This emerging genre is one in which the female voice becomes the unequivocal focusPexels / Jasmin Chew (

Soft. Sultry. Subtle. These are just some of the ingredients that have come to define an emerging style of music that I like to call ethereal R&B. The airy, magical nature, of this genre immerses listeners in a transient experience – an experience that undoubtedly triggers a physical response: goosebumps, as light, delicate vocals slither down the spine in whispers.

“The female presence in the industry has significantly evolved”

Contemporary R&B is a genre that’s constantly shifting. Progressing and developing from its 90s roots, in the last decade or so it has become increasingly experimental with new sounds and inspirations. Needless to say, the female presence in the industry has significantly evolved. Moving away from the relationship-focused voice who was largely defined by her relations to men, the newest generation of women in R&B portray themselves in a new light: one that is more self-focused and self-loving, marking the industry with an unapologetically feminine touch. The consequences of this change have manifested in the creation of new genres, including the one that this article aims to explore.

In 2019, QUIN released her interdimensional album Lucid. Defined by its divine, otherworldly soundscape, critics could find no better word to describe this project than simply ethereal. And ethereal it is indeed. Inspired by QUIN’s research into her own experiences with lucid dreaming, the album epitomises otherworldliness. Listening to this album is like taking a peek into another dimension only to come back to this one slightly more convinced that magic is real.

One song that perfectly suits the dream-inspired theme is the penultimate track, “Into You”. QUIN’s vocal entrance is utterly spine-tingling. Her high vocal run can be heard distantly in the back before she effortlessly glides into the foreground with a delicate falsetto on the groovy instrumental. The bass heavy beat is embellished with fluttering sonorous effects that cement the song’s escapist quality. Equally enchanting are the repetitive lyrics that lull listeners under the sweetest spell. Although the track explores the sensation of inextricably falling for a special someone, QUIN’s declaration of love doubles as her method of seduction while she whispers her desires into our ears.

Coming across this album and QUIN as an artist was my first encounter with a fantastical realm of R&B that I never before knew existed. I have only continued to enjoy finding more artists who fit into the “ethereal” category while simultaneously maintaining their own individual styles.

Sabrina Claudio – Still Strangers [Official Audio]Youtube / Sabrina Claudio (

Earlier this month, the world was blessed with a celestial new album by Sabrina Claudio. Claudio very quickly became one of my favourite R&B artists when I rather accidentally encountered her song “Frozen” some years after it was first released as part of her 2017 album About Time. Her latest project is an absolutely gorgeous manifestation of her vow to only make decisions based from “a feeling of love and pure intentions”. The album explores this and more across a large tracklist of 11 songs.

“The dreamy quality of the album augments its focus on the female subconscious”

My favourite track has to be “Still Strangers”. Paired with a piano instrumental, Claudio’s airy vocalisation delicately guides us into the song before the beat kicks in. The warping sound effects establish a dreamy soundscape that is reinforced by the falsetto harmonisation that elevates in the chorus. Claudio’s multiple voices ripple over each other while repeating the phrase “stay like this” as she requests for distance to be maintained between herself and a potential lover. An insightful exploration into Claudio’s thoughts and feelings, the dreamy quality of the album augments its focus on the female subconscious.

UMI - whatever u like (Official Video)YOUTUBE / UMI

Last, but certainly not least in this exploration of ethereal R&B, UMI perfectly embodies the concept of the divine feminine in her latest album, Forest in the City. Instantly becoming one of my favourite songs of the year, “whatever u like” is positively magical. The guitar-based instrumental that strums throughout the entire track evokes the escapist delight of singing by the fireside as the choral vocals of UMI’s layered voice is both wistful and fantastical.


Mountain View

Sad music and the ‘tragedy paradox’

The music video cannot be left unmentioned. Unlike the original track, it opens with bubbling voices and laughter, foreshowing the childlike happiness that characterises the piece. UMI, in this video, reveals her true fairy-form as she and her friends dance gleefully in a beautiful green field. Dressed in silk dresses and fairy wings, the visuals vividly recall Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This project exhibits a blissful, magical happiness and UMI’s album as a whole conveys a peaceful serenity that is extremely pleasing to listen to.

Magical, celestial, ethereal, whatever you want to call it, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching this emerging genre blossom over the past years and I look forward to witnessing its future. Music has always been my method of escape. In a grim, harsh world, I yearn for relief. Perhaps this is why I am so attracted the airy sounds of ethereal R&B that beckon listeners into a blissful otherworld.