Exclaim!'s 2014 in Lists: Top 5 Reasons Toronto R&B Is Ready for Its Closeup

Exclaim!'s 2014 in Lists: Top 5 Reasons Toronto R&B Is Ready for Its Closeup
"Local" used to be a pejorative when it came to R&B in Toronto. When commercial urban radio first launched, they played good music and they played local music. Fast-forward to 2014 and that distinction has vanished. Chances are, if the song is good, someone from Toronto was involved. How the hell did we get here?

Find out why Toronto R&B exploded in 2014 below, and don't forget to visit our 2014 in Lists section to see more of our Year-End coverage.

Top 5 Reasons Toronto R&B Is Ready For Its Closeup:

5. The Aubrey Effect

On lint roller sales alone, it's clear that Drake and the OVO collective are tastemakers. A champagnepapi mention was enough to get a foot in the door in 2014, as we've seen from iLoveMakonnen and OVO Sound signee Partynextdoor.

Party closely followed in the Weeknd's wake, touring the U.S. and coming home to sellout crowds. Whereas our rappers are affable and charming, our male singers are more aggressive and crass.

4. Ethereal Love

Everyone loves it, everyone hates to label it. Whatever it is, Toronto artists have ridden the chill wave of synth pad-heavy, sparse percussion R&B into prominence. Allie's voice sits comfortably over droning beats and neo-soul throwbacks, while Rochelle Jordan's latest 1021 is reminiscent of late '90s R&B. Whatever the problematic label, Toronto vocalists can sing, period.

3. Not Upstaged

Toronto has no shortage of great live acts. The Big Sound event series best showcases this with 20 to 30 musicians covering soul classics with assistance from solo heavyweights like Maylee Todd and Tanika Charles (full disclosure, my better half).

2. The Toronto Sound Revisited

Less Mynah Birds, more Doc & Illangelo, Toronto may be the centre of the so-called alt-R&B movement. But even that is a bit reductionist. Think Boi-1da and T-Minus crafting much of the mainstream R&B sound for artists south of the border. Then think Junia-T and Slakah the Beatchild, the latter whose DNA can be found on practically every soul record from the city in recent years. The Toronto sound is every style of R&B you can imagine.

1. It Was Written

Maybe it's the six months of winter keeping us inside, but Toronto's songwriters have been stealthy climbing to greater prominence in the R&B world. Esthero, August Rigo and Chantal Kreviazuk have put in work for Kanye, Bieber and Drake. Shi Wisdom is a great new voice and some misplaced ghostwriting accusations have only raised her profile as such.