originally posted on billboard.com
From Girls Aloud to SWV to Electrik Red, check out Billboard’s editorial countdown of underappreciated girl group tracks.
Most casual pop fans can rattle off a few of the biggest girl group hits of all time — the classic cuts by the Supremes, TLC, Destiny’s Child and more — with little hesitation, and those smash singles deserve to be celebrated (check out this listto do so!). But those songs should not be the be-all and end-all of girl groups songs. There exists a whole other world of deep cuts, forgotten hits and not-quite-smashes worth discovering and revisiting, from some of the biggest girl groups ever and several that engineered one marvelous single before stepping out of the spotlight.
After checking out our chart list of the 40 biggest girl group songs ever, read our editorial countdown of the 20 most underrated girl group songs of all time. These tracks might not have smashed the charts, but they hold a special place in our hearts.
20. Dream, “He Loves You Not”
Backed by Puff Daddy and having opened for *N SYNC, Dream never achieved the staying power of Destiny’s Child or even the Pussycat Dolls, but “He Loves You Not” deserves to pop up at karaoke bars for decades. A classic other-woman takedown, the single gleefully swims in its PG-rated sassiness: “Say what you want, girl, do what you do/He’s never gonna make it with you.” – Jason Lipshutz
19. G.R.L., “Ugly Heart”
18. Destiny’s Child, “Through With Love”
Quintessential Destiny’s Child, this song (buried deep on their 2004 Destiny Fulfilled farewell album) encapsulates the feeling of being over a situation with the one you love and vowing to walk away… at least until he calls again. – Kathy Iandoli Continue reading
originally posted on Billboard.com
From TLC to the Pointer Sisters, check out the top girl groups ever, based on the Billboard charts.
At Billboard.com, we’ve celebrated our second annual Girl Group Week by looking at the biggest songs, best music videos, current state of girl groups, drafting our dream girl groups, scoping out post-girl group solo songs and a whole lot more. It’s time to get to the main event: an updated list of the 10 biggest girl groups of all time.
A long line of girl groups have found success on the Billboard charts, with Motown’s brightest stars generating hits as a collective a half-century ago, and artists like TLC and Destiny’s Child making their mark in the 1990’s and 2000’s, respectively. Check out Billboard’s list of the Top 10 girl groups of all time, and see if your favorite female group made the cut.
NOTE: This ranking is based on actual performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 chart through the tally dated March 7, 2015. Artists are ranked based on an inverse point system, with a song’s weeks at No. 1 on the weekly Hot 100 chart earning the greatest value and weeks at No. 100 earning the least. Each act’s collected titles that charted over the course of their career were aggregated to determine the final ranking. To ensure equitable representation of the biggest hits from each era, certain time frames were weighted to account for the difference between turnover rates from those years.
A legendary Motown group, Martha Reeves’ vocal group found success with the ballad “Come and Get These Memories” before striking gold with “Heat Wave,” “Quicksand” and “Dancing in the Street.”
9. En Vogue
The title of En Vogue’s first two albums, 1990’s Born to Sing and 1992’s Funky Divas, fit perfectly: the members of producers Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy’s R&B group flaunted their vocal gifts through soulful cuts like “Hold On” and “Don’t Let Go (Love).”
The trio of Exposé watched songs like “Point of No Return, “Seasons Change” and “Tell Me Why” checker the Billboard charts during the late 80’s and early 90’s, honing its dance-pop sound before disbanding in 1996. A brief reunion a decade later included a tour, with Jeanette Jurado, Gioia Bruno and Ann Curless performing their best-known hits.
Younger music fans might only know Wilson Phillips from hearing “Hold On” in films like Bridesmaids and Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, but the trio of Chynna Phillips, Carnie Wilson and Wendy Wilson had more than just one unstoppable hit following their 1990 formation. “Hold On” is the go-to Wilson Phillips jam thanks to its soaring hook and mesmerizing harmonies, but songs like “Release Me,” “You’re In Love” and “Impulsive” helped make this trio one for the ages.
One of the most important girl groups of the 1960’s, the Shirelles formed as a quartet of high school friends and ended up becoming a gargantuan influence on the early female contributors to the American rock scene. Swinging tempos and pitch-perfect harmonies defined hits like “Mama Said” and “Dedicated To The One I Love,” and although they are not as well-remembered as the Supremes, the Shirelles’ best singles are virtually unrivaled.
5. The Bangles
A power-pop force in the mid-80’s, the Bangles scored several hits while dabbling in a variety of sounds yet never losing their authoritative identity. Prince helped the group out by writing the early hit “Manic Monday,” but “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Eternal Flame” were even more enduring smashes that firmly delivered the Bangles to the mainstream. Although the group never regained its popularity when the 90’s began, the Bangles remain crucial to the pop landscape of the previous decade.
Anita, Ruth, Bonnie and June Pointer blended R&B, pop, disco, country and rock with jaw-dropping aplomb after growing up in Oakland and scoring timeless cuts like “I’m So Excited,” “Jump (For My Love),” “Automatic,” “Fire” and “Fairytale.”
