- North America
- Ryan Kristobak
- Music Editor
2016 was one of those years in music that won’t be forgotten soon. Anderson .Paak, Run The Jewels, Bon Iver, The Hotelier, Isaiah Rashad, Solange, David Bowie, Blood Orange, Beyoncé, Childish Gambino, Kaytranada, A Tribe Called Quest, Chance The Rapper, The Avalanches, Tycho — the list of amazing releases goes on and on.
As we prepare for a new year of music, there are a number of high-profile releases expected — Gorillaz, Migos, Ryan Adams, Ed Sheeran, to name a few — but it’s also a golden period for relatively unknown artists to experience a breakout moment. Here are 25 emerging artists that we expect to make an impact in 2017.
Not many artists can say they’ve gotten a phone call from Prince and then flown out to Paisley Park to hang out and jam with the Purple One for a week. Australian artist Harts, aka Darren Hart, is one of the few who can, and there’s no questioning why — he’s a guitar god in the making and every song he produces is more addicting than the last.
We don’t know how many songs have brought Pharrell Williams to tears, but it probably isn’t a very large number, and Maggie Rogers’ “Alaska” is one of them. Proving that she is the real deal with her two subsequent releases “Dog Years” and “On + Off,” Rogers is quickly pivoting from random NYU hopeful to one of 2017’s guaranteed breakout stars.
Boogie broke out into the rap circuit with his 2015 single “Oh My” thanks to his sharp flow, duel-tone approach, and his acute awareness of his surroundings. His 2016 first unofficial album, Thirst 48 Part II, took everything great about him to the next level, finding some of the brighter spots in life while simultaneously producing one of the most affecting tracks and videos of the whole year.
Polyenso’s Pure in the Plastic was 2016’s most adventurous foray into pop, from the glitching hip hop of “Not My Real Life” to the heart-filling piano swells of “Moona Festival.” Expect to hear new music from the Florida trio in 2017, and like the last, it will be unlike anything you’ve ever heard before.
With one track to their name, The Aces solidified a deal with Red Bull Records in October 2016. Listening to the insanely catchy “Stuck,” you will want to breakout your worst/best dance moves and become their best friend, because everything about The Aces and this song is freakin’ cool.
Mimicking Birds’ 2014 album, Eons, felt like a vagrant retreat into a forest to rediscover one’s identity, working to find the best with what we are given and what we create (“Cause here even your plateau is so much higher than the valley lying below / And if forward you row your boat your wave ashore will show”). With a new album nearing completion, we can only expect an equally refreshing sojourn.
Phoebe Bridgers’ voice is hard not to fall in love with: it’s powerful enough to command any room, but it’s gentle and it never overwhelms, and she even makes “fuck the cops” sound intimate. The first single from her upcoming debut release, every movement of “Smoke Signals” is visceral, and as every line unfurls, it feels like they are your own thoughts.
The Free Nationals
Anderson .Paak was undeniably 2016’s best new artist, and his album Malibu was the year’s best album. After touring the year with his band The Free Nationals, they are ready to break out on their own, and no one is more excited for their debut project than Paak himself. After a listen to the clip below, it’s easy to see why.
2017 will bring a whole lot of amazing music your way. One of the projects I am most excited for is this @freenationals LP tho!! #FreeNats #thefreenationals #obituaries #OBE @google #madebygoogle @simone_cihlar. @bettie
A post shared by Rocco Siffredi Of Soul Music (@anderson._paak) on
Not many acts would make their debut with seven-plus and eight-plus minutes singles, but Move Orchestra are striving (and succeeding) to become something far greater than the typical musical outfit. On their first EP, the three brothers combined gorgeous, slow-moving visuals with complex, rising electronic compositions that drew comparisons to Radiohead’s Kid A days, albeit arguably brighter in nature and with a little more vigor. It’s hard to predict what Move Orchestra will produce next, but it’s going to be big.
Smoky and sultry, Alexandra Savior is bringing out her own brand of sepia L.A. (via Portland, Oregon) pop, and with Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys and Last Shadow Puppets as her writing partner, everything she produces is addictive.
Making his way up through the Soundcloud ranks, Jazz Cartier’s hard work is evident in everything he releases. Despite his millions of plays across streaming platforms, he’s postponed setting a release date for his debut album to develop and expand his sound to reach the most people possible. But whenever Jacuzzi LaFleur decides to drop it, you know it’s going to bump.
Pinegrove’s Cardinal is the blend of indie rock and country — raw, twangy, and crackling — that a lot of bands have found themselves at one point or another in their career. Frontman Evan Hall’s lyrics offer the leading character whose well-read and knows all the right ways to say what he isn’t able to say; the introspective fellow who tritely tells the world the he was “born with a broken heart” in his Reddit AMA. But while it is easy to whittle down Hall’s discerning drawl to the same self-indulgent, solipsistic trail many of his predecessors have trudged down, Cardinal’s mulling over fractured relationship and gaining the confidence to say the things that matter is bookended by the realization that everything’s a little bit easier when we keep our friends and family close.
