Disclosure Wants To Be Bigger Than Dance Music

Some artists consistently excel at one thing, while others churn through disparate phases over the course of a career. With their ambitious, pop-oriented second album, the electronic music wunderkinds of Disclosure declare themselves members the latter group. But will massive dance crowds still be moved?

Originally Posted on BuzzFeed

Guy and Howard Lawrence, who started making electronic music as Disclosure when they were still in their teens, settled on the genre for the same reason that many teenagers choose their extracurricular activities: They wanted to do what would make them seem cool. The two brothers from the London suburb of Surrey, now 24 and 21, respectively, come from a musical family — their father was a guitarist in rock bands in the ‘80s and their mother sang jingles and performed on cruises — but it was the avant-garde music of London clubs in the late ‘00s (Burial, Joy Orbison) that first gave shape to their own artistic ambitions.

“If we were going to write songs together, we were just looking for the freshest way to present them,” Guy, who is clean-shaven and extroverted, told me recently when I visited him and Howard, who is aloof with a scruffy beard, at a tony, high-rise hotel in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. Both brothers started playing instruments as children — Guy the drums and Howard the bass — and share an easy and quietly intimate bond reminiscent of twins. “I would go to these clubs in the early days of dubstep and it was just the most exciting thing happening at the moment, like nothing you’d ever heard.”

Disclosure’s 2013 debut album, Settle, drew from the astral, moody music of the London underground but pushed it toward the light, using the more immediately gratifying tempos of house music and incorporating pop vocals. The result, a 14-song instant party featuring a catch-a-rising-star roster of vocalists including Jessie Ware, AlunaGeorge, and a then-unknown Sam Smith, made the Lawrence brothers vastly more successful than their heroes, and established them as the babyfaced darlings of an international dance music revival. Settle sold 1.6 million albums worldwide, generated over 300 million streams on Spotify, and was nominated for a Grammy (its biggest single “Latch,” featuring Smith, cracked the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified triple platinum).

Partly to reconcile with their heterogeneous musical upbringing, and partly to leapfrog a wave of soundalikes that rode in on their wake, the Lawrences decided to recalibrate on their new album, Caracal, out Sept. 25 from Capitol. They wanted to prove that they could make not just great dance music, but great music, period.

“We didn’t grow up listening to house,” says Guy, citing his and his brother’s pre-club love of Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. “Even though we love it, we know loads of different types of music and there are still loads of different things we want to try.”

Caracal eschews the handful of sample-based floor-fillers like “When A Fire Starts To Burn” and “Grab Her!” that gave Settle its crackling heat, replacing them with wall-to-wall, verse-chorus pop songs made in studio with singer-songwriters like The Weeknd, Lorde, and Miguel. The collection is an impressive achievement by any measure, but, as Disclosure readies for its biggest shows to date at New York’s Madison Square Garden and the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena this fall, the album’s slower tempo may befuddle fans who were primarily in it for the party. That’s OK with the Lawrences. “We make music very selfishly,” Guy says.

You have a rule on your albums that you only work with artists who you can physically get into a studio with, which is not the way that a lot of contemporary music is made. Why is that so important?

Guy Lawrence: Yeah, we don’t ever send beats to anyone. If people want to write a song with us, than we have to meet up. That’s how we do it. It’s important to us because of the way we write. Loads of producers make beats and stuff but they don’t write lyrics and they don’t write toplines [melodies and lyrics], whereas we do, so it’s like if we want the singer on the track, we don’t want to just tell them what to sing, but we don’t want to just let them decide what to sing either, we want to do it together. I think doing it over email or doing it over the internet works for some people, but it doesn’t work for us. You lose that soul that we try and get in our music, that sort of classic songwriting that’s produced in a fresh way.

How do you choose who you invite to collaborate?

Howard Lawrence: We don’t just look for people who are good singers, we look for people who are good writers and nice people as well. We won’t work with people with a big ego or anything, we just wouldn’t get on. To us it makes no difference if someone’s big or small. We’ve got Sam Smith, and Lorde, and The Weekend, but we’ve also got Jordan Rakei, who’s got 400 followers on Twitter.

Guy: I think he’s got quite a lot now, actually, like 20,000. [Editor’s note: It’s a little over 4,000 as of late August.] But yeah, relatively unknown. We’ve got people like Kwabs and Nao, who haven’t released full albums yet; we’re all about supporting acts like that. Because they’re just hungry, you know, they wanna work. They just wanna give and give. Sometimes if you work with big stars, they’re just there and you tell them what to sing. That’s not what we’re about. But acts like The Weeknd, and Lorde, and Sam, and Miguel, they’re all still so hungry.

Lorde’s a great example. We knew she was a great singer and we knew she was lovely as a person, but we didn’t know she was such an incredible writer. When we did this collab, she was so involved in every little thing. Not just the lyrics and the melody, but after we’d finished the song we sent it to her and she sent us this big list of stuff she wanted to change and all these little details you can’t hear in the lyrics, in the drums or in the synths. It’s cool. She pushed the song an extra 10%. It was the only time we’ve ever really done that with an artist, they usually kind of leave the production to us.

A lot of mainstream electronic music sounds like Settle now. It seems like if you turn on the radio in the U.K., everything is “deep house.” How did you approach following that up?

