This is the second time so far in 2013 that British soul singer Laura Mvula has been mentioned on this blog, and one suspects she may be mentioned a few more times yet.
Mvula has entered the music scene on the crest of music journalism hype and goodwill. The truth is that this Birmingham born artist has only so far released a massively impressive digital EP, while her debut album Sing to the Moon is yet to see the light of day. After having been shortlisted as one of the Sounds of 2013 and being nominated in the Critics’ Choice Award at this year’s BRIT ceremony, Mvula is courting the kind of attention most British singers can only dream of.
The danger is that consumers may be let down by the eventual album that seems inflated by a music industry desperate to overstate the profile of unknown artists, unconvincingly labelling them as the next most important thing. However, Mvula isn’t the kind of musician that can be cynically dismissed. With every new snippet of music released, the interest around Mvula seems to grow and grow. Each new song both validates and surprises in its scope and musicality. The steady flow of material released thus far builds further anticipation for the album, because everything suggests a potential modern masterpiece is about to bless us.
Mvula’s image and sound is beguiling to the hilt. Her music evokes everything from Porgy and Bess to Arrested Development (the hip-hop group, not the television thing), while conjuring thoughts of both Nina Simone and Erykah Badu. Yet none of these references negates the startling originality and innovation Mvula brings to a British soul scene bereft of interesting mainstream performers. Her style is hardly derived, and, unlike previous UK female soul artists such as Gabrielle or Adele, Mvula isn’t aping a particular zeitgeist or trend. There simply is nothing else out there that sounds this good and uplifting.
At a time when just one in twenty of the UK's best-selling tracks in 2012 were both solely written and performed by the same act (while 5% were cover versions), it’s heartening to see an inspired artist gain attention for all the right reasons.