Ones To Watch 2016: The Female Vocalists

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Last year was a memorable one for UK music Here are the female vocalists Frances' believes you should have your eye on in 2016

Ones To Watch 2016

It was the year that One Direction announced that they would be taking a break from making music as a group, which sent Directioners into meltdown worldwide. Stormzy performed all over the world and climbed 99 places up the UK chart with Shut Up before Christmas. And Adele made an unexpected return and released her third album, 25, selling nearly two million CD’s (yup, people still use these) in the first week. Not forgetting that her single Hello, somehow made us contact our exes making for some very funny screenshots across social media.

2015 was the best year in a long time for UK music.

However apart from Adele, we don’t talk about the ladies much. Julie Adenuga (who was the Books Editor here at Live back in the day) becoming one of the lead DJ’s on Apple Music’s, Beats 1, is definitely one of the most memorable moments in music for me in 2015 but I doubt any list would include it. Little Simz and her general work rate is something to be applauded. The fact that she released her debut album, A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons via her own label, Age 101 Music and then an EP before the year was out probably won’t appear on any list either.

With this in mind, I wanted to recognise a few talented ladies from London who have been doing their thing this year. I think it’s important to note that, not only do these young women have incredible voices, they are also writing their own music which a lot of our favourite, established artists have teams doing on their behalf. It’s a lot harder than it seems.

Live has quite a good track record when it comes to clocking the next big thing… So put your headphones in or grab that aux cord and have a listen to some soon to be blue tick verified, homegrown talent, that you will definitely be hearing more about in 2016.


Ella Mai

The fact that no one can quite put their finger on where Ella Mai is from, probably stems from the fact that she has lived in The States. You can hear this throughout her music. The 21-year-old from South London, released her first EP, Troubled, just a few months ago and as DJ Khaled would say: “It’s a vibe.”  

Ella says Lauryn Hill, Chris Brown and Jazmine Sullivan are her main influencers. “I’d like to think I’m a mixture of all of them.”

If you’re not following her on Instagram, you need to rectify that now. Her covers from Bryson Tiller’s Exchange to Adele’s Hello will surely bless your ears. They have got her recognition from The Shaderoom and co-signs from Tyra Banks and The Game.

You don’t want to sleep on this rising star. I have a feeling she will be doing a couple of features with some of our favs in the near future, so watch this space and remember where you heard it first…


I first heard about Ray BLK on Twitter when she released her EP, Havisham in March. It was inspired by Miss Havisham, a fictional character from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. After her heartbreak of being jilted at the altar, Miss Havisham vows to never fall in love again. The EP follows a similar narrative of a girl who has her heart broken and turns cold hearted. I really like that she used this as her theme rather than just penning love songs for the sake of it/

A few months later she released Talk To Me, (probably my favourite song so far) sung over Tom Misch’s, Wonder. It’s a digital age story of unreciprocated love, where Ray BLK sings about trying to get someone’s attention by changing her display picture and direct messaging him. It’s got this Alicia Keys twist to it, with lines from her 2003 hit, You Don’t Know My Name. It’s very clever and it’s very relevant. I feel that you can hear more assertiveness in her voice than before and in my personal opinion the lyrics are A1. I can’t really think of anyone who’s been able to depict a modern day love story in such a way without it sounding cheesy.

She’s done something similar with her most recent release 5050. The video, released earlier this month was premiered on i-D. I’m so here for the South London gritty visuals, and the cute girl squad with the various epic hair colours and styles.


Sue Lily

Though she is yet to release a full body of work Sue Lily has really impressed me this year. I’m not the only one who has clocked on to her talent as she has been featured on a number of line ups this year, including Sanctury Ldn’s.

With several live performances under her belt the 22-year-old from South London, who says she gets her inspiration to write music from life, is making a bit of a name for herself. I had her first SoundCloud release, Water, on repeat for a while and I love the spoken word break. I also really love that you can hear a London twang in her voice when she sings. I’m looking forward to some more music from this one!

Bree Runway

You may have seen one of Bree Runways’ viral covers on your timeline. I was itching for a full length version of the Come My Way/Blessings mashup over Bryson Tiller’s, Don’t as soon as I saw it on.  The twenty-something-year-old, East Londoner, has even sung for Michelle Obama (yeah you read it right)

In a recent interview with Kenny Allstar, who also co-signed the young songstress for big things on BBC 1Xtra, Bree Runway described her sound as ‘Trap Pop.’

Her EP, RNWY 01 is a promising body of work with some ill beats. It even features some wise words from her mum! I love the rawness and authenticity of it all.

Whilst I appreciate her unique spin on covers, it’s great to hear her making her own music and this is just the start for her.


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