Before Beyonce was Queen Bey, she was one-third of the extraordinarily popular Destiny’s Child, delivering songs like “Say My Name,” “Survivor” and “Bootylicious” with the help of Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. After Beyonce, Kelly and Michelle all became independent women, they reunited for a farewell album, Destiny Fulfilled, and farewell tour; in 2013, the ladies rejoined once together for a new track, “Nuclear,” and a surprise appearance during Bey’s Super Bowl halftime show.
Tionne “T-Boz” Waykins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas spent a decade ruling the charts with pop-R&B masterpieces like “No Scrubs,” “Waterfalls,” “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” and “Creep,” before Lopes’ untimely death in a car crash in 2002. T-Boz and Chilli recently revived their best-selling project, with a compilation album (20) and a performance at the American Music Awards in 2013; a new album is in the works, following a successful Kickstarter campaign.
1. The Supremes
Aside from being the most successful girl group of all time, the Supremes are among the most popular musical artists ever, with Diana Ross and co.’s songs sounding as timeless as ever. “Baby Love,” “Stop! In The Name Of Love,” “Come See About Me,” “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” “Where Did Our Love Go”… the list of Motown classics goes on and on, and although there have been many girl group smashes in the decades since the Supremes ruled the Billboard charts, no collective has yet to challenge their, for lack of a better word, supremacy.
Country music may be the genre of the Bible Belt, but when it comes to avenging sins, its lyrical weapons are plenty and potent. Carrie Underwood swings a baseball bat, Johnny Cash uses fists, Miranda Lambert loads a gun and Toby Keith fires up footwear. Forget looking good as the best revenge; it’s all about a good aim. Here are the 20 country songs that prove best that what comes around goes around.
20. Miranda Lambert, “White Liar”
Maybe it’s because her father was a private detective, but Lambert takes no prisoners when it comes to cheating hearts. From the first line of this 2009 hit, she puts her man on notice that he’s not nearly as clever as he thinks, as he spreads his “charms” all over town. But what we don’t find out until the end of the song is that what’s good for the goose is even better for the gander. “Here’s a bombshell just for you/Turns out I’ve been lying, too,” she sings, revealing that she’s been spreading a few things of her own.
19. Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named Sue”
Thanks, Dad. . . for nothing. It’s hard to be grateful when you’re a dude whose name is Sue. In this At San Quentin classic written by Shel Silverstein, the Man in Black tells the tale of a boy whose deadbeat father gave him the feminine moniker before he skipped town. Though he later learns this was a gesture to get his son to toughen up in his absence, it’s difficult to shake off years of bullying, and the whole thing ends in an old-school scuffle – complete with a severed ear – set to a chugging Cash-ian beat and plenty of tongue-in-cheek. Though they settle it all in the end, one thing’s clear: there will be no Sue Jr. “If I ever have a son, I think I’m gonna name him Bill or George! Anything but Sue!”
18. Taylor Swift, “Better Than Revenge”
Taylor Swift has made a multi-million dollar career out of getting lyrical revenge, with this track from 2010’s Speak Now perhaps packing the strongest punch. “There’s nothing I do better than revenge,” she sings, though she never details just what exactly she’s going to do to the man-stealing actress who’s “better known for things she does on the mattress.” But in that line lies the real-life karma. See, Swift’s revenge comes in the form of all those rumors about celebrities who inspire her songs. This one was allegedly about actress Camilla Belle, who dated pop prince Joe Jonas just after he dumped the singer-songwriter, and thus had her dirty laundry aired on pop and country stations worldwide.
17. Porter Wagoner, “The Cold Hard Facts of Life”
Bill Anderson wrote this Number Two country hit, the title cut of a 1966 Wagoner album that served up infidelity, divorce, drunkenness and murder. Arriving back in town early, our narrator hopes to surprise the missus. Figuring that pink champagne makes a nice welcome-home gift, the unsuspecting hubby encounters a guy at the liquor store who’s also buying booze for his lady. He’s still clueless when the guy tells the cashier “her husband’s out of town,” but wises up when he sees that the dude has driven right to his house. After downing the entire bottle, he decides it’s time to make his move — a move that doesn’t end well.
16. Kathleen Edwards, “In State”
Kathleen Edwards has gotten herself mixed up with the wrong man. “You talk so sweet until the going gets tough/The last job you pulled was never big enough,” she laments, knowing he’s unlikely to clean himself up. Although we’re never told the exact nature of her dude’s dirty dealings — drug running? bank robbing? — Edwards does let us in on a little secret: she’s gearing up to call the cops and tip them off. If her love isn’t enough to scare the guy straight, maybe 20 years in a state penitentiary will do the trick.