Guy: We just did what we wanted to, really. When we made the last album, people now look at it and say, ‘Oh yeah, that brought house music back to the radio.’ Especially in the U.K., it brought forward all of these acts. But when we made it, that wasn’t its purpose — we just wrote music that we like. Now that house music’s back, it would be very predictable to make a solid album of just house. Why would we do that when we’ve already done it? The purpose is just to push things forward. We always want to do something forward-thinking and challenge ourselves.

Howard: That’s the main thing. It’s not like we’re pushing forward the scene. We don’t set off when we’re writing a song to push the scene forward, we’re just pushing ourselves. We want to outdo what we’ve already done.

“We’re just doing what we want, and it’s like, come with us if you want to hear it.”

Guy: You hear house music on the radio all the time now and that’s great, I’m glad the record helped to bring that forward. But now that’s done, let’s try something else. Let’s bring R&B back [laughs]. It’s only when you look back at what you’ve done, that’s when we realized, Oh that’s what it was for. We don’t really know what it was for, we just write music.

Another thing to remember is all this music on the radio as well, these house songs that are getting to number one or whatever and then they just disappear. They’re all kind of one-hit wonders. The artists behind them, 99% of them aren’t going to put an album out next or whatever. They’re just getting signed and getting played on the radio thanks to these big hits they’ve just made. I think people respect the fact that we’re an album act and a live act. We’re here to stay. We’re not just delivering what the radio wants at that time. We’re just doing what we want and it’s like, come with us if you want to hear it.

The album format seems to come to you guys naturally, but many great dance music artists never make great albums.

Guy: If you’re a producer or especially if you’re a DJ, you don’t need to write an album. You can get bookings forever — just release a couple of EPs a year, put a song up here and there, you can get any DJ bookings. And that’s fine. But the songwriting for us is what’s important. It doesn’t matter if it’s dance music or not, it could be any format. We just enjoy writing songs.

Howard: I think the majority of dance music producers come to it because they start DJing. That’s how that get into dance music; they become DJs and then think “Oh, I can make some tracks to play in my set.” Whereas we came to it from a musicians point of view, as did someone like James Blake, you know. He found dance music later in his life, and you come to it with a different perspective on the whole thing.

Guy: It’s a very different way of getting into it and it effects massively what you make, and I’m still yet to meet someone who had the same exact background that we have, being a drummer and a bassist and listening to all that and then just getting into dance music and that’s the genre you get into. It’s definitely rare.

There are more midtempo moments on Caracal.

Guy: Yeah. There’s a bigger tempo range, and if you took an average of all of it, it would be a bit slower. Probably around 110 BPM.

One of the consequences of that, though, is maybe you don’t have the same huge, cathartic dance-floor moment on every song on the album.

Guy: Maybe. But I think when I watch a live act… When I watch a DJ, I get it — it’s gotta be the same. You want the beats to maintain [a certain tempo]. But when you watch us, we’re like a band. [In Disclosure’s live show, Guy plays an electronic drum kit, while Howard plays bass and keyboard]. We play a song and we stop and we have a chat and we play a song and we stop. It’s nice to have those peaks and troughs in a show. You don’t go watch a band play like [gestures as if drumming in a tight, rapid-fire pattern] the whole time. They do a jam, they slow it down, they speed it up. We wanna be more like that, you know?

Howard: Everything that we do, everything that we do, except for having electronic drums, is like things that a band would do. The only thing that makes us perceived as dance music is electronic instruments. I think as a songwriter, forgetting the production aspect of it, it would be such an obscure thing to only write at one tempo for your whole career. Songwriters don’t do that. Imagine if every song on Thriller was exactly the same tempo. You need the freedom to change tempos so that you can do different melodies.

Does it concern you, though? The fact that you might evolve in a way that alienates you from big dance crowds?

“The only thing that makes us perceived as dance music is that we use electronic instruments.”

Guy: No, no.

Howard: No, it’s something that we really respect in other bands. All of my favorite acts ever have made an album at some point that I didn’t like. And that’s because to be really innovative and make really good music you have to just try different stuff. It’s like Prince — he’s one of the most prolific songwriters ever. He’s made some of my favorite songs ever. But some of his records I don’t like at all. And that’s great. For someone to have that versatility I think is great.

Howard, one of your songs from the album, “Jaded,” is about electronic acts who use ghostwriters and ghost producers, which happens to be a hot-button issue at the moment. What did you make of the Drake/Meek Mill situation?

Howard: I’ve only just started reading about it. Meek said Drake doesn’t write his own rhymes?


Howard: I think working with people is fine, but if it gets to the point where you’re basically paying someone else to do your job, that’s just kind of stupid. Especially for producers. When they’re not singing it, writing it, or producing it, it’s like, well what have you done? You haven’t done anything.

Guy: If [Drake’s] not doing any of it, that kinda sucks. But if he’s crediting that guy, if he’s doing interviews like this and talking about it, cool. We work with loads of artists and with [songwriter and Sam Smith collaborator] Jimmy Napes, but we mention Jimmy in like every interview and big him up. I just think when it gets covered up, it’s a bit sad. I love Drake, though. That new fucking cell phone tune [“Hotline Bling”] is just sick.

