1. Grace Mitchell
Given her gift for moody and striking pop songs that belie her young age, it’s no wonder this 16-year-old from Portland is already drawing comparisons to another big-haired teen heroine. Mitchell appeared seemingly out of nowhere in 2013 with an improbably canny cover of Hall & Oates karaoke classic “Maneater” that appeared on the soundtrack of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty of all places. A promising, but little-noticed, 4-track EP for Republic Records followed, including the searing and self-assured gem “Broken Over You.” In 2015, we’re holding out hope for more Grace in our lives.
Listen To This: Grace Mitchell, “Broken Over You”
2. Corbin (f.k.a. Spooky Black)
16-year-old Corbin, formerly known as Spooky Black, captivated cool kids far outside of his native St. Paul suburbs last year with dark pop and R&B characterized by its hypnotic dirge. Along with The Stand4d, his crew of likeminded rappers and producers, Corbin’s appeal comes from the clear sense of perspective in his music, his ability to make every vocal, lyrical, and aesthetic choice feel suggestive of a larger, shrouded universe. With rumors of a record label bidding war swirling, we’re expecting big things from Corbin in 2015.
Listen To This: Corbin, “Worn”
3. Seinabo Sey
Seinabo Sey is one of those artists who does so many things so well that stardom almost seems like a foregone conclusion, the ending of a story that was written into the start. But the Swedish singer/songwriter hasn’t crossed over yet. Sey’s best known songs, including “Younger” and “Hard Time” sound both timeless and timely, effortlessly uniting soul, pop, and electronic music in blessed matrimony. Following a 5-track EP, For Madeleine, released in October, a full-length album is expected this year.
Listen to This: Seinabo Sey, “Hard Time”
4. Ella Henderson
It’s hard to talk about Ella Henderson without acknowledging what she shares in common with that other big-voiced Brit. So, yes, Henderson has a lot in common with a certain Grammy-winning superstar but it’s unlikely that her enormous, shivers-inducing voice and fondness for retro-style instrumentation will send you crying into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. And that’s a good thing. Instead of wallowing in the pain of a failed relationship, 18-year-old’s debut album Chapter One is full of empowering and energetic soul-pop gems. She’s already a massive success in her home country, it’s just a matter of time before America embraces her as well.
Listen To This: Ella Henderson, “Ghost”
5. Years & Years
English trio Years & Years draw upon a variety of influences (Flying Lotus, Radiohead, Aaliyah, TLC) and churn out buoyant electronic pop in turn. Formed in 2010, the band gained media attention with their 2014 singles “Desire” and “Take Shelter,” and their cover of Blu Cantrell’s 2003 hit “Breathe.” Lead singer Olly Alexander, an actor who’s appeared in “Penny Dreadful” and “Skins,” fronts the band with his smooth voice—his vocal prowess has even been noticed by fellow Brit singer Ellie Goulding. With a Polydor record deal and a debut album release slated for early 2015, these 20-somethings are on the fast track to becoming the next big thing in pop.
Listen To This: Years & Years, “Desire”
6. Rast RFC
Rast RFC (which stands for Running From Cops) put out a 2014 mixtape Across West 3rd Street that exemplified a certain traditional NYC rap grittiness that people have longed for since the Wu Tang’s 36 Chambers and a storytelling ability not seen since the height of Slick Rick. West 3rd was so grimey, Mass Appeal – where the tape premiered – said your mother probably wouldn’t let you bring it into the house. While true, grit’s not all that’s on display in Rast’s rhymes. Dude’s got flow for days, perhaps most on display on his “Paid In Full Freestyle” on his soundcloud. There you’ll see his talent in full bloom and get wise to what people will be talking about later this year.
Listen To This: Rast RFC, “Bad Dope”
7. Troye Sivan
With a fiercely dedicated fan base that includes 2.8 million subscribers on YouTube, it’s no wonder 19-year-old Australian singer and actor Troye Sivan needed almost no mainstream press to hit the top 5 of the Billboard 200 last year. Though his meteoric rise on social media has drawn comparisons to Justin Bieber, Sivan’s stylish and self-assured debut EP TRXYE, released in August, had more in common with progressive pop weirdos like Lorde, Kanye West, and The Weeknd. His forthcoming debut album for Capitol is likely to make him as big a star offline as he is on.
Listen To This: Troye Sivan, “Happy Little Pill”
8. Jess Glynne
You may not know Jess Glynne by name, but odds are you know her voice. The soulful British songstress provided the vocals on two of the UK’s biggest dance hits in 2014, Clean Bandit’s exuberant and ubiquitous “Rather Be” and Route 94’s deep house triumph “My Love,” both of which hit No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart. Her easy-to-love, Gorgon-City-produced debut solo single “Right Here,” released last July, completed the house-party hat trick, putting Glynne in a league with Disclosure as one of Britain’s most assiduously consistent dance artists. A full-length for Atlantic is expected this year.
