeds in 2019 when I was thinking of quitting music,” said Imogen.
She continued, “2023 has been my true Jordan Year, and this EP is dedicated to the girl who sat in her small shoebox room in Belvedere, beating herself up about how she was never doing enough, and to all the amazing people who have helped me along the way, I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Taite Iogen’s Jordan Year is an appetizer that has already left listeners hungry for the main course.
Leela James – “Thought U Knew”
Known as the Goddaughter of soul, Leela James is back with new music. Known for her astounding vocal range on her latest record, “Thought U Knew,” produced by Rex Rideout, James opted for a more subdued performance.
With an addictive funky bassline hidden within the other steady, mellowed accompaniments, “Thought U Knew” applies a heavier focus on James and fellow collaborators Francesca Richard, Rex Rideout, and Ronnie Garre’s songwriting. The track is about James’ unwavering resilience.
The musician lets her former lover know that she did need them, but she did indeed want them around. However, once things went sour, she would not sit around to pout. Instead, after the split, the locomotive that is Leela James will keep on moving and thriving
“Baby what you thought I would do / Just because you’re not here with me / Did you think I wouldn’t be good without you?/ I’m ten toes on my own / Baby I can take good care of me / Please believe / I don’t need you / Must’ve had me all messed up / Thinking I would crumble over you / I thought you knew,” singes James.
In the supporting video, starring fellow entertainers Syleena Johnson, Avery Sunshine, and Mone Smith, James pulled inspiration from the 1996 film Set It Off, directed by F. Gary Gray, to highlight that by any means necessary, she will overcome.
“Thought U Knew” is Leela James’ follow-up to her previous single, “Right Back In It,” which was shared back in July.
Keke Palmer – “Assets”
Keke Palmer is back in her big boss era, and she’s proud of it. Not only is the multi-hyphenated entertainer currently traveling around the country performing in front of sold-out crowds but she’s also returned to the studio. Keke’s latest single, “Assets,” is her tapping into her wealth of talent.
“Assets,” produced by Kenneth “KP” Paige and co-written by Keke, Felisha King Harvey, Kenneth Dickerson Taylor Jr., and Simon David Plummer, is a triple entendre on Keke’s current life. Firstly, what she has been able to acquire in her career, what she brings to romantic relationships, and her curvy body since the birth of her son Leo.
“On another level, ain’t sh^t you could tell her / She don’t ever see the tag, she just throw it in the bag / Mama taught her good, she can’t do no wrong / The epitome of class, so you know they all be mad / So bossy, eyes on her / Face card on ten, fuck what you heard / Not the type to be with everybody / Stay up out the way, get to the money,” sings Keke.
In posts written on social media, she discussed the inspiration for the track, writing, “Where all my entrepreneurial peoples at?? Don’t be a liability; be an ASSET. My new song, “Assets,” is for my entrepreneurial girlies, themies, and boyiess!!”
“Assets” comes on the heels of her collaboration with Usher as well as her past singles “Waiting” and “Standard.”
Brent Faiyaz – “WY@”
What is love if it isn’t a tad bit toxic? Well, that seems to be singer Brent Faiyaz’s logic. His latest single, “WY@,” produced by Dpat, Otxhello, Berg, Anthoine Walters, and Jonathan “Freeze” Wells, is all about the false comfort found in casual hookups.
“Even I know you ain’t no good for me / But you feel so good to me / Every time I come back, I try to leave / So how you end up back with me? / Oh, this ain’t what I want, this is something else / Something that ain’t good for my health / I been searching but I can’t get no help / And I don’t feel like myself / I be doing shit I really shouldn’t do for real / That’s why I always tell you come through for real,” sings Faiyaz.
Heard in the verse posted above, “WY@,” which was co-written by Anthoine Walters, Bailey Goldberg, David Patino, Jonathan “Freeze” Wells, and Otxhello, explores Faiyaz’s willingness to voluntarily enter the belly of the beast of lust, knowing love doesn’t leave there.
It’s only been one year since Brent Faiyaz shared his album, Wasteland, but he’s continued to release new music, including past singles, “Moment Of Your Life” featuring Coco Jones, “Feel In Love” with Marshmello, and now “WY@.
Alina Baraz – “Don’t Buy Me Roses”
Alina Baraz is new age R&B’s dreamy vocalist. But don’t let this lead you to believe that the Russian-American singer is an airhead. In her new single, “Don’t Buy Me Roses,” produced by lophiile and Los Hendrixx, Baraz gives listeners a recap of how she proved it.
