The Rise of Nao

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Let’s be honest, there are many young, aspiring, soulful, and experimental female artists out there at the moment.

But let me introduce you to Nao who, even in a field crowded with aspiring artists, strong voices, and interesting musical visions, manages to stand out and make a name for herself.

A year ago, Nao was simply recognised, if at all, by being ‘the one that teamed up with Jai Paul’s brother’. Nao worked with A.K. Paul for the track ‘So Good’, which was to be the biggest song on the similarly named EP. The record’s first single doubled as an introduction to the elusive A.K. Paul. Paul’s contribution was obviously an interesting move, but the news of his involvement seemed to overshadow the spectacular talent of the singer-songwriter in her own right.

Behind the understated tag that was first given to her, Nao’s ‘So Good’, caught the attention of all the right people. The single was No. 1 on HypeMachine, No. 4 on the iTunes electronic chart, made a BBC 1Xtra playlist, and currently has over two million plays on SoundCloud. Being a Hackney girl herself, Nao sold out her two London shows that followed in a matter of days. Fellow electronic band Little Dragon also invited Nao to join them on their huge European tour.

But Nao’s year of success did not stop there – the vocalist dropped her second EP February 15 earlier this year, hinting towards a new abstract and experimental direction. February 15 waves goodbye to the house influences seen before in her first So Good EP and delves further into the nu-soul movement and gives way to straight funk. The track ‘Inhale Exhale’ is catchy and is bound to be the most popular track on the EP, but still manages to keep the electro-funk feel that Nao suits so well. Her voice sounds as soft and sweet as helium-infused candy floss but the slick and crisp production that flows beneath makes the whole EP immediately appealing.

Nao’s rich and subtle vocals mask any hint of her Hackney origins that would normally be easy to detect when using such simple lyrics. She’s an instinctually aware singer who knows when to dial it down and when to let the power of her voice hit it’s full strength, all over an imaginative yet fiercely simple way with words. Nao’s music forms an unexpectedly moving still-life painting, her direction made clear by the soft lines created with the paint brush.

Now the artist, who has been called a mixture between Jhene Aiko and FKA Twigs, has 38.5 thousand followers on SoundCloud and has just released her upcoming UK and European tour consisting of 12 dates. Keep an eye out for Nao’s next move, if the past is anything to go by, she’s only going to make her name in the industry even bolder.

Listen to her latest release ‘Bad Blood’ here:

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Words by Sophie Nutt

 

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