15. Nancy Sinatra, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”
Nancy Sinatra was about to be dropped from her famous father’s record label in 1966 when producer Lee Hazlewood had her record “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” a jangly song he’d originally written for himself before realizing Sinatra’s sinewy, nubile delivery was just what his tune needed to take off. The distinctive, walking double bass line helped make the singer’s rendition the definitive take on this revenge classic, sounding just like a ravishing ladylove sliding on a slick pair of high-heeled boots before giving a sultry “so long” and strutting out the door. It’s the musical encompassment of having the power to exalt or the power to destroy. . . coupled with the power of sexy footwear.
14. Carrie Underwood, “Before He Cheats”
Since the release of this feisty number nearly a decade ago, not a single day has passed where it hasn’t blasted over the speakers of a football field, a Buffalo Wild Wings or a crappy sound system at happy hour karaoke, fearlessly unleashed from the lungs of any woman ever done wrong. Written by Chris Tompkins and Josh Kear, “Before He Cheats” was first unleashed in 2006, on the same album that catapulted Underwood from small-town Oklahoma shy girl to pop-country starlet in four singles flat. Because letting go and moving on never feels as good as property damage, the song’s crossover success received endless accolades and crashed the Billboard charts Louisville Slugger-style, just like the way Underwood smashes her cheating lover’s 4×4 truck in the cutthroat recording.
13. Drive By Truckers, “Decoration Day”
Jason Isbell brought this song about a raging war between Southern families to the Drive-By Truckers, and it went on to become the title track to the group’s 2003 album. The bitter, fatal feud he depicts in the lyrics — between the Hill and Lawson clans — makes the Hatfield and McCoys’ beef look like a game of tag. But it’s the unwillingness of the narrator, a Lawson, to continue the conflict that elevates the song to higher art. As he sings, “I got dead brothers in East Tennessee,” you can hear him deciding, “This ends with me.” Because while blood may be thicker than water, a son doesn’t have to defend his dad’s legacy if the father is himself a son of a bitch.
12. Pistol Annies, “Trailer for Rent”
Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley, otherwise known as Pistol Annies, never sounded so pissed as they do in this song about kicking a no-good dude to the curb. Tired of her husband’s “shit”, a put-upon wife leaves food on the stove and splits, but not before putting an ad in the paper advertising that the titular trailer is in need of a new tenant. Fast forward a decade, and the self-consumed ex-husband is still sprawled out on the couch — drinking beers and, likely, not even realizing his pistol of a lady up and left.
11. Bobby Bare, “Marie Laveau”
Don’t piss off the voodoo queen. This 1974 single was Hall of Famer Bare’s only Number One hit, and shows how revenge can be so much more fun when you have Creole witchcraft in your pocket of evil tools. In this virtually verse-less story-song written by Shel Silverstein and folk singer Baxter Taylor, Marie unleashes her wrath when a suitor swindles her for some cash and tries to leave before the wedding bells ring – a tale Bare tells in his smooth twang and country-blues boogie. “Oooooo-we! Another man done gone,” he sings, after warning future beaus to either seal the deal or just steer clear.
10. Jason Isbell, “Yvette”
A murder ballad about a literal family affair, “Yvette” spins the story of a teenaged boy who admires a quiet, glassy-eyed schoolmate from across the classroom. He follows her home one night and watches through the window, horrified, as her father walks into her bedroom and inflicts some unspeakable acts of abuse. “He won’t hold you that way anymore, Yvette,” Isbell promises, returning to the scene of the crime later that evening with a Weatherby rifle in his arms and revenge on his mind. Although the song wraps up before he pulls the trigger, we’re guessing this story ends with a bang.
9. John Prine, “Sweet Revenge”
Sometimes, revenge isn’t just in the lyrics – it’s the actual song itself. After his second album failed to resonate as powerfully as his debut, and he’d literally quit his day job, Prine was suffering from a bit of an existential crisis. He chose to respond with a third LP, Sweet Revenge, full of stunners like “Mexican Home” and “Please Don’t Bury Me,” along with the title track. With lyrics ripped from Hunter S. Thompson (“The milkman left me a note yesterday/’Get out of this town by noon/You’re coming on way too soon/And besides that, we never liked you anyway'”), he hits back at the detractors with a priceless melody that said this Chicagoan wasn’t going anywhere, no matter what the milkman demands.
8. Waylon Jennings, “Mental Revenge”
This 1968 hit — later covered by both Jamey Johnson and Linda Ronstadt — shows how to get some vengeance without getting your hands dirty. “Hope” is the operative word in the Mel Tillis-penned song, which shows a scorned lover wishing a variety of devious outcomes upon his former lady. “Well, I hope that the friend you’ve thrown yourself with/Gets drunk and loses his job,” Jennings sings to a steadfast shuffle. This is a kiss-off with no need for a minor key.
7. Justin Townes Earle, “Someone Will Pay”
Justin Townes Earle has never avoided an association with his famous country singer father, Steve Earle, and the younger Earle has certainly never held back on wearing his daddy issues on his sleeves. “I don’t get angry; I get even,” he sings on the opening line of the deceptively cheery sounding, country-blues ditty “Someone Will Pay.” The song is off the singer’s 2015 LP Absent Fathers, which is the companion album to its 2014 predecessor, Single Mothers. And it’s no great mystery who Justin is singing about (or rather, who he’s singing to) when he croons, “On my mama’s life, someone will pay for the way you lied.” The song does leave one question unanswered, though: Who is that “someone?” Father, or son?
