The Soulful New Singer You Need to Know About
If iconic artists like Sade, Whitney Houston and Chaka Khan hold a special place in your heart, it's time to make room for Jessie Ware. With a silky voice and a sleek style, the British chanteuse, 29, is a throwback to classic pop divas—but it's Ware's talent for seamlessly blending R&B, pop, hip-hop and electronica that really sets her apart. Her 2012 breakout record, Devotion, balanced breathy, playful dance tracks reminiscent of Madonna's with crooning ballads (including her heartbreaking hit "Wildest Moments"). Says Ware: "I want my music to stand on its own and still feel relevant in a few years—or 20!"
Why she almost missed her moment:
In 2009, a career in music was the last thing on Ware's mind. Bored with her job in TV production, she was headed to law school when friend and musician Jack Peñate desperately needed a backup singer for a radio session and—knowing about Ware's killer voice since grade school—pressed her into service. Within weeks, Ware was Peñate's sidekick at summer music festivals; she then joined him on his American tour.
Why you'll be hearing more from her:
With her sophomore album out next month, Ware is ready to showcase her powerful pipes. "At first I was petrified," she says. "I didn't know what kind of artist I wanted to be. I just wanted to get out alive. Now I'm finding my voice, and up onstage, it's like the bloody Ricki Lake Show—I can't stop chatting."
To hear the single "Tough Love" from Ware's new record, head to the iTunes Store.