This month, SoundCloud’s Unsung Heroes puts the spotlight on a songwriter who has carved out an incredible career. James Fauntleroy has written songs for Justin Timberlake, is a long-time collaborator with Rihanna and has landed four Grammy Awards, including Best Song for writing ‘That’s What I Like’ for Bruno Mars in 2018.

His particular songwriting flavour is full of R&B and soul influences, making him a highly sought-after songwriter. But can we see his effect on other artists’ songs? In this blog post, we’ll find out.

What is James Fauntleroy’s sound?

An easy way to answer that question is to analyse his self-performed songs, and compare those to songs he’s written for other artists. 

Analysing all the songs where he was a writer for another artist, the most common genres are as expected: Pop, R&B and Hip Hop. However, look a little further down the genre rankings, and you’ll see that there are elements of Folk to be found in songs written by Fauntleroy. That might seem surprising, until you dig deeper into the data.

One of the songs on the playlist triggering the Folk tag is Rihanna’s piano ballad ‘Close to You’. This categorisation might appear incorrect, but if you take Rihanna’s distinctive voice out of the equation, and imagine the song sung by Kelly Clarkson instead, you could easily call it Folk. Specifically, the slow tempo, exposed vocal part, simple piano accompaniment, and close vocal harmonies around the two-minute mark.

What’s interesting about this categorisation is that we can trace the Folk genre tag through releases written and performed by Fauntleroy. In fact, among his own tracks – many of which are guitar and piano-led arrangements – Folk is the second most common genre tag after Pop.

The tagging AI specifically identifies Folk – and in high quantities – in James' self-performed material, suggesting this style is something he’s specifically bringing to the table.

Heartfelt moods in James Fauntleroy’s music

The same goes for the vibe of James’ songwriting. Musiio’s tagging AI can tag tracks with up to four of a possible 42 distinct moods, broadly equating to a vibe. Among James’ material, Seductive, Heartfelt, Peaceful and Melancholy are top of the table, indicating that these moods are important in his songwriting.

Sure enough, when we look at songs he’s written for others in the Unsung Heroes playlist, Seductive and Heartful moods top the table. But for an artist like Rihanna, he’s also had the latitude to bring more of himself as a songwriter. 

As before, nowhere is that more apparent than Rihanna’s track ‘Close To You’, where the moods we can detect are Heartfelt, Calm, Melancholy and sentimental – a close match with songs written and performed by Fauntleroy.

Even though it might be alluring to pigeonhole a songwriter’s style this way, there’s so much nuance to every individual. This is, after all, the same writer who penned ‘That’s What I Like’ for Bruno Mars. That means there’s no way to know what shape Fauntleroy’s next hit will take.

All that said, a strong foundation of music-based metadata can allow the pairing up of artists with songwriters in new ways based on predefined criteria. Equally, by running the same analysis on your catalogue this data can provide insights into potential skill gaps and offer new sources of inspiration.

To learn more about automated music tagging, and how descriptive AI can help your music business, drop a message to, or use the contact form.

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