Luke James arrived in 2012 with "I Want You," a Grammy-nominated single showcasing an exceptionally skilled R&B artist capable of hitting a soaring falsetto like few other active vocalists. While it was his solo debut, James had paid dues as a background singer for Tyrese and as a songwriter for the likes of Chris Brown and Justin Bieber. He built on that experience and early Recording Academy recognition with his mature self-titled debut album, a Top Ten hit on the R&B/hip-hop chart in 2014. Scattered singles, additional song placements, and acting work (The New Edition Story, Star) preceded his independent full-length return in 2020 with To Feel Love/d.
As a child growing up in New Orleans, Luke James Boyd was particularly inspired by watching a Showtime at the Apollo contestant perform Donny Hathaway's version of Leon Russell's "A Song for You." While attending high school, where Frank Ocean was among his classmates, he was part of a trio that opened for Brian McKnight. James moved to Los Angeles after graduation, entered the industry as a background singer for Tyrese, and formed a short-lived duo with Quinten "Q" Spears. Once Luke & Q split, following a deal with J Records and a 2006 single titled "My Turn," James gained major traction as a songwriter. He either wrote or co-wrote Tank's "I Hate U," Charlie Wilson's "Love, Love, Love," Britney Spears' "Kill the Lights," Chris Brown's "Crawl," and Justin Bieber's "That Should Be Me," among other songs.
James eventually signed as a solo deal with major-label Island and released his first single, "I Want You," in 2012. It scraped Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best R&B Performance. Much of his 2013 was devoted to performing as an opening act for Beyoncé — James had appeared in the videos for Destiny's Child's "Soldier" and Beyoncé's own "Run the World (Girls)" — and he was also featured as a vocalist and co-writer on Robert Glasper Experiment's Black Radio 2. James made more commercial progress the next year with "Options," a Rick Ross collaboration that peaked at number 28 on the R&B/hip-hop chart, and then hit number nine on the corresponding album chart with the wide-ranging Luke James. He co-wrote all of the songs and worked most extensively with early supporter and creative partner Danja.
James issued individual tracks in 2017 and 2018, and was also credited on songs by Jesse Boykins III and Estelle, but his planned second album for Island didn't materialize. By the end of the latter year, his side work as an actor became much higher in profile with co-starring roles in The New Edition Story (portraying Johnny Gill), the musical drama series Star (as a troubled R&B singer), and Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. (portraying Sean "Diddy" Combs). In 2019, James appeared in the Tina Gordon-directed film Little and landed a role for the third season of drama series The Chi. Additionally, he signed a deal with Culture Collective and became the first artist to release music through the group. A couple singles in 2019 led to the early-2020 release of To Feel Love/d, his second proper album. ~ Andy Kellman