Chicago up-and-comer Johari Noelle makes slow-simmering contemporary soul | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Chicago up-and-comer Johari Noelle makes slow-simmering contemporary soul


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Few artists want to be called “neosoul,” partly due to the perception that the genre is inauthentic or a short-lived trend. Singer Jaguar Wright was so forthright in her distaste for the term that she named her 2005 album Divorcing Neo 2 Marry Soul, which seemed to nod to fans who couldn't deal with plasticky R&B sounds in the Top 40 but didn’t want their organic, 70s-influenced soul to sound like an out-and-out throwback. Chicago native Johari Noelle hits that exact sweet spot on her new debut, the EP Things You Can't Say Out Loud, proving that neosoul isn’t dead and isn't necessarily an insult. Noelle first came to national attention on a 2016 BET reality series, Chasing Destiny, where Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child auditioned members for a new girl group, June’s Diary. Noelle didn't make the final cut, but that might’ve been a blessing for all of us—if she had, she might never have finished the slow, simmering grooves of this EP. She’s also played small roles on Empire and Proven Innocent, but despite her time in the spotlight, her songs are strikingly intimate and personal. Things You Can’t Say Out Loud is far from faddish dance music, and I’d absolutely recommend checking it out if you like Wright, Leela James, Anthony Hamilton, D'Angelo, or any other contemporary soul artist of the past 15 years who isn’t ruled by the drum machine.   v

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