SoMo's 'Ride' Up the Charts: R&B Rookie Graduates From YouTube Covers With Hit Single, Debut Album

Until two years ago, music was just a hobby for SoMo. Then he wrote his first original song. "I was having fun doing covers on YouTube," recalls the 26-year-old R&B singer. "But I realized I could express myself through my own words -- and people might listen."

They are. SoMo scored his first hit with the sensual "Ride," which is No. 23 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart dated April 26 after peaking at 20 on Feb. 8. The song -- which has sold 561,000 downloads to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan -- is the first single from his self-titled Republic debut, which bows at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 with 23,000 units sold in its first week. An oasis in a formulaic desert, the LP is a seductive ode to love highlighted by a '90s R&B vibe and SoMo's undulating tenor. Unlike many newcomers, SoMo wrote or co-wrote all the songs, and there are no guest features. "I wanted to come out and prove I would write a whole body of work on my own," says SoMo.

Born Joseph Somers-Morales in Denison, Texas, SoMo taught himself music after his mother bought him a piano in 2008. He began posting covers online, including a medley of songs from Drake's "Take Care," another influence on "SoMo." Last September, he released the free mixtape "My Life," featuring "Ride." SoMo promoted it with his "SoMo Sunday" campaign, posting a new cover every week -- and garnering 50 million-plus YouTube views in the process. A sold-out, 30-date national tour last fall helped seal the deal: Republic signed the newcomer in October and began working "Ride" to radio.

Rhythmic KDGS Wichita, Kan., was one of the song's early supporters, spinning it 907 times since Nov. 10, according to Nielsen BDS. "He's a pure singer," says progammer Greg Williams. "His voice connects with people. It makes you stop and say, 'Whoa, who's that?' "

Williams says similar momentum is building for SoMo's second single, "Show Off," which went to radio on April 8 and is bubbling under the Rhythmic chart. In the meantime, SoMo has appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show and BET flagship 106 & Park. A spring tour will kick off April 22 in Knoxville, Tenn.

Dismissing the blue-eyed soul tag, SoMo says he's not trying to be "anybody but me. Nowadays, people listen with their eyes too much. They should just appreciate the music for what it is."


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