Best Contemporary Soul Artists

List Includes Mary J. Blige, D'Angelo, and Maxwell

The classic R&B artists, including James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and Smokey Robinson, have trailblazed a path for new stars who were influenced by their success and are carrying on their legacy. The popularity of classic soul has grown throughout the world, and the younger generation of R&B performers is carrying the soul music baton with pride, led by Mary J. Blige, D'Angelo, Maxwell, and Anthony Hamilton.

Here is a list of the "Best Contemporary Soul Artists."

1
Mary J. Blige

Mary J. Blige. Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Nobel Peace Prize Concert

Who?: Mary J., AKA The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, is one of the most successful R&B/soul singers of this, or any, generation.
Why Her?: Her expressive, golden voice is incredibly dynamic and powerful.
Essential Songs: "Real Love," 1992; "Not Gon' Cry," from the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack, 1996; "Be Without You," 2005.
Essential Album: Share My World, 1997

2
D'Angelo

D'Angelo. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Who?: Michael Archer, AKA D'Angelo, is a four-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter-musician who's known as much for his sex appeal as for his music.
Why Him?: In addition to his smoky, soulful voice, he's an outstanding guitarist and keyboard player.
Essential Songs: "Brown Sugar," "Lady" and "Cruisin'," all from his multi-platinum 1995 debut album.
Essential Album: Brown Sugar, 1995.

3
Maxwell

Maxwell. Roger Kisby/Getty Images

Who?: Maxwell is a two-time Grammy award winning artist known for his sweet falsetto.
Why Him?: He's one of the most lauded and commercially successful neo-soul artists of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Essential Songs: "Fortunate" from the 1999 Life soundtrack, and "Pretty Wings" from his 2009 BLACKsummers'night CD.
Essential Album: MTV Unplugged (a must-have eight-song EP), 1997.

4
Erykah Badu

Erykah Badu. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Image

Who?: Erykah Badu, AKA "The Queen of Neo-Soul, from Dallas, Texas.
Why Her?: She received numerous honors, including four Grammys, three Soul Train Music Awards, and three Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards.
Essential Songs: "On & On" from her 1997 debut CD, Baduizm; "Bag Lady," 2000; and "Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)"
featuring Common, 2002,
Essential Album: Baduizm, 1997

5
Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill. Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Who?: Lauryn Hill, former lead singer of The Fugees.
Why Her?: She made history on February 24, 1999 when she became the first female artist to win five Grammys in one night, including Album of the Year for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. 
Essential Songs: "Doo Wop (That Thing)," 1998; and "Ex-Factor," 1999.
Essential Album: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, 1998. 

6
Raphael Saadiq

Raphael Saadiq. Monica Morgan/WireImage

Who?: Raphael Saadiq, formerly known as Raphael Wiggins, is a founding member of the groundbreaking 1990s neo-soul trio Tony! Toni! Toné!. He also founded the short-lived R&B group Lucy Pearl.
Why Him?: Saadiq is one of the best, yet most underrated Soul musicartists of the past 20 years. He's composed and produced songs for numerous stars, including Whitney Houston, Earth, Wind & Fire, Mary J. Blige, D'Angelo, John Legend, TLC, The Isley Brothers, Lionel Richie, and Babyface.                                                                       Essential Songs: "Dance Tonight" (with Lucy Pearl), 2000; "Feels Good" 1990; "(Lay Your Head on My) Pillow," 1993; and "The Blues," 1989; both with Tony! Toni! Toné!
Essential Album: The Way I See It, 2008.

7
Anthony Hamilton

Anthony Hamilton. Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Super Bowl Gospel

Who?: Anthony Hamilton is a down-n-gritty singer from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Why Him? His passionate, down-home style of singing epitomizes what real soul music is all about. He's a modern-day Otis Redding.
Essential Song: "Charlene" from his 2003 CD, Comin' from Where I'm From
Essential Album: Comin' From Where I'm From, 2003.

8
Joss Stone

Joss Stone. Steven Lawton/FilmMagic

Who?: Joss Stone is a young, female R&B/soul singer from England.  By the time she turned 20 in April 2007, she had already released three critically-acclaimed soul albums.
Why Her?: Next to Amy Winehouse and Teena Marie, she's the most commercially successful white female soul singer ever, and has yet to . reach her full potential.
Essential Songs: "Fell in Love with a Boy," (a cover the White Stripes' "Fell In Love With A Girl") 2004; "Tell Me What We're Gonna Do Now," featuring Common, 2007.
Essential Album: The Soul Sessions, 2003.

9
Leela James

Leela James. Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images

Who?: Leela James is a Los Angeles-born singer-songwriter who has a deep, incredibly soulful singing voice.
Why Her?: Her rich, gritty vocals sound like a modern version of  Chaka Khan and Tina Turner.
Essential Song: "Music," from her 2005 debut album, A Change is Gonna Come.
Essential Album: A Change is Gonna Come.

10
Rahsaan Patterson

Rahsaan Patterson. Donna Ward/Getty Images

Who?: Rahsaan Patterson, a former child actor, is a veteran artist who has released six albums since his debut in 1997.
Why Him?: Although he has not achieved the commercial success of the stars on this list, he's just as soulful. He's also a talented composer, whose credits include Brandy's platinum single Baby", and Tevin Campbell's hit "Back to the World."
Essential Songs: "Oh Lord (Take Me Back)" and "Cloud 9," both 2007.
Essential Album: Wines & Spirits, 2007.

Edited by Ken Simmons on March 6, 2016