Howard, you’re a singer and a songwriter; and Guy, you’re primarily a producer. Could you see yourselves pursuing those things separately at any point?

Howard: Yeah, we do to a certain extent anyway. Guy’s produced for some hip-hop artists and I did some writing on Sam’s album and with Lianne La Havas. But I think all of the stuff that we’d like to do separately is so different from Disclosure that we’ll always do Disclosure and just do that stuff as well. I don’t think there would ever be a need for Disclosure to stop.

Guy: It’d be later down the line, as well. Probably when we’ve run out of ideas for ourselves we’ll just start giving them to someone else [laughs]. It’s definitely something we’d like to do, for sure. There’s loads of stuff out there. Classical music, for instance, or I’d love to write some music for a film — stuff like that. But I wanna do that from my nice house in the country.

Barack Obama Shares Summer Vacation Playlists

In a rather unusual move on Friday, the White House decided to kick off its official Spotify channel with the release of Barack Obama’s two personal playlists, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Obama split up “The President’s Playlist” into two categories: “Volume 1: Summer Day” and “20 picks for a summer night.”

Check out the track listing to Obama’s summer playlists below:

The President’s Playlist: Vol. 1 Summer Day
The Temptations – “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”
Isley Brothers – “Live It Up”
Talib Kweli and Hi Tek – “Memories Live”
Bob Dylan – “Tombstone Blues”
Bob Marley – “So Much Trouble in the World”
Coldplay – “Paradise”
Mala Rodriguez – “Tengo Un Trato (Remix)”
Howlin Wolf – “Wang Dang Doodle”
Stevie Wonder – “Another Star”
Sly & the Family Stone – “Hot Fun in the Summertime”
Low Cut Connie – “Boozophilia”
Brandi Carlile – “Wherever Is Your Heart”
Nappy Roots – “Good Day”
John Legend – “Green Light”
Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter”
Aretha Franklin – “Rock Steady”
Okkervil River – “Down Down the Deep River”
Justin Timberlake – “Pusher Love Girl”
Florence and The Machine – “Shake It Out”
Sonora Carruseles – “La Salsa La Traigo Yo”

The President’s Playlist: Vol. 2 Summer Night
John Coltrane – “My Favorite Things”
Beyoncé and Frank Ocean – “Superpower”
Van Morrison – “Moondance”
Lianne La Havas – “Is Your Love Big Enough?”
Al Green – “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart”
Aoife O’Donovan – “Red & White & Blue & Gold”
Lauryn Hill and D’Angelo – “Nothing Even Matters”
Frank Sinatra – “The Best Is Yet To Come”
Ray Charles – “You Don’t Know Me”
Mary J. Blige – “I Found My Everything”
Joni Mitchell – “Help Me”
Otis Redding – “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember”
Leonard Cohen – “Suzanne”
Nina Simone – “Feeling Good”
The Lumineers – “Stubborn Love”
Cassandra Wilson – “Until”
Mos Def – “UMI”
Billie Holiday – “The Very Thought Of You”
Miles Davis – “Flamenco Sketches”
Erykah Badu – “Woo”

As Billboard wrote in its report on Barack Obama’s musical choices, there is nothing deep to be garnered here, except perhaps to celebrate Obama’s inclusive (and unapologetic) taste in music.

“If there’s anything about Obama’s current political or psychological state to be drawn from the playlists, it’s the sense of the president as an utterly relaxed lame duck with nothing to prove or sell. When he suddenly seemed to be down with Jay Z midway through his first term, Obama was accused of trying to court the youth vote, but there’s nothing here to suggest he’s playing to any constituency but the demo of 54-year-old boomers who still have their fingers on some pulses. Even if you didn’t know the purported curator, the personality profile you might put together from the song choices would be that of a cool, calm, and collected cucumber whose strong undercurrents of passion aren’t likely to lead to any untoward outbursts.”

Ashley Monroe Is on a Winning Streak

Ashley Monroe made the mistake of getting thirsty in Times Square.

“When we went to Duane Reade,” the 28-year-old Knoxville, Tennessee native tells me, “There was just a big bottle of Fiji, $10.25. And I was just like, I can’t do it. If I were choking to death, I don’t know if I’d be able to do this. $10.25, not even an even 10, you gotta put 25 cents too, after that?” she says, mock-incredulously.

We’re backstage at WNYC in Manhattan, where the highly sought-after country singer-songwriter is gearing up to perform several new songs live on NPR. She sends someone out for cupcakes, and adds, “I’ll take a skinny vanilla latté if you go to Starbucks.” Cold or hot?

“Hot,” she responds unblinkingly, even though it’s gross outside, even for New York in July. “I don’t like iced coffee for some reason. It throws me for a complete loop.”

Monroe is about to unveil her third solo album, The Blade, an affair that’s both lighter than the previous Like a Rose (see the cheerful bounce of opener and single “On to Something Good”) and much, much heavier (almost everything else). She’s surprised I think the new album’s much sadder; I’m surprised so many breakup songs came out of someone who married Chicago White Sox pitcher John Danks only three years ago.

