There’s a timeless groove to the sound of Yuna’s music. Throughout her career, she has made soulful pop that contains Sade's sultriness, the flair of Aaliyah, and the sweetness of Brandy. There are clear forebears upon her art, but her story is so singular that it’s hard to draw a line in the sand when it comes to Yuna’s lineage in the urban pop spectrum.
The singer-songwriter was born in Kedah, Malaysia, and spent most of her life growing up in Kuala Lumpur. Yuna was raised a devout Muslim but within an assimilated and secular enough society that she was exposed to a great deal of pop culture. In fact, her earliest memories of music are being driven around by her father in his second-hand BMW listening to ‘80s pop icon Paula Abdul, German metal band Scorpions, and Swedish rock duo Roxette.
Via her previous albums, Yuna has built her palette of melodic, uplifting soul. Her third album Chapters in 2016 was something of a breakthrough, featuring production from Fisticuffs and features with Usher (“Crush”) and Jhene Aiko. They were formative and exciting experiences, but she’s flexing her collaborative muscles even more now. On her fourth album Rouge, the list of features is mouthwateringly impressive with appearances by Tyler, The Creator, Little Simz, Kyle, G-Eazy, Jay Park and Masego.
Crucially Yuna has never had to compromise her identity, style or vision. “I’m a Muslim singer-songwriter, but I never saw myself as that,” she offers. “That label became more obvious to me as I moved to LA. 80% of the population is Muslim in Malaysia like me, and we make music and I wear the hijab. It was really cool that everyone I met supported the fact that I do my own thing and don’t sacrifice my identity for the music.”
In 2022, Yuna splits her time between Kuala Lumpur and Los Angeles. Newly independent (she was previously with Verve/Universal), Yuna has been steadily working on new music during quarantine. In March 2022, she released her latest EP, Y1 with “Pantone 17 13 30” as the lead single. It is one of five EP releases that will complete her 5th studio album Y5 out in November.
She lists recent inspirations in Post Malone, H.E.R., and Anderson Paak. “I’ve done this for ten years and I still feel like I surprise people,” she laughs. “It’s fun because I get to educate people and I don’t feel a pressure to be a certain way. People have to understand that I’m different. Above everything I’m just a normal human being who loves making music, who believes in something. I don’t feel like I need to conform. I need to be my own person.”