“Lookin’ back I was so naïve / You let me open / Said you were everything to me / I didn’t notice / That you weren’t where you said / Who you with late at night, where you lay your head? / Call me crazy instead / I cared for you more than you’ll ever know / Needed your rain, you wouldn’t let mе grow / I let you go,” sings Baraz.
The record, which was co-written by Baraz, Los Hendrixx, Col3, and lophiile, “Don’t Buy Me Roses,” is all about what happens when you get lost in a relationship. But as you make plans to leave, your partner tries to make up for their long periods of mistreatment with surface acts instead of doing the deep work required to repair the broken bond.
Based solely on Baraz’s vocal performance, “Don’t Buy Me Roses” is an R&B song. However, in every other aspect of “Don’t Buy Me Roses,” including the production, it is electronic. From the computerized filtering applied to Baraz’s singing parts to the looped hip-hop bass, “Don’t Buy Me Roses” is a blend of Baraz’s capabilities.
“Don’t Buy Me Roses” is Baraz’s follow-up to single “Keep Me In Love” released in August.
Ego Ella May – “Undone”
If there’s one budding artist who knows how to maintain their allure in the dawn of forced connectivity, it’s Ego Ella May. The British-Nigerian singer has found the perfect balance to being an active artist while honoring her introverted ways. Her new single, “Undone,” could explain how she strategically toes that line.
As the initial offering of her forthcoming project, FIELDNOTES PT III, Ego Ella May challenges the human construct known as control. The concept serves as a safety net for most, but for the songwriter, it is a self-induced destruction that works its way slowly from the inside out.
As she teams up with musician Isabella Baker for her string accompaniment, the production of “Undone” has a field day with other instrumental elements. However, the strings and bass are honored to perform all of the heavy lifting. Ego Ella May’s eccentric signature soul and jazz vocal style is a welcome compliment to what’s been formed with the track.
“I’ve been feeling I’m on the brink / Believing everything I think / If I’m not creating / Does it mean I’m wasting / My God-given gift? / I think, And maybe that’s the problem / Got to be a better option / Cleo said, ‘God’s love is free’ / And it’s not dependent on me / Or what I will become / Maybe the whole point is becoming undone / Undone,” sings Ego Ella May.
In a statement shared with ThisIsRnB, the Ego Ella May discussed the backstory behind the track. “[Undone] is inspired by a book I read last year called ‘I May Be Wrong’ by Bjørn Natthiko Lindeblad. It’s such a beautifully written book, and it stuck with me for so long afterward that I decided to write a song about it! It’s about letting go of control, ditching the facade that so many of us find ourselves latching onto, the question of what would happen if we simply left it all behind and started again…,” said the musician.
She later added, “This song marks a new beginning for me and simultaneously the closure of FIELDNOTES in a way as I wrap up this chapter, and I knew I wanted to lead with this one.”
“Undone” is Ego Ella May’s first solo release of the year. Her last single, “Miss U,” dropped last year shortly after her collaborative EP By The Way with Theo Crooker and D’Leau.
Elmiene – “Marking My Time”
When newer artists begin to break into the mainstream conversations, it is undeniably harmful to compare them to legacy acts. However, British-Sudanese singer Elmiene makes it difficult not to link his artistic capabilities to other musicians. With each release, Elmiene digs his heels further into the idea that he is the leader of this generation’s soul acts.
His new single, “Marking My Time,” which was produced by James Vincent McMorrow, is his third homerun track since signing a deal with Def Jam and Polydor. The somber tone of the song is instantly lifted by its grand instrumentation. From the string section’s intense cuts to the tactful strokes of the piano, McMorrow knows how to precisely present Elmiene’s grounding vocals.
As he sings, “Send me the prayer I’m missing / Because I need the sign / And even though I’m listening / It’s gonna take a while / Want to set my soul on fire / Get me out this hole I’m tired / Want to set my soul on fire / Get me out this hole I’m tired / Oh babe / Free me from this world I find so frail / Get out this hole / It’s too tight to stand / Oh I’ve been, oh I’ve been down fighting / Blunt knives on my side / That is our reality / Hold my breath I’ve been dying,” Elmiene’s stock delivery cleverly contrasts the song’s nature.
Although the track (co-written by Elmiene and McMorrow) isn’t new, having premiered during his debut TV performance for BBC’s Later with… Jools Holland in June, it certainly still has all the fresh wrappings around it.
“Marking My Time” is Elmiene’s follow-up to past singles “Mama” and “Made At Fire.”