NAO's new album "For All We Know" came out on Spotify on July 29th. I have been following her music for about two years, since her single "Take Control of You" came out. For a long time, that song was my daily jam. I don't know too much about Nao's background but she comes from East London and she calls her sound "wonky funk" (love it!).
Listen to some of her tracks at the end of this post.
When I realized from an Instagram post that she had released a new full-length album, I was so excited. She is one of the artists that I see pushing the R&B genre in new directions. Others I would put in this school are Kelela, FKA Twigs, and Lion Babe. Like these other artists, she combines the roots of R&B with an electronic sound.
Let's just start with her voice. Wow. It's so beautiful to listen to. It's distinct, and I can't think of a good comparison... perhaps Janet Jackson for its breathiness and high range. Her voice sounds open and joyful. Lifting a bit from the Pitchfork review I read – where other R&B artists are getting dark and deep, NAO goes peppy and melodious. This makes it pleasant, upbeat listening.
This is the kind of music that energizes me while at work. The beat is jumpy and pushes the listener forward. The vocals are melodious and the songs follow a traditional structure (verse, chorus, bridge), making it easy to get sucked in.
This album tells stories of love, including an Intro "Like Velvet", which begins the album with a sensual mood. There are also several "voice memos" which are 30 second interludes that divide sections of the album. Each song title directly describes what the song is about "Inhale Exhale" or "Happy" or "Adore You."
The first single released was "Fool to Love," which has gotten popular (nearly 1MM views on YouTube). It's a great, pop-worthy song.
There is a heavy funk beat on much of the album. With electric guitar, slap bass, and other "vintage elements," but always coupled with some modern synths. Despite a bright sound, her lyrics are deep and pensive, which I think is similar to other new R&B artists coming out.