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2012's understated best: Solange, Jessie Ware, Elle Varner and Frank Ocean

2012's legacy is varied, that's for sure. It had its brasher, louder moments - think stateside for Rihanna's 777 tour and the G.O.O.D. Music album, and cross back over for the spectacle that was the London 2012 Opening Ceremony. But there's something more subtle that it'll leave behind: the return of understatement.

Those who've played it down this year have created music that's at the forefront of our minds, for the amount of time it took to seep in. From Solange's 'Losing You' and Jessie Ware's '110%' to Elle Varner's 'I Don't Care' and Frank Ocean's 'Thinkin Bout You', it's quite new for the 21st century to hear such understatement as the backdrop to something to ferocious.

Varner lets her vocal power through on 'I Don't Care', on an enrapturing smooth jam about interracial and same sex couples hopelessly in love in spite of disapproval from outside; Frank Ocean's regret and heartbreak-filled falsetto is set against spooked and atmospheric production, a blank canvas for him, almost. Jessie Ware's powerhouse pipes are tempered by a shaky skitter on '100%', and it almost disguises how strong her voice really is. Solange's 'Losing You' successfully breaks out of the fog, emerging into a blissed out beach setting, giving her room to ponder.

None of these vocalists sound restrained, it's more than they're choosing to define the drama by honing in on something less showy; vocal runs are no less low-key, it's the context around them that's downplayed.

Get to know 2012's subtle best:

Author: 

Natalie Shaw