BRITISH singer/songwriter, Neo Jessica Johnson – better known as NAO, performed live on Thursday night (April 21) at Manchester’s Gorilla venue. Quays News entertainment reporter Rachel Foy went along…

Her sound has been described as neo soul combined with electronic music and alternative R&B. She did not disappoint!

Neither, did her support act, Demo Taped, who has a similar sound to NAO; however, the crowd were a little unsure, having not heard of him before. His set had upbeat rhythms and soft vocals which were combined with electronic R&B textures. After a few songs the crowd warmed to him. He brought a great vibe to the personal venue.

NAO, just 26-years-old, played an arrangement of songs; fan favourites, new releases and she even dedicated one of them to the late legend, Prince. NAO spoke to the audience of how Prince and his music influences her when writing and producing music. She has effortless amounts of energy – not surprising after being a backing singer for artists such as Kwabs and Jarvis Cocker.

Growing up in her big family there were always different music genres pumping out of every room. From hip hop, soul and R&B; to UKG, funk and jazz. There was always something new to listen to: her music displays this. NAO has a truly unique voice that sounds completely refreshing amongst the current landscape of female artists. Taking third place on the BBC Sound of 2016 list as the most exciting new music for the coming year it proves big things are expected.

Her new single ‘Bad Blood’ has sensual verses and a head-banging chorus. It was the song that stole the night and the first single to be taken from her debut album, which is out now. Her vocal on the tune is rich and perfectly intertwined with the bold synth sounds and percussive drums. Fans desperately reached for their phones to record the moment!

She may be a low key artist for now, however, she has had the recognition from  Zane Lowe, on Radio 1, as he picked her song ’So Good’ as his Next Hype record last year. It swiftly rose to number one on The Hype Machine, with more than 60 blogs raving about the track. Annie Mac, also on Radio 1, is another firm supporter; earlier this year she made ‘Zillionaire’ her Hottest Record and, more recently, ‘Bad Blood’ became her Tune of the Week.

Mainstream queen or toast of the underground?  NAO could go either way. More excitingly still, she could do both!

By Rachel Foy

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