Listen To This: Jess Glynne, “Rather Be”
Soko is a French singer and artist now living in Los Angeles who first caught the attention of the public at not-so-large-just-yet when her song “We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow” caught fire in the viral video “First Kiss,” the success of which helped her chart on Billboard’s Hot 100. That, combined with the buzz of her appearance in Chromeo’s “Jealous” video last year, has primed the pumps for a big 2015 for Soko, whose second studio album, My Dreams Dictate My Reality, is set to drop in March. When it does, expect many more people to declare “I’m in love with the Soko.” (Sorry.)
Listen To This: Soko, “I Thought I Was An Alien”
10. K. Stewart
Following in the tradition of U.K. artists like Jessie Ware, Sam Smith, and Jessy Lanza, K. Stewart is making a lane for herself in the sweet spot between ’90s R&B and state-of-the-art electronic music. But her silky croon and cool-girl-next-door style are all her own. Early standout tracks including “Close Enough” and “Speechless” have us eagerly anticipating more, and with a new record deal with Warner Music Group under her belt, a full-length album is likely not far behind.
Listen To This: K. Stewart, “Close Enough”
One of 2014’s most buzzed about new artists, 18-year-old Raury from Atlanta has already earned a diverse coalition of high-wattage cosigners including Kanye West, Lorde, and Gucci Mane — an unlikely troika that accurately reflects the boundless ambition of his music. The rapper/singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer makes difficult-to-classify songs for a YouTube generation that inhaled Nirvana and Three Six Mafia in the same breath. After last year’s promising, self-released project Indigo Child, a follow-up for Columbia is expected this year.
Listen To This: Raury, “God’s Whisper”
Producing and writing her own music since she was 12, 18-year-old Holly Låpsley Fletcher of Liverpool makes emotionally nuanced and beautiful songs from the barest of materials. Drawing on the overcast electrosoul of James Blake, Jamie xx, and Deptford Goth, her spare beats and ghostly vocals are never less than captivating. With a new EP, Understudy, out this month — the first fruit of a recording contract with powerhouse indie tastemaker XL Recordings — get to know her now before she’s impossible to ignore.
Listen To This: Låpsley, “Falling Short”
13. Ryn Weaver
With a single, dreamy SoundCloud upload Ryn Weaver became the pop star to watch over the summer. A glittery bit of a #fairypop, “OctaHate” went viral and put Weaver on the map. While the singer-songwriter didn’t have an existing following at the time, she was hardly a nobody; “OctaHate” was written with Charli XCX, Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelako and uber-producers Benny Blanco and Cashmere Cat. While all that star-power may have overwhelmed a lesser talent, “OctaHate” and Weaver’s follow-up EP, Promisessound distinctly self-assured. Her full-length debut is expected later this year and could launch the mysterious pop princess to the mainstream.
Listen To This: Ryn Weaver, “OctaHate”
14. Robert Ellis
Robert Ellis has been one to watch for quite some time now, but last year’s The Lights From the Chemical Plant set people on notice.Esquire called him “the best young singer-songwriter in America” in their blurb of Chemical Plant, which they named one of the best albums of the year. Recently Ellis has moved from Houston to Nashville to New York City, where he now resides. He’s toured extensively and is writing new songs at an impressive clip in his new city, which – he told the Houston Press last year – inspires him quite a bit. Expect big things.
Listen To This: Robert Ellis, “Houston”
With a facile singing talent to match a take-no-prisoners flow, it’s no wonder this 19-year-old Chicago native has inspired legendary super-producer Timbaland — who influenced a generation of R&B and hip-hop with Missy Elliot and Aaliyah — to make some of his most vital-sounding work in years. Look for her debut album for Epic to be one of 2015’s most talked about hip-hop releases.
Listen To This: Tink feat. Jeremih “Don’t Tell Nobody”
Shura’s day-glo, understated pop music endeared her to many when early songs “Touch” and “Just Once” appeared seemingly out of nowhere on Soundcloud, so it’s no surprise that she was quickly snapped up by Polydor, the U.K.-based Interscope subsidiary that famously broke Lana Del Rey. The 23-year-old, half-Russian London native has a gift for distilling the outsize romance and gauzy idealism of ’90s Madonna and Janet Jackson into songs that feel both unfussy and intimately rendered. Look out for her debut full-length in 2015.
Listen To This: Shura, “Touch”
With a baritone voice that can work its way up and down your spine like a deep tissue massage, Kwabs’ music is easy to recognize and hard to forget. After early collaborations with brooding, electronic producer SOHN (BANKS, Miguel), he demonstrated a bigger, more anthemic sound — and a talent for sticky hooks — on his Walk EP released last October. Look for him to follow in the footsteps of 2014’s men with big voices: Sam Smith and Aloe Blacc.
Listen To This: Kwabs, “Walk”
18. Kacy Hill
Though he’s not as crew-minded as he once was, a co-sign from Kanye West is still one of the strongest endorsements in the business, and 20-year-old Phoenix native Kacy Hill entered the limelight overnight last month when she was announced as the latest addition to his G.O.O.D. Music collective. With a high register that’s as striking as her looks, watch for this former American Apparel model to appear on Kanye’s next magnum opus — and everywhere else shortly thereafter.