“Just because you get married doesn’t mean it’s a fairy tale, that’s for sure,” Monroe reminds me. “I always say the sadness is just right below the surface for me. I think when my dad died that just kind of embedded itself, the loneliness.”

Her point is driven home with the news earlier today that her Pistol Annies bandmate Miranda Lambert was divorcing Blake Shelton, a popular judge on The Voice and country superstar in his own right. Shelton’s also been a Monroe duet partner on his country airplay number-one “Lonely Tonight” and her own “You Ain’t Dolly (And You Ain’t Porter)” from 2013 breakthrough Like a Rose, which was so variety-hour-ready they performed it together on Nashville. As her appointed journalist of the hour, I can’t not ask her about it, even though we both know what her answer will be.

“Oh I don’t want to talk about that. I won’t say a word,” she says blankly, before adding, “Got a heavy heart, that’s for sure.” (Later on, she’ll add: “Blake’s a good man, I tell ya. And she’s a good woman. Life’s just hard and it’s a hard life.”)

TV personalities or not – remember, Lambert was a runner-up on Nashville Star, wonder how Buddy Jewell is doing now – these are Monroe’s friends. Lambert first discovered her via Satisfied, a 2007 album cut when she was 18, which quickly made the rounds in Nashville even though it wasn’t released for two years.

“Miranda sent me a really long text saying, ‘I’m just bawling, your songs are so amazing and your voice is so amazing and how about we get together sometime and hang out?” Monroe recounts.

On a rare radio spin, “Hank’s Cadillac” from Satisfied also caused Jack White to pull over on the side of the road waiting to hear who was singing. But before that, Vince Gill bought her pancakes.

“I was 15,” she recalls. “He said, I really love your songs, kid, and I’d like to take you out to breakfast tomorrow. Will you meet me at Pancake Pantry? I was freaking out. And then when I hung up the phone I was like, I’ve gotta tell him tomorrow that I don’t have a car or license, so he’s gonna have to pick me up.”

Her only professional experience before meeting Gill was singing Patsy Montana’s “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” — the first song by a female country artist to sell a million copies, as it happens — at age 11, for a contest held in Dolly Parton’s hometown of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. She won.

After Satisfied lingered in assembly-line purgatory, Monroe had a stint singing in the house band for Jack White’s Third Man Records, where she struck up a kinship with White’s own Raconteurs bandmate Brendan Benson, who co-authored The Blade’s “Mayflowers.” Monroe quickly points to the song as a rare hopeful moment on the record, and says she’s got 20 more Benson collaborations in the can for an as-yet-unnamed project she’d like to get out there in the not-so-distant future.

“I have hundreds [of songs] recorded,” she tells me. “On Like a Rose, we were just going to make a six-song thing and then we just kept going. And this one, we had it cut down to 15, so two that I really, really loved didn’t get to make the record, but I think they’re going to be bonus tracks somewhere else. There’s definitely some gems back there, [where] if I don’t record them, it’d be nice if someone else did. If I quit writing one day, if I just can’t write anymore, I’ll have enough to make records forever.”

Lambert roped in Monroe and the cagier Angaleena Presley for the Pistol Annies in 2010, an unexpected trio of uncommon ease, who cut the offhanded Hell on Heels. One of the decade’s best albums in any genre, it comprised ten modestly arranged, fork-tongued road anthems for bored and broke hunter’s wives who owe 400 quarters to a washing machine. It’s a record of uncommonly grounded beauty that doesn’t go near nostalgia; any heartstrings pulled are purely of its own contempo-traditional charms. And there isn’t a fast song in the bunch, which suits Monroe anyway.

“I’m so bad at writing uptempo songs. I’m not great at it,” she says.

This isn’t actually true, she just doesn’t do a lot of it. 2013’s blithe BDSM request “Weed Instead of Roses” (“Let’s put up the teddy bears / And get out the whips and chains”) is one of her signature tunes, and will make this evening’s encore sound like Bad Brains compared to the downtrodden lope of new album highlights like “If the Devil Don’t Want Me” or “The Blade.” Continue reading

Watch 1,000 Musicians Play the Foo Fighters’ ‘Learn to Fly’

One thousand musicians banded together in Italy to perform the Foo Fighters’ “Learn to Fly” all at once in an attempt to woo the band to come play a show for them.

“The Foo Fighters are not in Romagna since 1997, it’s time to get them back, but we need a crazy idea,” the Rockin’ 1000’s website explains. “We have to organize something that kicks ass worldwide and can be seen by Dave Grohl: We will ask one thousand rockers to play one of their songs, all together and at the same time.”

All Performances from the 2015 Billboard Music Awards #BBMA2015

Imagine Dragons — Stand By Me

Tori Kelly — Nobody Love

Nick Jonas — Jealous

Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth — See You Again

Meghan Trainor and John Legend — Live I’m Gonna Lose You

Kelly Clarkson — Invincible

Little Big Town and Faith Hill — Girl Crush

Chris Brown and Pitbull — Fun

Kanye West — All Day

Nicki Minaj and David Guetta — Hey Mama

Ed Sheeran — Bloodstream

Van Halen — Panama

Mariah Carey — Vision of Love and Infinity

Jussie Smollett, Bryshere Gray, and Estelle — Conqueror and Your So Beautiful

Hozier — Take Me To Church

Britney Spears and Iggy Azelea — Pretty Girls

Simple Minds — Don’t You Forget About Me

28 Underrated Musical Artists You Should Be Listening To Right Now

Originally posted on BuzzFeed

Recently, we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share who their favorite underrated musical artists are, for your listening pleasure. Here are the results:

1. Banks


Who she is: Singer-songwriter from SoCal.

Why you should listen: Banks’ sexy vocals were featured in a 2013 holiday commercial for Victoria’s Secret; she’s also toured with The Weeknd. “Begging for Thread” and “Waiting Game” are the sort of brooding, sultry tracks that fans of Lana Del Rey have grown to love; if you love the “Summertime Sadness” songstress, you’ll probably be down with Banks.

Submitted by Alex Ellis, Facebook

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2. Flume


Who he is: Australian DJ/producer; he’s also kinda cute!

Why you should listen: Flume (real name: Harley Streten) is a frequent collaborator with Chet Faker, a later entry on this list, and a rising Australian star. This is pregame music at its finest: easy to listen to, and effortlessly trendy. It’s trippy, funky electronic that is just dripping with cool, begging to be jammed to with a drink in hand. Flume’s debut self-titled album dropped in 2013, and he won four ARIAs (the Australian equivalent of the Grammys) for the effort; we NEED the follow-up.

Submitted by Alexis Sicuro, Facebook

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3. Kimbra


Who she is: Singer from New Zealand; you probably know her from Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” for which she won two Grammys.

Why you should listen: All right, so she’s already won TWO Grammys, but somehow the talented Kiwi still flies under the radar. Girl has got RANGE, whether it’s on “Warrior” (the party anthem with A-Trak and Mark Foster from Foster the People that should have been but never was) or the trippy, funky “90s Music” with her slinky vocals that sound very Prince-esque. Give 2014’s The Golden Echo and 2011’s The Vow both a spin; Kimbra has more than earned it.

Submitted by Megan Elizabeth, Facebook

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4. Ryn Weaver

Ryn Weaver

Who she is: California vocalist.

Why you should listen: Weaver’s viral hit “OctaHate” gained attention all over the internet when it was released last year, and with good reason: It’s really, REALLY hard to get out of your head. If you like fun, easy-to-digest pop music (and really, who doesn’t?), you NEED to add Weaver to your Spotify playlist. Also, she’s working on a “top secret” project with Charli XCX…

Submitted by Jen Lambert, Facebook

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5. Børns


Who he is: Nope, not from Scandinavia! He’s a singer-songwriter from Michigan; he’s also touring with Charli XCX and Jack Antonoff this summer!

Why you should listen: Børns has already caught Taylor Swift’s attention — she called “Electric Love” an “instant classic” on Instagram — and now he deserves yours. Think MGMT’s sound with Mika’s vocals, and you should have a pretty good idea for what you’re in for — a REALLY good time.

Submitted by Jen Lambert, Facebook

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6. Kygo


Who he is: Norwegian DJ/producer.

Why you should listen: We’re big Kygo fans here at BuzzFeed, and with good reason. The Norwegian DJ has mastered both the art of the remix — his takes on Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” and The Weeknd’s “Often” are so, so luscious — and producing his own tracks, with “Firestone” being hailed as a potential “song of the summer.” Unlike most DJs, Kygo slows things down rather than speeding them up, resulting in a easy, breezy tropical house sound.

Submitted by Sara Elizabeth Denton, Facebook

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7. Chet Faker

Chet Faker

Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

Who he is: Aussie electronica musician.

Why you should listen: He’s a frequent collaborator with Flume, but it’s worth listening to his own stuff too — his voice is so earnest. His cover of “No Diggity” was featured in Beck’s 2013 Super Bowl commercial and “Talk Is Cheap” nailed the top spot in Triple J’s Hottest 100 for 2014 (an Australian radio station’s ranking of popular songs of the year; Faker also had two other tracks on the list). Also, check out that scruff!

Submitted by Sara Elizabeth Denton, Facebook

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8. Bad Suns

Bad Suns

Who they are: American alt-rock band.

Why you should listen: Here’s the sell: Indie rock band formed in sunny SoCal, withinfluences ranging from Elvis Costello to the Cure. Their debut album, Language & Perspective, dropped last year. “Cardiac Arrest,” the band’s most-streamed song on Spotify, is the perfect riding-in-your-convertible-in-the-summer anthem.

Submitted by Allison Libert, Facebook

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9. Stromae


Jason Kempin / Getty Images

Who he is: Belgian singer-rapper-songwriter. Also, aficionado of cool outfits.

Why you should listen: Now, here is the French-speaking house/hip-hop artist you didn’t know you needed in your life. Stromae is a fairly big name internationally; his smash hit “Alors On Danse” went to the top of the charts across Europe when it was released in 2009, and Kanye West even released his own remix of the song. And Lorde called Stromae’s services into play for the Mockingjay: Part I soundtrack. He has Europe’s attention; now he deserves yours!

Submitted by Jazmin Gray, Facebook

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10. Hozier


Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Who he is: Irish musician-singer-songwriter; you’ve definitely heard his smash hit “Take Me to Church” on the radio.

Why you should listen: Let’s get this out of the way: It’s hard to be considered under-the-radar when you’ve already been nominated for a Grammy and Spotify names your smash hit the most-viral track of the year. But can you name another song by Hozier? Because you should. That soulful, haunting voice that pushed “Take Me to Church” to the stratosphere is really, really worth your time. Like, an album’s worth of your time…as in his self-titled debut album.

Submitted by Hannah Lindgren, Facebook

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Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

What it is: A musical project by Brit Aaron Jerome. Jerome performs in tribal masks to support the anonymous nature of the project.

Why you should listen: We’ve all seen the masked DJ performance before (Daft Punk, anyone?), but SBTRKT still feels like a breath of fresh air. All the right collaborations are there — Jessie Ware, Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, even Drake — and SBTRKT has a present sound that builds on you. It’s not in-your-face like a lot of electronic music out there, but that’s a good thing!

Submitted by Whit N. Adams, Facebook

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12. Bebe Rexha

Bebe Rexha

Jason Kempin / Getty Images

Who she is: American singer-songwriter; you might know her from her vocals on Cash Cash’s “Take Me Home” and her uncredited vocals on David Guetta and Nicki Minaj’s “Hey Mama.”

Why you should listen: Rexha’s biggest impact on the music world might be Eminem and Rihanna’s smash hit “The Monster,” which she co-wrote, but that very well could (and should) change soon. She worked with Pete Wentz on his side band Black Cards and her first EP, I Don’t Wanna Grow Up, was JUST released. The title track is gut-wrenching and will have you feeling all the feels. Keep an eye on Bebe!

Submitted by Mark Melby, Facebook

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13. London Grammar

London Grammar

Who they are: British indie pop trio.

Why you should listen: If your dreams had a soundtrack, it would probably sound something like London Grammar — mellow, ethereal, and pleasant. Lead singer Hannah Reid’s sweeping vocals have been compared to Florence Welch’s and Lana Del Rey’s; she says she takes inspiration from Michael Jackson. Their hit “Hey Now” was even featured in a Dior commercial starring A-lister Charlize Theron.

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14. MisterWives


Who they are: New York–based indie pop band. Also, the above photo was taken in BuzzFeed’s offices!!!

Why you should listen: MTV granted them the title of “golden children of pop”; that’s a pretty bold statement to be making, but you better believe the hype. If you love Walk the Moon’s recent smash “Shut Up and Dance,” you’ll LOVE MisterWives. They’ve got an infectious, earwormy sound that will have you shaking your booty in your seat. They 100% deserve your attention.

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15. FKA twigs

FKA twigs

Who she is: British singer-songwriter-dancer; she’s also Robert Pattinson’s better half; fashion icon (check out her penis dress from this year’s Met Gala).

Why you should listen: Unfortunately, FKA twigs is probably best known for herengagement to the Twilight star Pattinson, which is a damn shame since she is so talented. Start listening with her most popular track, “Two Weeks”; it highlights her caressing, sultry vocals. Also, her music videos are pretty damn cool and not to be missed.

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16. Grimes

Who she is: Canadian singer-songwriter-musician; she’s on tour with Lana Del Reythis summer.

Why you should listen: Grimes — Claire Boucher, in real life — once described her music as “post-internet” and says she “goes through phases a lot.” And it makes sense! Her sound is sort of all over the place, in an eclectic way that commands your attention. Her jam “Go” — a total bop — was originally written for Rihanna, but the pop star rejected it. Definitely catch her on tour with Lana this summer.

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17. Hoodie Allen

Hoodie Allen

Who he is: Indie hip-hop artist from Long Island, New York.

Why you should listen: Hoodie (real name: Steven Adam Markowitz) comes from a strong pedigree of Ivy League rappers (he’s a UPenn graduate). All kidding aside, Allen has an infectious hipster-hop sound (think Sammy Adams or Shwayze) and has even worked with the likes of Ed Sheeran. He’s also opening for Wiz Khalifa and Fall Out Boy this summer (now THERE’S a motley trio). He’s fun. You should listen.

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18. twenty one pilots

twenty one pilots

Who they are: Performing duo from Columbus, Ohio.

Why you should listen: Want to get a good idea for twenty one pilots’ vibes? They’re signed by pop rock record label Fueled by Ramen (they can count Paramore, Young the Giant, and Nate Ruess as labelmates). But they’re not just talented by association; twenty one pilots can seriously rock. They make the angsty music your middle school self would have totally rocked out to, except with a little more indie cred. Their latest effort Blurryface is due to be released later this month.

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19. Jess Glynne

Jess Glynne

Who she is: British singer-songwriter; you definitely heard her vocals on Clean Bandits’ sleeper smash from last summer, “Rather Be.”

Why you should listen: Jess has one of those voices that has a British accent even when she sings (think Adele, but with a poppier sensibility); her debut album I Cry When I Laugh drops in August. Her second solo single not only went to the top of the U.K. charts, it ALSO has serious “song of the summer” potential.

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20. Shamir


Who he is: Singer-songwriter from Las Vegas.

Why you should listen: Shamir can’t even legally buy a drink in the States, but he’s a must-add to your Spotify playlist. He’s got a sort of androgynous ’80s preschool style, and his single “On the Regular” is a funky, fresh bop. Check out his debut LPRatchet; it’s due to be released May 19.

