With Awards Season upon us and the Grammys just a few weeks away, here’s our comprehensive list on which exceptionally talented singer-songwriters you should be keeping an eye on as the awards finish up.
Adele made her debut in 2008 and has slowly risen to super stardom in both the US and the UK. Her voice has a wonderful smoky and scratchy sound that you don’t hear much anymore, but her lyrics stand out on their own. They are riveting and never contrived. They are one of the reasons she’s become such a huge success. Her latest song for the James Bond film Skyfall is just one of many examples.
Skyfall is where we start
A thousand miles and poles apart
Where worlds collide and days are dark
You may have my number, you can take my name
But you’ll never have my heart – Skyfall
2. Ed Sheeran
Being completely honest, I have a bias when it comes to Ed Sheeran. He’s English, ginger, quirky, and a poet when it comes to songwriting. He was nominated for his first Grammy this year for his hit song The A Team. While he currently has only released one full length album, he’s written songs for hit artists like One Direction and co-wrote Everything Has Changed with Taylor Swift, who is a phenomenal songwriter on her own. Sheeran’s lyrics stand out for making even the most mundane things, like drunk-dialing, seem surreal and beautiful.
Give me love like her,
’cause lately I’ve been waking up alone,
Paint splattered teardrops on my shirt,
Told you I’d let them go,
And that I’ll fight my corner,
Maybe tonight I’ll call ya,
After my blood turns into alcohol,
No, I just wanna hold ya. – Give Me Love
3. Emeli Sandé
Continuing with the theme of talented UK artists, Emeli Sandé is slowly rising to the top. She’s penned songs for Rihanna and Alicia Keys. She has a special skill in matching both the vibe of the music with her lyrics. “River” has a softly majestic piano medley playing as she belts out mighty and beautiful lyrics. Her US hit “Next to Me” demonstrates her lyrical prowess.
When the money’s spent and all my friends have vanished
And I can’t seem to find no help or love for free
I know there’s no need for me to panic
Cos I’ll find him, I’ll find him next to me – Next to Me
4. Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean was a big deal this year. With 6 Grammy nominations and and truly brave and inspiring coming-out story, Ocean has proven himself to be a voice for this generation. He also is an exceptional lyricist.
A tornado flew around my room before you came
Excuse the mess it made, it usually doesn’t rain
In Southern California, much like Arizona
My eyes don’t shed tears, but, boy, they bawl – Thinking Bout You
5. R. Kelly
R. Kelly has been around for ages, but with good reason. And with the release of his album Write Me Back, he reminds us of why he’s a lyrical force to be reckoned with.
Like the world goes around everyday baby,
That is how you spin me,
Might as well call me a telegram baby,
‘Cause darling that’s just how you send me, yeah
I’m might as well take me a pen and sign a wave,
To be yours for the rest of my life,
You rescued me from heartache just like a savior,
Now being in your arms is like my paradise – Love Is
6. Cee Lo Green
Silence is like a spirit
That picked my house to haunt
But I know it’s there so I’m nonchalant
Now the question is just what do I want - I Want You
When he’s not writing his own music, Ne-Yo is often collaborating with other artists, such as Rihanna, Mario Vasquez, and even Beyonce. And it’s no wonder all these big names want to collaborate with him. His lyrics are beautiful and thoughtful.
Came in here and shut the world out
Nothing to get into, nothing to be about
Just grab a little bite, quiet little night
By no means looking for Miss Right – Miss Right
Even if you’re not familiar with The-Dream, I can guarantee you’ve heard his lyrics on your radio. He’s co-penned tracks like Justin Bieber’s “Baby”, Rihanna’s “Umbrella”, and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”. While his own lyrics aren’t always on the cheery side, they’re poetic all on their own.
I don’t know how to please you
Everything was lookin’ up but now it’s lookin’ down
And I don’t know what I’m supposed to say
It seems your mind is on the other side of town
And I don’t know what I’m supposed to do
Another day with you is just another f***in’ day
Somebody please tell me what to say
Or is it OK to feel this way? – Long Gone
It’s general consensus that when it comes to lyrics, Nas is one of the best (if not the best). Nas’ lyrics are best left to speak for themselves.
And I ain’t tryna mess ya thing up
But I just wanna see you dream up
I finally understand
It ain’t easy to raise a girl as a single man
Nah, the way mothers feel for they sons, how fathers feel for they daughters
When he date, he straight, chip off his own papa
When she date, we wait behind the door with the sawed off
Cuz we think no one is good enough for our daughters
Love – Daughters
10. Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys is a musical legend. As one of the major faces of R&B, it’s no surprise that she’s exceptionally talented when it comes to lyric writing. She wrote her first song “Butterflyz” at the age of 14 and only improved from there.
Lonely, own me nobody ever shut it down like you
You wore the crown
You made my body feel heaven bound
Why don’t you hold me
Need me, I thought you told me
You’d never leave me – Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart