Did It for Love by Leela James on Apple Music

12 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

Singer/songwriter Leela James has proved herself one of the more gifted voices in contemporary soul, forging a sound that feels at once polished but gritty, elegant but elemental. Her sixth album is her most assured yet, leaning on luxurious, midtempo tracks that don’t just showcase James’ voice and writing but her canny sense of style, which nods to contemporary sounds but keeps its roots firmly in the past. Standouts include the quiet storm of “Don’t Want You Back” and the plaintive “I Remember,” which hint at hip-hop without throwing off the classicism of James’ sound.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Singer/songwriter Leela James has proved herself one of the more gifted voices in contemporary soul, forging a sound that feels at once polished but gritty, elegant but elemental. Her sixth album is her most assured yet, leaning on luxurious, midtempo tracks that don’t just showcase James’ voice and writing but her canny sense of style, which nods to contemporary sounds but keeps its roots firmly in the past. Standouts include the quiet storm of “Don’t Want You Back” and the plaintive “I Remember,” which hint at hip-hop without throwing off the classicism of James’ sound.

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3:58
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4:07
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About Leela James

Like almost all other musicians hit with the neo-soul and retro-soul tags, the primary inspirations of singer and songwriter Leela James are classic artists who arrived no later than the early '70s. Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, and Tina Turner were among the vocalists to whom the gritty-voiced Los Angeles, California native was likened. After James was showcased on an uplifting track off Pete Rock's Soul Survivor II, "No Tears," she made her proper debut on Warner Bros. with a throwback-oriented set titled A Change Is Gonna Come (2005). Featuring a cover of Sam Cooke's song of the same title, as well as one of No Doubt's "Don't Speak," the album involved assistance from major figures including Kanye West, Raphael Saadiq, James Poyser, and Chucky Thompson. It entered the Billboard 200 at number 148 and was followed with an appearance on Ray Charles' posthumous Genius & Friends, as well as nominations for Soul Train Music and NAACP Image awards.

After splitting from Warner Bros., the singer landed on the roster of Shanachie and recorded one of the label's more inspired all-covers sets, Let's Do It Again (2009). The same year, she contributed to "Walk with Me," a highlight on Moby's Wait for Me album. The singer switched to Stax for My Soul (2010), which featured some of her own songwriting and peaked in Billboard's R&B/hip-hop Top Ten. A return to Shanachie yielded Loving You More...In the Spirit of Etta James (2012), a release more adventurous than the title indicated. She switched to J&T for her fifth album, Fall for You (2014), home to her three highest-charting Hot Adult R&B tracks, such as the Anthony Hamilton duet "Say That." Around the same time, James began a two-season stint on the reality television series R&B Divas: Los Angeles. Did It for Love (2017), James' BMG-supported sixth album, offered her most refined mix of vintage and contemporary sounds to that point. ~ Andy Kellman

  • ORIGIN
    Los Angeles, CA
  • BORN
    Jun 2, 1983

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