The diverse and niche genre, soulful music from Scandinavia once again exceeded in new songs, voices and stories. In the wake of 2021, a trail of tracks continues to establish the scene ahead. Songwriters spoke through the isolation writing with deep self-reflection. Some spoke of love, and some took the imagination away in essential escapism. I (we) cannot thank the artists and musicians enough for their art.
After hours of listening, this selection is based on my subjective perspective, and believe me; it wasn’t easy to get this down to just 10! None of the songs chosen are based on sales or play numbers – just emotional heart, musical expression and the words of Barbra Streisand.
‘Art does not exist only to entertain, but also to challenge one to think, to provoke, even to disturb, in a constant search for truth’ – Barbra Streisand
10. Alex Runo – Devil
And I start directly in the outer limits of Scandi-soul with Devil by Alex Runo. His impactful blend of rock and soul shook the barriers of our genre. The visual styling perfectly fits the raw, blues sound and exposed emotions. Devil is the embodiment of a modern blues/soul single.
9. Bobby Oroza – I Got Love
The Finnish King of Cool, Bobby Orozo, spread a love vibe that melted even the coldest hearts. Accompanied by the magnificent backline arrangement by Cold Diamond and Mink, Bobby’s smooth voice, he discovers the abundance of love around him and in his own heart. It’s a bonafide classic.
8. Fieh – Grendehus Funkadelic
Norwegian group Fieh once again proved their genre-bending mastery with Grendehus Funkadelic. The first release from their forthcoming second album In the Sun in the Rain, this funky, contemporary track detonates with uptempo drums, energetic extending into a daring exploration of harmonics. I’ve been playing this track daily since I first heard it.
7. Selma Judith – Lava Dust
A simply superb R&B and pop blend is taken from a sensational debut album Getting Angry, Baby. The long mellow intro (wait for the rich bass to drop), the smooth sax outro and Selma’s vocals made Lava Dust a-must in my tracklist of the year. The album is filled with personal stories, emotions, and aural dynamics. In our review, I gave it a straight 5 out of 5, and Danish critics were equally impressed nominating it for numerous awards. An album that represents the Barbara Streisand quote above. Getting Angry, Baby is available on double LP.
6. Coco O. – Solider
The warm, instantly distinguishable vocals of Coco O. are given the spaciousness for exquisite lyricism. Akin to the origins of soul artists who raised awareness of social injustices through their music Coco O. draws attention to a woman’s perspective on toxic masculinity. The smoothest of voices delivers a message with a punch.
5. Shenie Fogo – Explain
I could have easily selected anything by Snoh Aalegra or Napoles; however, this year, the crown of dark R&B is worn by Shenie Fogo. This moody lo-fi single, electrified by a guitar solo and her hushed soul vocal, is a sensual pleasure bath for ears.
4. Beady Belle – Truth Wide Open
Another artist personifying Scandinavian soul music Beady Belle – Truth Wide Open, fascinates with waves of organic neo-soul, produced, programmed, and sung by Beady Belle herself. Her emotional, exceptionally written single exceeds with honesty and haunting vibrations.
3. Isabelle Eberdean – Falling In Love
2021 had two names on the summer airwaves. Sheila Simmenes and Isabelle Eberdean. Both Norwegian artists set the soundtrack for the warm days and nights however, Falling In Love – Isabelle Eberdean got the hips in serious motion. The 80’s groove and irresistible chorus will keep this track playing for many summers to come. Timeless. Even the video makes you smile!
2. Yehra – Daydreaming
One of the best bands of 2021, Yehra, seemed to come out of nowhere and immediately presented their now unmistakable deliciously dark nordic soul signature. Yehra (Barbadian-Canadian singer Jen Mahon and Danish producer Rasmus Liebst) hit the mark with their debut Daydreaming and continued to flow with equally compelling releases throughout the year. It’s hard to imagine the world before their dark R&B beats, mellow rhythms and sultry tones. If you’re have ever just sat and listened to the waves rolling in, you’ll love Yehra too.
1. Midisofi – Purplebook
Perhaps I have a soft spot for vocal tones and expressions of Sofie Tollefsbøl (Fieh), which makes everything she sings so appealing. Regardless, I know I’m not alone. During the lockdown, the Norwegian songstress debuted a solo single – Purplebook under the moniker Midisofi and instantly embodied everything Scandinavian soul music encompasses – creativity, boldness, and impeccable harmonies. Where the charts are filled with songs tuned and tweaked to perfection Midisofi stumbling basslines remain distorted. She keeps it real. Her playful exploration of lyrics and music structure are the foundation of a new soundscape with the distinctive label ‘Made in Norway’ stamped on it. A glowing symbol of her generation, this single and artist is everything.
Here We Are – Sheila Simmenes
Her whole album is a remarkable journey into a sunshine realm.
Venus – Come Night, Come Day EP
A five-star debut. Swedens R&B future is right here!
Aggi Dix – God was a Black Lady
A killer. Nuff said!
Dark Roast – GOING BACK, MOVING UP
What a band! Band of the year contender who revived soul’s past with an authentic modern touch.
Astrid Engberg – Roots to Petals
And any release by Misha is essential!
Now you’ve heard mine, tell me what was on your list? Add a comment on Facebook/Twitter or tag us: @scandinaviansoul.