6. Miranda Lambert, “Gunpowder and Lead”
Lambert’s first shot at the Top 10 arrived thanks to this nasty bit of rough justice (or is it premeditated murder?) that opens and closes with the groans of a guy whose fate is sealed after he slaps her face and shakes her “like a rag doll.” Waiting for the dude to post bail and show up on her doorstep, Lambert’s all liquored up and ready to send them both straight to hell. The singer, who had already laid waste (in song) to another ex in “Kerosene” by burning the cheating bastard’s house down, has since softened her image a bit, but anyone foolish enough to tangle with this Texan probably deserves every damn thing he gets. While she may have gained a reputation for a high body count in her songs, the inspiration for this tune came from a real place. When she was a teenager, Lambert’s parents took in women and children who had been abused.
5. Garth Brooks, “The Thunder Rolls”
The cheating protagonist in Garth Brooks’ 1991 hit makes one fatal mistake: he returns home from a sordid tryst still smelling like his lover’s perfume. Whoops. While the country singer wanted to end the song with a bang — literally, with the wife pulling a pistol on her philandering husband — the album version leaves things a little cleaner. Networks even banned the video, which depicted scenes of domestic violence. But no one tells Garth what to do: live, he plays the whole shebang, telling the ill-fated tale in its entirely to a wicked melody that sounds like a devious storm rolling into to a dusty saloon. And that video? It won a CMA Award. Talk about the best revenge.
4. Maggie Rose, “Looking Back Now”
Maggie Rose is full of regret but shows little remorse in the role of a love-scorned death row killer who’s moments away from a lethal injection in this wrenching, modern murder ballad. While the once whiskey-swigging, gun-toting Rose, now scared and begging for God’s forgiveness, cowers at the prick of the needle, the song is unflinching. “Looking back now, I should have probably let him run,” the singer intones as she feels the sodium thiopental drip into her veins, but “paybacks are hell where I come from.” And not just where she comes from, but where she bets she’s going, too. In the tradition of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” Rose offers her famous last words in the final verse of a song about letting love take you all the way down to the depths of hell.
3. Dixie Chicks, “Goodbye Earl”
Songwriter Dennis Linde, who penned “Burnin’ Love” for Elvis and such irreverent hits as “Bubba Shot the Jukebox” and “Queen of My Double-Wide Trailer,” wrote this Thelma and Louise-inspired revenge fantasy. Dixie Chick Natalie Maines unfolds the tale with extra grit in her voice as she sings that “Earl had to die” — as retribution for abusing wife, Wanda, before the ink on their marriage certificate was dry. With help from best friend Mary Anne, the battered bride poisons Earl’s black eyed peas, wraps him up in a tarp and hides the body without a trace. . . of evidence or regret, that is. Besides, “it turns out he was a missing person who nobody missed at all.” “Goodbye Earl” wasn’t the last controversial thing the Chicks ever did – but it was certainly the funniest.
2. Toby Keith, “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (the Angry American)”
“We’ll put a boot in your ass/It’s the American way.” No other lyric more completely defined the patriotic (or, as many argued, jingoistic) sentiments that dominated country airwaves in the wake of 9/11, running up to the invasion of Iraq. Like many hawkish Americans, the unapologetic Keith, firm in the belief that justice and vengeance were one in the same, wasn’t just angry — he was enraged. And he didn’t mince words on what prevailed as his signature song (at least until “Red Solo Cup” came along). The de facto soundtrack to the Bush Doctrine, the song — much like the war — was polarizing in its promise to blow axis of evil inhabitants back to the Stone Age. The song itself made good on that promise, its titled famously scrawled across some of the bombs that dropped over Baghdad.
1. Carrie Underwood, “Two Black Cadillacs”
Underwood is great when she’s playing the good girl, but she’s even better at being bad. In the delicious “Two Black Cadillacs,” a woman spots her husband’s mistress at his funeral. It turns out this is not the first time the two have met, and their actions have been far more diabolical than their man’s infidelity. The pair make unlikely bedfellows as they plot to do in the guy who has done them both wrong. If “Before He Cheats” is Adultery 101, then “Two Black Cadillacs” is a graduate course that makes taking a bat to someone’s car seem like child’s play.
“Female” is not a genre. But rock is a genre where women are thriving in 2015.
Originally posted on BuzzFeed
1. Colleen Green, I Want To Grow Up
Colleen Green’s second album is a quarter life crisis set to music, with her striving to live like a mature adult while insecurities and bad habits make that seem almost entirely impossible. She’s great at writing instantly catchy alt-rock melodies, which is a good thing – the hooks make it easier to handle the dark, self-loathing introspection of songs like “Deeper Than Love” and “Things That Are Bad for Me.”
Out on February 24th on Hardly Art.
2. Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit
Australian songwriter Courtney Barnett has a gift for writing songs that find intense emotions in mundane situations – like, say, having a song start out with her singing about feeling too lazy to mow her lawn and having it climax with her cathartically shouting “I used to hate myself but now I think I’m alright!” Like Green, Barnett is writing songs about trying to grow into adulthood, but she’s a lot more laid back and more likely to shrug off her angst or try to talk you down from thinking she’s cool.
Out on March 24th on Mom+Pop.
3. Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love
Sleater-Kinney’s first album in nearly a decade sounds just as vital and thrilling as anything the band made during their run of classic records in the late ’90s and early ’00s, but it’s not a carbon copy of anything they made back then. No Cities to Loveis a quick and brutal record, with the band blasting through 10 top-quality tracks in a half hour. The vocals by Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein are all raw nerve emotion, and the music hits with the urgency of a band who probably knew damn well how much the world needed them back in action as they recorded it.
Out now on Sub Pop.
4. Erase Errata, Lost Weekend
Sleater-Kinney isn’t the only all-female punk trio who’ve returned from a long hiatus. Erase Errata’s first record since their excellent 2006 album Night Life is a brief, powerful set of tunes that pushes the band’s hyper-political and highly rhythmic post-punk style in a new direction. Singer and guitarist Jenny Hoyston’s guitar chops have evolved quite a bit over the past decade, resulting in a surprising delicacy on some tracks, while others, like the quasi-industrial “Watch Your Language,” approach the kind of harsh mechanical tones you’d find on a Rage Against the Machine or late period Wire album.
Out now on Under the Sun.
5. Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp
Katie Crutchfield’s first album for Merge Records takes a more refined approach to the sort of introspective indie rock she’s been making as Waxahatchee for a few years now. Ivy Tripp has a crisp, clean sound that brings out the best in Crutchfield’s voice and her songs without dulling down her rough edges or sounding too much like an overproduced major label record designed specifically for radio airplay.
Out on April 7th on Merge.
6. Chastity Belt, Time To Go Home
Out on March 24th on Hardly Art.
7. Lower Dens, Escape from Evil
Out on March 31st on Ribbon Music.
8. Torres, Sprinter
Brooklyn songwriter Mackenzie Scott sings and plays guitar with a grim yet sexy intensity that recalls PJ Harvey’s first few records from the early ’90s. She’s no PJ clone, though – Scott’s music as Torres has its own peculiar atmosphere, and a touch of country twang buried beneath the harsh tones and distortion.
Out on May 5th on Partisan Records.
The execs who rule music now? Just follow the money, where new No. 1 Lucian Grainge keeps grabbing market share (while upending every business model), 31 first-timers break into the list and innovation — not fear — is now the force propelling these players forward.
Originally posted on BuzzFeed
Taylor Swift is known for being an amazing songwriter and singer But her covers of other people’s music are also fantastic.
10. “Dancing in the Dark/ Livin’ on A Prayer,” Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi
She only does a small portion of each song, but they are amazing.
9. “Bette Davis Eyes,” Kim Carnes
Taylor infuses this song with an innocence the original is lacking. Beautiful and heartfelt.
8. “Cowboy Take Me Away,” Dixie Chicks
Martie Maguire, one of the original members of the Dixie Chicks, was in the audience at this show, making this performance even more special.
7. “White Blank Page,” Mumford and Sons
True, she didn’t so this one on her own, and had her backing band help her out, but this cover is pretty awesome.
6. “Untouchable,” by Luna Halo
This song was covered for the Platinum addition of her album Fearless, and she makes some artistic risks with this cover, turning a rock song into a ballad. And it’s wonderfully flawless.
5. “Riptide,” Vance Joy
Seeing as she’s taking Vance Joy on the road with her for the 1989 tour, Taylor’s cover of his smash “Riptide” makes sense musically and in terms of getting her headliner a bit more attention. Plus, it’s just her and a piano for most of it, and it rocks.
4. “This Love,” Maroon 5
Once again turning a rock song into a sad ballad, Taylor manages to infuse more despair and meaning into this cover than the original.
3. “Run,” George Strait
Taylor opened for George on tour, so she got to watch him perform many times. Still, this cover feels relevant and interesting, as well as being one of her best live vocal performances of all time.
2. “Nashville,” David Mead
Not a famous song, Taylor chose this song because she liked it — and she took a risk by covering the entire song to an audience that wouldn’t be able to sing a long. But her voice carries this song, making it emotional, sincere, and heartfelt. And her vocals are killer as well.
1. “Drops of Jupiter,” Train
Her best cover by far. Her vocal are flawless, and it’s such a great song that many years later, the audience still knows all the words. But Taylor was able to make it fun, sweet, and sad all at the same time, with just her voice and an acoustic guitar. I think I speak for everyone when I say, “YAS, BITCH YAS!”
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”
Get the Spotify playlist version of this list now.
From Loretta’s next album to Faith’s new film, we count down the music and events we’re most looking forward to over the next 12 months
Grammy Awards (February 8th)
With so many musical genres fighting for air time during the star-studded Grammy telecast, country music often gets short-shrift. That’s especially true when country artists are not among the nominees for the multi-genre categories such as Record, Song or Album of the Year. This is the case again in 2015 with one exception: the Best New Artist race will see country singer-songwriter extraordinaire Brandy Clark competing against Iggy Azalea, Bastille, Haim and Sam Smith. While a Clark performance slot may be doubtful — at least with one of her own tunes, expect the genre to be well represented on the 2015 Grammy stage. Last year’s festivities featured performances by eight country stars, including Keith Urban singing his now-nominated hit, “Cop Car,” and 2014 Best New Artist nominee Kacey Musgraves with “Follow Your Arrow.” Nashville numbers should be comparable this year. S.B.
The Mavericks, ‘Mono’ (February 17th)
Country’s coolest, most versatile band, led by the silver-throated Raul Malo, returns with more country infused with elements of world music, rock, jazz and whatever else the group has decided to throw in. Sadly, the Mavericks are down a man after voting founding member and bassist Robert Reynolds out of the band while he deals with an alleged substance abuse issue, but his departure has done nothing to dampen the retro-exuberance and heartache displayed on the group’s first set since 2013’s In Time. M.N.
Lady Antebellum, Wheels Up 2015 Tour (Starts February 28th)
It’s always an exhilarating treat when Lady Antebellum take the stage, and this year, hot on the heels of their 80-city Take Me Downtown global trek, the Grammy-winning trio will embark on the Wheels Up 2015 Tour, beginning with a series of Australian and European dates on February 28th and covering North America beginning May 1st. Along for the 65-city trip will be budding superstar Hunter Hayes and genre-defying newcomer Sam Hunt. “That’s how we want to make our living for 20 years: out there on the road,” the trio’s Dave Haywood told Rolling Stone Country when their 747 album was released last fall. “It’s a big focus for us. We change the set list almost every night, trying to find the perfect set list for the perfect crowd. That’s always been a priority.” S.B.
Tortuga Music Festival (April 11th-12th)
“Tortuga,” the Spanish word for turtle, would seem to indicate something that’s slow-moving, but when it comes to this two-day fest in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that’s not at all true. Since it began in 2013, the Tortuga Music Festival has accelerated into one of the most exciting (and socially aware) country music events in the U.S. From 25,000 attendees its inaugural year to nearly 45,000 a year ago, the festival has raised funds and awareness for ocean conservation and also delivered performances from such country superstars as Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley and dozens of others. Joining Chesney among this year’s entertainers are Zac Brown Band, Little Big Town, Jake Owen, David Nail, the Mavericks, Maddie and Tae and at least a dozen more country, roots and rock acts. The festival also features Conservation Village, where interactive games and exhibits spotlight the plight of the sea turtles found along South Florida’s Atlantic seaboard. S.B.
ACM Awards (April 19th)
There will be nothing small about the ACM Awards’ golden anniversary, starting with the venue: For its 50th, the award show, hosted by Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan, moves from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Add in the fact that the ACMs will host 50 concerts at adjacent Globe Life Park April 17th-18th to lead up to the big show, and you’ve got your own three-day festival right there. M.N.
Stagecoach (April 24th-26th)
The country equivalent of Coachella, the 2015 edition of Stagecoach boasts all the usual big names — Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, the Band Perry — but as is usually the case with the mega-artist festivals, it’s the undercard that makes this year’s edition so intriguing. From hot newcomers like Frankie Ballard and Parmalee to country outliers such as the Lone Bellow, the Cadillac Three and Sturgill Simpson to swampy non-country veterans like ZZ Top and George Thorogood and the Destroyers, there’s something here for all sorts of fans to circle the wagons around. M.N.
Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean Merge Tours (Starts May 2nd)
Kenny Chesney hits the road nearly every summer, preaching the gospel of flip-flops and margaritas in super-sized venues that typically hold football games, not concerts. He took a rare break in 2014, which might explain his decision to tap one of the biggest names in country music — Jason Aldean, country’s top album seller of the moment — for 10 co-headlining gigs this summer. The guys are going big, booking shows in the NFL’s three biggest stadiums and extending the seating capacity of venues like Gillette Stadium, where Chesney often ends his tours, to more than 100,000. When tickets for the Gillette show went on sale last fall, they sold out in less than 12 minutes, a full 10 months before the actual gigs. A.L.
Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Announcement (Spring)
As winter turns to spring and baseball fans’ minds turn to opening day for the major league, so do country music fans’ minds turn to the major leaguers whose careers are enshrined in the Hall of Fame at Nashville’s sprawling downtown museum. New members of the Hall are expected to be revealed sometime this spring (last year’s class, including Ronnie Milsap, Hank Cochran and Mac Wiseman, was unveiled in late April). Who’ll get in this time around is anyone’s guess, but in the Modern Era category, the smart money is on Alan Jackson or Randy Travis, both of whom are overdue for inclusion. Ardent fans of late country-pop superstars Dottie West and the Oak Ridge Boys have been rallying for them be elected into the Hall’s esteemed ranks of veteran performers, and both are certainly worthy. Others to watch for this year include Tanya Tucker, Clint Black and Hank Williams Jr. S.B.
Anderson East, ‘Delilah’ (Spring)
It’s a pretty safe bet to follow the lead of Dave Cobb — after producing two stellar records in a row, for Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson, it’s hard not to pay attention to anything and anyone he invites into his studio. And Anderson East, a Nashvillian by way of Alabama, who can sing the blues with a sultry, countrified growl, is no exception to the rule. Evoking a twangier Ray LaMontagne or Amos Lee with notes of plaintive Ryan Adams, he’s forming a sound all his own that will be on full display on his first official LP, the Cobb-produced Delilah. His voice is full of gravely soul, easily tackling both piano ballads and foot-stompers, going head-to-head with a gospel chorus thanks to a killer range and often heartbreaking lyrics. M.M.
Ashley Monroe’s Follow-Up to ‘Like a Rose’ (Spring)
Her 2013 album, Like a Rose, balances the sting of heartbreak with biting humor, setting it all to a stone-cold country soundtrack featuring an angelic voice that is pure bliss. So what will “Hippie Annie” (one-third of Pistol Annies with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley) do for an encore? How about a tune co-written with Matraca Berg called “I Buried Your Love Alive,” featuring backing vocals by the teenage daughter of Vince Gill and Amy Grant? That’s just one tidbit about the follow-up that she has revealed, along with the fact that Gill serves as co-producer once again. Other details, including a release date, remain under wraps for now, but Monroe has certainly set the bar pretty high. S.B.
The Deslondes’ Debut Album (Spring or Summer)
This New Orleans-based quintet has a song called “The Real Deal” — a swampy, clapboard shuffle that burns with southern soul that’s, well, simply the real deal. Formed by ringleader and renegade Sam Doores, the Deslondes have been gathering a following as they traipsed from the stages of Newport Folk to opening for Alabama Shakes and fellow Big Easy inhabitants Hurray for the Riff Raff. With an album expected in late spring or early summer on New West, they manage to resurrect a lost sound — Stax and Sun records are distinct touch points, as are upright-bass-driven melodies — while giving it a modern, vibrant swing, building on the foundations of old-time traditions without sounding like they’re stepping out of a time machine. M.M.
CMA Music Festival (June 11th-14th)
It’s country music’s Comic-Con, four days of concerts, autograph sessions and swag. And its reach is worldwide, as fans from all over the globe flock to Nashville to get some face time with stars past and present. But while the chance to take a selfie with the members of Little Big Town is a draw, it’s the myriad performances — at stages all across town, including the massive nightly shows at LP Field — that distinguish CMA Fest as the must-attend country festival. The lineup won’t be announced until March, but it’s a likely bet that if you’re hearing them on the radio now, you’ll be seeing them live in June. J.H.
It’s been more than a decade since Faith Hill proved her comedic chops in the blockbuster film, Stepford Wives. This year, she’ll add a second movie to her acting resume and first big-screen dramatic role, as she plays the mother of a troubled boy (played by The Leftovers‘ Chris Zylka), who, shortly after being released from prison, falls for the bad-girl-next-door (Riley Keough, of Magic Mike and Presley family fame) in Dixieland. In addition to seeing the soft-spoken singer in what sounds like it could be a gritty role, the anticipation for the crime-drama is escalated by another supporting cast mate: the outspoken Steve Earle. There’s no word yet on what role the “Copperhead Road” traveler tackles in the film, but it’s sure to be memorable. B.D.
Ty Herndon’s Follow-Up to ‘Lies I Told Myself’ (TBD)
In 2013, Ty Herndon released his most recent album. The title, Lies I Told Myself, would take on greater significance when the singer-songwriter came out publicly as a gay man in November 2014. Although his coming-out has temporarily overshadowed Hendon’s music career, it doesn’t seem to have halted it. If anything, the declaration, and the flurry of media attention that followed, gave him the opportunity to remind fans that he has been performing live and making music all along, including the Grammy-nominated contemporary Christian LP, Journey On, in 2010. What the follow-up to Lies will offer remains to be heard, but this year’s album will be his first as an out-and-proud gay man, which would, of course, mark a milestone for country music. Herndon will also be touring this year on a triple bill with fellow country stars Andy Griggs and Jamie O’Neal. S.B.