Listen To This: Kacy Hill, “Experience”
19. Ashley Monroe
By the time Ashley Monroe released her major-label debut Like A Rose in early 2013, the Knoxville-born singer-songwriter was already something of country music institution. Best-known as Hippie Annie from the country girl supergroup Pistol Annies, Monroe spent the better part of a decade writing hits for Jason Aldean, singing back-up for Jack White and befriending legends like Vince Gill. She quickly developed a reputation as an artist’s artist, known for pairing staunchly traditional sounds with more progressive lyrics. From “Weed Instead Of Roses,” her honky-tonk ode to getting high, to the anguished and ethereal “Used,” Monroe takes country clichés and turns them on their head. While her autobiographical, Appalachian-tinged album solidified her standing with critics, radio never embraced her, opting instead to promote an endless stream of market-tested beer-and-bikini songs instead. Two year later, however, the appeal of bro country is beginning to wane and Monroe is poised to breakthrough with her as-yet-untitled third album.
Listen To This: Ashley Monroe, “Weed Instead Of Roses”
MisterWives formed when lead singer Mandy Lee wanted to start and 80s cover band for her birthday, and you can certainly hear the decade’s dance-y influence all over their debut EP, Reflections, which came out last January. The title track is fun and catchy as hell, and the band’s live show is something to behold – they signed a record contract a day after their first show. Since then, they’ve become road dogs, tightening their pop sound as openers on tour for American Authors, and winning over crowds at places likeJimmy Kimmel Live. Their full length is planned for release sometime this year, and we fully expect the group will live up to their reputation as the “next golden children of pop,” as MTV Buzzworthy called them.
Listen To This: MisterWives, “Reflections”
Yes Lolawolf are lead by Zoe Kravitz, daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet, and that’s caused many a skeptic to approach the group with a ruffled brow and wonder “Is this a band or a marketing ploy?” The answer to anyone who heard the group’s undeniable and impossibly good R&B romp Calm Down EP from last year is clearly the former. The band has made fans of Drake, Lily Allen and Miley Cyrus, and the latter two have had Lolawolf open for them on tour. So calm down indeed, and expect big things this year.
Listen To This: Lolawolf, “What Love Is”
22. Striking Matches
With a single EP under their belt, it’s unlikely that you’ve heard of the Striking Matches. If you’ve ever watched an episode of ABC’s primetime soap Nashville, however, you’ve probably heard one of their songs. The talented twosome have contributed seven songs to Nashville’s soundtrack, including one of the show’s biggest hits “When The Right One Comes Along.” After supplying fictional country stars with swoon-worthy ballads and foot-stomping folk songs for two years, Sarah Zimmerman and Justin Davis are ready to make a play for real-life stardom. While their alt-country sound and male-female make-up are sure to make comparisons to The Civil Wars inevitable, the Matches’ are more energetic than intimate. Their EP is more rollicking than romantic and their debut album, out this spring, is likely to be more of the same.
Listen To This: Striking Matches, “When The Right One Comes Along”
23. The Suffers
The Suffers are a funky, sultry Houston, Texas, 10-piece (!) led by singer Kam Franklin, whose voice is so big and presence so commanding she was once approached after a live performance by a floored Russell Simmons. “Young lady,” he told her. “I was not prepared for what you just did on that stage.” We understand the sentiment. Much like Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Franklin and The Suffers can own a room, and in the short time since they’ve formed they’ve moved from selling out Houston venues to accepting invitations to rock larger crowds at places like Voodoo Music + Arts Experience. With an EP, Make Some Room, dropping later this month, and a tour in the works, it won’t be long before people are making room for The Suffers.
Listen To This: The Suffers, “Make Some Room”
Garrett Borns of BØRNS wrote his latest EP Candy in the Los Angeles treehouse that he also called home, which is harder to imagine if you’ve not yet heard the bright, shimmering songs that came about as a result – an “explosion of sunlight” as Borns himself calls them. You can certainly feel the warmth out of the speakers in songs like pop gem “Seeing Stars” and “Electric Love,” which you can hear a bit of a T. Rex influence in. Candy is starting to get a lot of play on college radio and Borns starts a tour with MisterWives in February that’ll last through spring. By summer expect everyone to get BØRNS.
Watch This: BORNS on Conan
The dynamic duo of Benny Blanco, the 26-year-old super producer behind Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” and Kesha’s “Tik Tok,” and Two Inch Punch, the progressive-minded U.K. electronic producer who helped kickstart Sam Smith’s career, was one of the best things to happen to R&B music in 2014. After producing the bulk of Jessie Ware’s acclaimed sophomore album Tough Love, BenZel telegraphed further ambitions by recruiting Ryn Weaver, Cashmere Cat, and Juicy J for an impressive debut EP under its own name and promising another EP as well as a full-length album would follow 2015. If Ware standouts like “Tough Love” and “Say You Love Me” are any indication of what’s to come, lovers of sensual pop and dance-friendly R&B should feel very #blessed.
Listen to This: Benzel, “Wasted Love”