Throughout a wildly successful career Mary J. Blige is perhaps most well known as the Queen of R&B thanks to her groundbreaking ability to merge strong female vocals with hip-hop beats in the early 1990s. She is credited with marrying hip-hop, R&B and soul music in a way that dominates popular music today. To date Mary J. has nine Grammys and eight multi-platinum albums to her name, a number that she is sure to add to in the future.
Kelly Clarkson burst onto the music scene and straight into superstar status after winning the inaugural season of "American Idol" in 2002. Since then she's gone on to release five successful albums, win two Grammy Awards and voice a number of defiant anthems for a generation to enjoy. Her latest effort "Stronger" continues to showcase the talent that brought her into our homes in the first place.
After appearing on American Idol in 2004, Chicago native Jennifer Hudson broke through with an Oscar winning performance as Effie in the film "Dreamgirls." Since then Jennifer has gone on to win a Grammy award for her debut album, perform for President Obama and recently release her second album "I Remember Me." As she continues to develop her acting and singing careers Jennifer will maintain her place as one of the Windy City's most beloved talents.
It's been a phenomenal year for 23-year-old British superstar Jessie J. Since winning the acclaimed BBC Sound of 2011 poll and the 2011 Brits Critics' Choice Award, J has racked up 19 global No. 1 hits, selling over two million albums and five million singles worldwide. With an infectious laugh, 6-inch heels and a perfectly styled bob, Jessie J is not just a great Pop artist, or a great R&B artist or even a great hip-hop artist. The British-born, Essex-bred vocalist is malleable enough to encompass several genres and sing her heart out, while displaying vocals reminiscent of Motown-era greats.
Philadelphia native Jill Scott first began her career as a spoken word artist. It was during this time that Questlove invited her to collaborate with his band The Roots. From 2000 on her career went from strength to strength with appearances in major film and television productions and three Grammy awards. Her latest album "The Light Of The Sun" epitomizes her status as a neo soul artist to keep tabs on.
At twenty five, Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine has done much of her growing up amidst whirling worldwide success. In 2010 the art-school dropout took America by storm with her monster hit Dog Days, culminating with a peformance of Dog Days at the MTV VMAs in front of almost a billion viewers. Her sophomore album Ceremonials debuted at No. 1 on the UK charts due to Florence's beguiling, epic vocals.
The Roots first came together when Questlove and Black Thought were high school students in their native Philadelphia. Nearly 20 years later the group continues to find new ways to fuse together several music genres, including soul, hip-hop and live vocals and instrumentals. The band's creativity continues to thrive and, since 2009, reaches an even more burgeoning audience as the ever entertaining house band on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon."
Chaka Khan has blazed a trail as a solo artist and former front woman for the band Rufus like no other. The Chicago native is renowned for her hits like "Ain't Nobody" and the Whitney Houston covered "I'm Every Woman." A 10-time Grammy Award winner, Chaka has certainly earned and lived up to her title as the Queen of Funk.
Erykah Badu's music provides a window into her personal life and philosophical beliefs, a characteristic that cements her place at the forefront of the neo-soul movement. Her frank lyrics and unique artistic expression have garnered Erykah a devoted following and substantial critical success during a career that has spanned five albums, a successful acting career and multiple Grammy Awards.
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings merge together funk and soul music in a manner that harkens back to the genres 1960s and 1970s heydays. The group stars as the house band for Daptone Records and have worked extensively with a number of artists, including on the late Amy Winehouse's album "Back To Black."
Before there was New Edition, Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, Boyz II Men ruled the airwaves as the original smooth operators of emotional ballads and a cappella harmonies. The group found success in the 1990s with the famed Motown Records, going on to become the most successful R&B group of all-time with more than 60 million albums sold worldwide and several Grammy Awards to their credit. Today the group is a trio that continues to rake in plaudits and fans across several generations.
Estelle infuses classic soul vocals with hip-hop beats and a hint of her reggae roots in a way that's truly her own. With the backing of several R&B and hip-hop heavy weights the London native burst onto the scene in 2008 with her Grammy nominated hit "American Boy." Her infectious enthusiasm and obvious talents make her next album release worth waiting for.
Originally a member of the English soul and R&B duo Floetry, Marsha Ambrosius' underground support in the United States transferred into industry wide recognition from the likes of Alicia Keys, Nas, Jamie Foxx and the 2011 DIVAS house band The Roots. This year Marsha released her debut solo album much to the delight of her clamoring fans and admiring critics.
In addition to his success as the front man for the alternative hip-hop group Gym Class Heroes, Travie McCoy has forged ahead with a solo career that continues to pick up steam. His debut effort spawned the 2010 summer hit "Billionaire" that helped make Bruno Mars a household name. His clever use of multiple music genres including soul, pop, punk, rock and hip-hop have put him on a unique path to success.
Born and raised in the Windy City, Mavis Staples started her career in her family group The Staple Singer. After establishing themselves as spiritual and musical voices of the Civil Right Movement, Mavis went solo in the late 1960s. Throughout her career Mavis has lent her talents to some of musics biggest names including Bob Dylan, Ray Charles and Ludacris. This year she won her first and long overdue Grammy Award for the album "You Are Not Alone."
As the widely proclaimed "Queen of Rockabilly," Wanda Jackson has forged a career crossing several decades amid diverse genres of rock, country, gospel and even foreign language music. Her adaptability and talent has introduced her to several generations of music fans and led to her 2009 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Born in New Orleans, Ledisi first pursued a singing career as a young girl with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra. After moving to California she formed the group Anibade, a soul band heavily influenced by jazz and hip-hop. Since 2000 Ledisi has released several solo albums, the most recent "Pieces of Me" garnering three nominations for the 2012 Grammy Awards.
Born in Alabama and raised in Detroit, Martha Reeves first found fame as part of Motown Records' famed group Martha and The Vandellas. After achieving a string of hits with the trio she continued her run as a successful solo artist, performing with industry legends like James Brown and Bruce Springsteen. With talent like hers, Miss Martha Reeves certainly won't be running away from the airwaves anytime soon.