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21. Tame Impala

Tame Impala

Who they are: Australian psychedelic band.

Why you should listen: Have you noticed a trend on this list of insanely talented Aussies? Tame Impala is frequently compared to ’60s and ’70s psychedelic rock bands (lead singer Kevin Parker’s vocals have even been called “Lennon-esque”), and you might even be familiar with the hit “Elephant,” which was featured on aBlackBerry commercial. Their third album, Currents, comes out later this summer.

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22. Jhené Aiko

Jhené Aiko

Who she is: Singer-songwriter from sun-soaked Los Angeles.

Why you should listen: Unlike most of the other performers on this list, it’s hard to call Aiko an up-and-comer; she’s been on the music scene for more than a decade but only released her debut solo studio album, Souled Out, last year. Nevertheless, Aiko’s got pop star vocals but lends them to slinky, sultry R&B jams. If you like The Weeknd, you’ll probably be down with Jhené, too.

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Who they are: Alt/electronic rock band from Lowell, Massachusetts. It’s pronounced like the city in France, FYI.

Why you should listen: Lead singer Lyndsey Gunnulfsen’s vocals can best be described as kick-ass; they’re like Paramore’s cool indie little sister (they were a supporting act on last year’s Warped Tour, FWIW). Their single “St. Patrick” is the type of song that you shout along the lyrics with your friends at the bar as someone accidentally spills cheap beer on you. Yeah, you need to be listening to PVRIS.

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24. James Bay

James Bay

Alli Harvey / Getty Images

Who he is: British singer-songwriter, and he also plays the guitar!

Why you should listen: He opened for Hozier last year, which is proof enough this boy’s got the skill set to hit it big. His debut album, Chaos and the Calm, was released earlier this spring, and Bay has a radio-friendly sound with the talent to actually back it up (he’s got the sort of voice that could sub in for any lead singer of your fave alt-rock band if they came down with the flu). Bonus points for alreadywinning a Brit Award!

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25. Years & Years

Years & Years

Who they are: London-based electronic trio.

Why you should listen: They’ve got Disclosure-y vibes (think a throwback electronic sound). It’s electronic music with a heart — “Beatsy. Bassy. Soulful,” according to frontman/keyboardist Olly Alexander — the type of music that instantly adds a spring to your step and turns a bad day into a good one. Listen to them. Now.

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26. Odesza


Robyn Beck / Getty Images

Who they are: American electronic duo hailing from Seattle.

Why you should listen: As far as indie-electronic goes, these guys are the real deal; they opened for Pretty Lights’ 2013 tour and a remix of theirs appeared on theDivergent soundtrack. If you’re a fan of easy, upbeat vibes (this is more driving-in-your-car-with-the-windows-down electronic than dance-your-ass-off electronic), then Odesza is for you!

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27. GRiZ


Who he is: American DJ/producer from Michigan. He plays the saxophone, too!

Why you should listen: Aside from being insanely talented (did we mention he incorporates the saxophone into his act?), he brings a funkier, soulful sound to electronic music (he’s from Detroit, after all!). Also, he’s on tour this summer, and if you want his music, you can pay what you want on his website!

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28. Marina and The Diamonds

Marina and The Diamonds


Who she is: Welsh singer-songwriter.

Why you should listen: TBH, I was surprised that Marina and The Diamonds not only was recommended as an under-the-radar artist, but was ALSO the top suggested artist by BuzzFeed Community users. She’s the indie pop artist who can craft the type of song that will be stuck in your head for days, and her latest album, Froot,dropped earlier this year. If you haven’t given her a listen…you need to fix that ASAP.

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And here’s a playlist featuring all 28 artists, for your enjoyment! Now jam out!

How Hip-Hop Conquered Streaming

Though it’s second fiddle in digital and physical sales to rock and pop, hip-hop has long been the most popular genre on music streaming services. BuzzFeed News spoke to music industry experts to find out why.

Earlier this year, on Valentine’s Day, much of the internet was enamored of Drake. The Toronto rapper’s commercial mixtape, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, which had been released with little warning two nights before, was played more than 6.8 million times on Spotify, the world’s largest music streaming service, more than doubling the previous single-day streaming record. Like a capricious lover, however, that same record would soon move on to another. Almost exactly one month after Drake’s mixtape, and a week ahead of schedule, Kendrick Lamar crashed streaming servers with a surprise release of his own — his second major-label album, To Pimp a Butterfly, which demolished the record set by If You’re Reading This by racking up an unheard of 9.6 million streams on its first full day of release.

These twin high-water marks, set by two of hip-hop’s most dynamic figures (andoccasional rivals), say a lot about the state of the genre, which is flourishing after a relatively fallow 2014. But they also say a lot about the state of streaming, which is not only distinguished from other music platforms in that it’s growing rapidly, but in that the type of music that is driving its growth is rap and R&B.

