Luke James: the R&B underdog set to break through

The once genuine themes of honesty, love, and passion have been lost in translation in a generation where the sole purpose of making music is for profit. Where is the substance? Where is the quality? Where is the passion? With current artists such as Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, and Sam Smith, the call for music to return to where it once was is hopeful, but still lacking. Alas, a newcomer has come to the rescue.

A native to New Orleans, Louisiana, Luke James Boyd, better known as Luke James, is no stranger to the different forms of music bound to the City of Blues. He tells of his span of influences “from jazz, to blues, to funk, to zydeco, to bounce, to hip hop, to R&B, to gospel,” and this versatility is evident in his distinct sound.

James was just 11 years old when he knew what he wanted to do in life after being inspired by a contestant singing “A Song For You” as made famous by Donny Hathaway on the amateur talent segment on “Showtime at the Apollo.”

“I got chills,” James told “And I get that feeling all over again whenever I think about that performance. At the time I’d never said I wanted to be a singer, I just knew I wanted to entertain, and I’d never heard of Donny. But when my mother found her copy of one of his records, I knew that I wanted to reach people that way.”

Indeed, James has succeeded in his objective.

After the disbanding of his former group, Luke & Q, James continued as a songwriter, writing for artists such as Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, and Britney Spears. His work eventually led him to the release of his first single entitled “I Want You,” a “sparse yet bright track,” that “pulsates with an infection, hip-hop-influenced beat,” added MTV.

In contrast to fellow artist Sam Smith’s hit single “Stay With Me,” the tone is rather mellow with many highs and lows, but when he switches to his falsetto, you can’t help but feel a tingle run through your spine. The same goes for “I Want You,” except the feeling lasts throughout the entire song.

The falsetto-stricken hook comprised solely of the three words of the track’s name was all it took to land him a guest performance at the 2012 BET Honors, where James performed the hit for legendary artists such as Stevie Wonder and even for Michelle Obama. Moreover, the song scored him a Grammy Award nomination for “Best R&B Performance” – a rare feat for an artist without a full-length album at the time.

James has also been featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Wendy Williams Show, USA Today, and The Real Talk Show.

As if that wasn’t enough, Beyoncé, a friend of James since his duo days, personally invited him to open for both the Euro and US legs of her “Mrs. Carter Show World Tour.”

James’ music has multiple colors, ranging from the highs of love, joy, and even substance abuse, to the themes of sex, love and pain. Although R&B centric, James manages to diverge from the constraints of the R&B genre, tackling subject matters that others may find controversial.

Directed and produced himself, “Options” talks of a dual love tragedy, a conflict between two individuals to abstain or go through with an abortion. The man made a mistake “in one single evening,” but had “never been a fan of running,” and wants to deal with the situation head on. He tells his woman, “All I’m trying to say is we got options,” to pull the plug on their child and on their relationship.

“Options” spawned yet another grammy nomination for “Best R&B Song” on his self-titled debut album released mid last year.

James has plans for a new album and is currently on tour with smaller R&B acts Ro James and BJ The Chicago Kid.

To aspiring singer-songwriters, Luke James is a prime example of sheer talent and hard work. A true musician in every regard, both distinct and versatile, James is one who is certain to leave his mark in the industry in a time where real musicianship is needed the most. It’s all about balance, even outside of music, and right now the scale is tipping towards cursory and short-lived moments – here today, gone tomorrow. It’s refreshing to see a new artist go against the grain to give us something novel and lasting.

“I won’t do a song just because it sounds good to everyone else. That’s not my deal,” James tells “For me it’s about feeling. I think if I can feel it, then I can portray a feeling and I can give something more to a song rather than just the lyrics and a melody.”

You can check out more of Luke on





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Author: Howard Chan

Howard Chan is a Senior and the Entertainment Editor for The Eye. This is his second year as a journalist and eighth year at SAS. In his spare time, Howard enjoys singing, making videos, and going to the gym.

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