Cleo Sol’s career began in earnest during the late 2000s with some high-profile featured appearances and a handful of promising pop-soul singles. After a few years away, the soul-rooted singer/songwriter returned during the late 2010s with a more artful and outward-looking approach with creative partner Inflo. The two have recorded extensively under the collaborative alias Sault, and they have also worked together on Rose in the Dark (2020), Cleo’s debut solo album.
The London native, born Cleopatra Zvezdana Nikolic, grew up in a musical family and absorbed numerous styles of music, including classic R&B, with Motown a heavy favorite. Before her teens, she gravitated to contemporary artists such as Destiny's Child and Alicia Keys. She made her first recorded appearances as a featured vocalist on 2007-2008 tracks such as Tinie Tempah’s “Tears” and Perempay N’ Dee’s “Time to Let Go,” and gained early support from DaVinChe. Featured on numerous tracks by the grime producer, Cleo was also signed to his Dirty Canvas label and in 2011 debuted as a headliner with the single “High.” “Never the Right Time (Who Do You Love)” followed on major-label Island in 2012.
Although she completed work on an album, Cleo opted to hold on to it, retreated from the industry, and returned in 2017 with “Why Don’t You” and “Try and You Try,” less commercially minded singles written with and produced by Inflo. The tracks were issued on the Inflo-affiliated Forever Living Originals label, signaling a close alliance that continued to develop throughout the next few years. After the half-old/half-new four-track Winter Songs EP appeared in 2018, Cleo was particularly busy in 2019, the year she issued the singles “One” and “Sweet Blue,” contributed to Little Simz’ Grey Area, and released two albums as part of the boundary-pushing Sault — all made with Inflo. The momentum continued in 2020 with the March arrival of Rose in the Dark, Cleo’s first solo album. Only three months later, she was behind Untitled (Black Is), Sault’s third LP. Another solo single, “Shine,” was out within a few weeks. ~ Andy Kellman