Some might recognize Syd from the collective The Internet, and while she has proven herself to be a formidable artist on both of the band’s albums, and in every one of her outside features, Syd is ready to drop her solo debut that she states will align with more mainstream interests. As long as the whole project is on point with the creeping lead single “All About Me,” solo Syd is going to be in high demand.
When your name is Mike Fabulous, there’s a good chance the music you make will be, well, fabulous. Crafting under the name Lord Echo, Fabulous describes his music as “an unusual mix of dance music from the 1970s and ‘60s — reggae meets Latin disco in Africa,” but all frosted with modern production techniques. If that description isn’t enough to stir your curiosity, listen to his latest release, “Just Do You,” and prepare your body for his new album slated to drop soon in 2017.
It’s well-known that a Drake nod can go a long way in furthering an artists career, and singer-songwriter Gabriel Garzón-Montano is no exception. After the lord of the six sampled Garzón-Montano’s “6 8” on his track “Jungle,” Garzón-Montano went from selling 500 copies of his EP to touring Europe with Lenny Kravitz. The artist’s Stones Throw debut, Jardín, releases on Jan. 27, and every piece of it that has emerged so far has proven to be a soulful triumph, and the rest of the album should prove no less impressive.
Gavin Turek already has big-name collaborations with the likes of Mayer Hawthorne and TOKiMONSTA, and was receiving promises of stardom back in 2015, but the process has taken a little bit longer than expected. However, with an EP set for mid-February that features title track “Good Luck For You,” this disco queen is resurrecting the heydays of Studio 54 in 2017.
With his first single, “Caroline,” Aminé has racked up over 132 million Spotify streams (and counting); charted on the Billboard Hot 100 for 19 weeks straight, peaking at number 11; and even performed on NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Sure, writing the “modern ‘Billie Jean'” is an improbable achievement, but “Caroline” was one of last year’s most fun tracks — who doesn’t want to rock out with Aminé and his crew in their car? — and whenever his Republic debut arrives, the party won’t stop.
On their self-titled debut, New Zealand outfit Leisure whisk together dollops of psych-rock, R&B, funk, blues, and soul to bake up a sex mousse full of bass-driven slow jams and party starters. Comparisons to Tame Impala are inevitable, but it’s really just a different lane on the same highway, and how could that possibly be a bad thing?
Sampa The Great
Born in Zambia, raised in Botswana, and currently residing in Sydney, Australia, it should come as no surprise that rapper-singer-songwriter Sampa The Great’s music reflects a wide array of influences. Following up her debut mixtape, The Great, with a variety of one-offs in 2016, Sampa and her production partner Rodriguez are giving boom bap a global makeover with the dexterity of a slam poet.
Roosevelt, aka Marius Lauber, blends the best bits of disco, indie rock, synthpop, and Balearic house on his self-titled debut. A much-needed feel-good record in 2016, the German artist sticks to four-on-the-floor without giving into the pitfalls of EDM. It’s smart dance pop at its most clinical.
Hailing from Hertfordshire, England, the 18-year-old Declan McKenna has swiftly developed into one of the most exciting indie names in years after winning Glastonbury Festival’s 2015 Emerging Talent Competition. A natural talent for writing compelling, catchy, but intricate tracks that remind of acts like Foster The People and Foals, McKenna’s debut album is on the horizon and is sure to give the genre a much needed jolt of inspiration.
Recording your debut record with only your voice and your cello is brave; recording your debut record live in a church is borderline heresy. On her debut EP, Church, Kelsey Lu’s voice and cello move like siblings, picking and sliding hand-in-hand; for its lack of any other instrument, there is little more to be wanted here.
The self-described “weird kid” who spent his high school days playing guitar in his room instead of romping around in mischief with friends, SG Lewis, aka Sam Lewis, now uses his singer-songwriter inclinations as a manual for his poised club productions. Releasing an all-too-short EP that features 2016 breakout Gallant last year, SG Lewis is destined to experience an explosion similar to that of labelmates Disclosure in the coming year.
It was announced on Thursday, Jan. 19 that SiR had signed to Top Dawg Entertainment, confirming the rumors of the past few months. With a follow-up release to his recent Her EP scheduled for early February, and in the company of some of hip hop’s finest, SiR has an exciting year ahead of him.
Brian Immanual, aka Rich Chigga, is a 17-year-old Indonesian who taught himself English through YouTube videos and hip-hop lyrics, but listening to him rap, you would never guess it his second language. Immanual became an internet sensation thanks to his “Dat $tick” music video, featuring a fanny pack, a pink polo tucked into khaki shorts, and hilarious lines like “you don’t want to fuck with a chigga like me.” However, his humor is balanced with genuine flow and lyrical talent, earning him a Ghostface Killah on the song’s remix, and his two releases since have continued to impress. It looks like Rich Chigga is here to take over the game.
You can listen to our artist to watch in 2017 Spotify playlist below, featuring all of the artists mentioned in this aritcle, as well as several more artists on our radar this year.
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