Emily King, the Queen of the Cuties
The Greatest R&B Star Flying Under Your Radar

Photo Credit Katie Perry

I recommend King’s music to almost everyone. Oh, you like neo-soul? Big fan of Prince? You need to hear her. You love songs with the perfect blend of sass and class? She’s incredible. You need music to reach into your heartbreak and transmute it into a two-step soul-ballad? No one does it better. 

Nine times out of ten when I tell someone that King is hands-down my favorite living singer I am met with an inquisitive look. In the age of streaming, it’s understandable she’s still not a household name—she has been independent of major labels since 2010. But she deserves to be heard and celebrated, and at the rate she keeps releasing legendary albums, it’s only a matter of time before the secret’s out. (Her extraordinary talent has been recognized by the music community already; King has received three Grammy nominations over 13 years and in 2012 was awarded “The Holly Prize” by the Songwriters Hall of Fame, which honors “all-in” songwriters whose work, like its namesake Buddy Holly, is “true, great and original.”)

Special Occasion, King’s fifth studio album, was released on May 5th. The eleven original songs are sonically smooth, danceable, and the album is an instant classic, expanding King’s already impressive catalog. Her distinct vocals—a full register including breathy blues runs, husky whispers, and powerful belting—are the gem at the center of gorgeous arrangements. The album prominently features clean acoustic guitar, spacious synths and a rhythm section that buoys each song with alternating ease and power. The lyrics are intimate, empowering and authentic. The compositions deftly handle key changes and inventive bridges and every song is addictively singable. Standout tracks on Special Occasion include the single “This Year”; the bluesy, building two-step “Waterfalls”; introspective and soulful “False Start”’ and the ethereal Western duet with Lukas Nelson, “Bad Memory.”

On May 17th, (after an incendiary opening set by up-and-coming Texas artist Joseph Solomon) Emily King and her phenomenal four-piece brought the heat to Portland’s Revolution Hall. I was fortunate to be in attendance with twenty of my closest friends. Emily, who affectionately refers to fans as “cuties,” delivered a powerhouse of a show with choice selections spanning her career. The passion and joy blurred the line between performers and audience, as bodies danced in the aisles and between chairs. King is an artist beloved by singers; the entire auditorium was filled with harmonies from open to close. 11/10 concert – I highly recommend you catch her next time. In the meantime, if you haven’t heard her, do yourself a huge favor and turn up your speakers.

Essential Emily King tracks:

“Remind Me”

“This Year”

“The Distance”




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