According to Nielsen Music, a plurality — 29% — of all on-demand streaming in 2014 was of hip-hop and R&B. This includes activity on services like Spotify, YouTube, Rdio, and Rhapsody, but not Pandora or SoundCloud. Hip-hop and R&B’s share of streaming put the genre ahead of rock (25%), pop (21%), EDM (7%), and country (6%). And data provided by Nielsen to BuzzFeed News shows that the trend held for the first quarter of 2015, with hip-hop claiming a 25% share of streaming, compared to 23% for rock and 20% for pop.

Over the past six months, four of the top five most streamed albums on Spotify globally belonged to hip-hop (Drake, Lamar, J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive, and Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise), with only One Direction’s Fourpreventing a sweep. And last month, the Spotify record for most streamed song in a single week went to the rapper Wiz Khalifa, whose hit “See You Again” featuring Charlie Puth received 21.9 million plays from April 6–12.

Hip-hop’s lead in streaming is remarkable, considering that the genre has historically lagged behind rock and pop in other metrics used by the music industry as barometers of success. When it comes to album sales, for instance, hip-hop and R&B was still a distant second to rock in 2014, accounting for 14% of sales compared to rock’s 33%, according to Nielsen Music. In song downloads, hip-hop and R&B came in third place behind both rock and pop.

As the music industry has shifted to a more streaming-focused model, with both physical and digital music sales continuing to decline, there are signs that hip-hop artists are reaping the benefit. More than a third of the 14 albums to top the Billboard 200 this year, which last November began to include streams as a factor, came from the hip-hop category, including the aforementioned albums by Drake, Lamar, and Big Sean, plus theEmpire soundtrack and Wale’s The Album About Nothing.

“These artists are doing phenomenally well,” Dave Bakula, SVP of industry insights at Nielsen, told BuzzFeed News. “And it’s something we’ve seen for as long as we’ve been tracking [streaming] — R&B/hip-hop really sets itself apart.”

Of course, the million-dollar question is: Why? It’s not easy to say, conclusively. Unlike, say, vinyl, which is today marketed toward older consumers and leans heavily on the classics (4 out of 10 of the top-selling vinyl albums last year were released before 1985), streaming services have long been billed as genre-agnostic musical utopias: all of the music, all of the time. To explain how hip-hop and R&B came to rule such a platform, we talked to industry experts and came away with three theories.

The Youths

The first and most obvious answer has to do with age. Streaming is the youngest of the platforms and, as with most nascent technologies, its user base is similarly young. According to a study by GMI Market Research provided to BuzzFeed News, the average age of users of major music platforms is as follows: Spotify, 28; Pandora, 32; iTunes, 34; SiriusXM, 42; terrestrial radio, 43.

“If you’re 18 years old, you probably don’t have any memory of purchasing music via download or physical product,” said Ken Parks, chief content officer at Spotify. “But you probably do spend a lot of time listening to music on platforms like ours or YouTube.”

From Will Smith to Rae Sremmurd, hip-hop has always been fueled and supported by young people, so it makes sense that a platform with a young user base would see a lot of activity in that genre. “Many 18- to 24-year-olds, which is really our core audience, eat, sleep, and breathe hip-hop,” said Parks. So who’s streaming all of that Wiz Khalifa? Probably not your mom.

Mixtape Culture

Hip-hop, more than any other genre, has a strong tradition of free music. Years before the rise of ad-supported, on-demand streaming in America, rappers big and small were keeping mixtape sites like Datpiff and LiveMixtapes flush with quality content at no cost. When Spotify arrived in 2011 with the promise of making all music available for free, it’s easy to imagine hip-hop fans among its earliest and most avid supporters. “People our age come from an era where you can just go to a mixtape website and download everything for free, so that’s just what we’re used to,” said Tyler, the Creator, whose April album, Cherry Bomb, was the most streamed album on Spotify the week of its release. “Hip-hop fans want the shit right then and there or they’ll download it somewhere else for free. They’re like, ‘What the fuck do I look like buyin’ it?’”

It’s worth remembering that Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late mixtape broke on-demand streaming records only after being pulled from traditional mixtape destinations like SoundCloud and LiveMixtapes.

Social Media Behavior

The portability of links to songs on YouTube or Spotify means it’s much easier to share music than ever before, and activity on streaming services often follows social media conversations. According to an unpublished “Music 360” study by Nielsen provided to BuzzFeed News, hip-hop and EDM fans are the most likely to talk about music with friends, including on social media. In a survey of over 2,500 music listeners, 27% of hip-hop fans strongly agreed with the statement “I often discuss music with my friends,” compared to 28% of EDM fans, 21% of rock fans, and 17% of pop/top 40 fans. “I think the social nature of the fan base is a factor here,” said Bakula.

Nielsen’s study of hip-hop fans jibes with earlier research about African-Americans and social media use. A 2014 study by the Pew Research Center found that fully 96% of black Americans between 18 and 29 use social networking sites, compared with 90% of white Americans in the same age group. Smartphone ownership among 18- to 29-year-olds showed a similar gap: 85% of black respondents said they owned a smartphone compared to 79% of white ones.

Among the many ways that the rise of streaming is disrupting the business and culture of music, one of the most significant may be upending paradigms of access and visibility. Originally conceived as the defiant music of outsiders, hip-hop, now more than ever, is poised to become the default. If streaming is the future, than, for now at least, the Drakes and the Kendricks, and the J. Coles of the world are its heirs.