Honeyhoney’s Follow-Up to ‘Billy Jack’ (TBD)
After releasing two albums on now-defunct labels — including Lost Highway Records, the Americana powerhouse that folded just a few months after the band’s sophomore LP, Billy Jack, hit shelves — Honeyhoney took matters into their own hands, rebranding themselves as roots-rock independents and hitting the road on their own dime. Their upcoming third release finds them back on a label’s roster — Rounder Records, to be specific — but the fierce, ball-busting attitude that steered the boy-girl twosome during their DIY days is still on full display. Also occupying the spotlight are harmony-heavy songs like “Yours to Bear,” a crowd favorite during the band’s 2013 tour with Jake Bugg, and “Big Man,” a dark, driving rocker that bandmate Ben Jaffe describes as “a churchy funeral song.” Dave Cobb, the producer behind award-winning records for Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson, recorded the album in his Nashville studio, proof that Honeyhoney have finally made it into Americana’s “cool kids” club — even as their music looks far beyond that genre’s borders. A.L.
‘I Saw the Light’ (TBD)
In development since 2009, the long-awaited Hank Williams biopic will finally see the light in 2015. English actor Tom Hiddleston, who starred in the Avengers series before landing the lead role of Hank Williams Sr., put himself through musical boot camp last summer, running through daily guitar lessons and vocal exercises with music supervisor Rodney Crowell. The two even crashed one of the stages at the 2014 Wheatland Music Festival in Michigan, where Hiddleston flexed his country muscles by performing impromptu versions of “Move It on Over” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” Hank Williams III has been a big critic of I Saw the Light in recent months, claiming that a Bible Belt-born actor like Matthew McConaughey would be able to play his grandfather with much more authenticity. . .but 1,500 happy Wheatland fans can’t be wrong, can they? A.L.
Loretta Lynn’s Follow-Up to ‘Van Lear Rose’ (TBD)
In April, it will be a full 10 years since the release of Loretta Lynn’s remarkable Jack White-produced album, Van Lear Rose. That Grammy-winning LP may not be the last collaboration for the unlikely pair, Lynn hinted late in 2013, but it’ll have to wait. Since around 2007, the country icon has been recording several projects that are now set to see the light of day, thanks to a deal with Sony Music’s Legacy Recordings division, which was announcedthe day after the Coal Miner’s Daughter appeared with Kacey Musgraves on the 2014 CMA Awards. The first of these recordings, due this year, will include country standards and updated versions of the singer-songwriter’s own classics, along with gospel tunes and Appalachian folk songs she learned from her mother as a young girl living in Butcher Holler, Kentucky. Also among them will be fresh, original material penned by Lynn herself. S.B.
Kip Moore, ‘Smoke’ (TBD)
Ah, this is nice to see: a country chart-topper who writes not some, or even most, but all of his own songs. On Moore’s next album, reportedly titled Smoke, the raspy-throated thirtysomething sings about the redemption of Sunday morning (“Dirt Road”), the blue-collar struggle of the working week (“Comeback Kid”) and the romantic thrill of teenage nights (“Young Love”). Originally due out last summer, Smoke was delayed by nearly a year — possibly by a record label that balked when the album’s flagship single, “Dirt Road,” barely cracked the Top 40, or maybe by a cautious Moore who wanted to tweak and fine-tune his twang before releasing the official follow-up to 2012’s lauded Up All Night. The singer promises it’ll be worth the wait, telling Rolling Stone Country, “I believe in this record even more than I did the first one. I’ve seen the way our fans react to the new songs, and I know what it’s going to do.” A.L.
Kacey Musgraves’ Follow-Up to ‘Same Trailer Different Park’ (TBD)
Nearly two years have elapsed since the release of Kacey Musgraves’ Same Trailer Different Park, and what a two years it has been for the Texan. Her universally acclaimed album topped the country chart and went on to win a Grammy for Best Country Album, while one of the LP’s most buzzed-about tracks, “Follow Your Arrow,” was named CMA Song of the Year. Musgraves joined Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town and Katy Perry as an opener on their respective tours, hauling her Trailer all over the world, while plotting her next musical move. The new LP will once again be co-produced by the singer with Luke Laird and Shane McAnally, but little else has been revealed about the project. Last fall, however, Musgraves told the Tennessean, “I’m going to go with my gut and make it about the songs. . . I’ve found my stride, and I’m doing something that makes sense to me.” S.B.
Country Goes Back to Basics (All Year)
The last year or so saw artists such as Lee Ann Womack and Brandy Clark releasing albums with an emphasis on stripped-down production and engaging story songs, a trend we’re excited to see continue in 2015. Jamey Johnson recently gave the first taste of his 2015 album with the sparse, nostalgic “Alabama Pines,” which lopes along with a primarily acoustic sound. An early listen to the music Tyler Farr will release this year — like possible album track “Suffer in Peace” — is similarly encouraging, full of soul-baring lyrics and traditional country phrasing. And pop-country duo Love and Theft, whose last single was the party-hearty “Night That You’ll Never Forget,” have switched gears in 2015 with “Whiskey on My Breath” — a heartbreaker of a regret ballad about meeting one’s maker reeking of booze. J.H.
2. Ben Khan’s perfect neo-pop banger “Youth” has a style all its own.
3. Mas Ysa’s devastating and rapturous “Shame.”
4. Kindness’ minimalist ’80s pop jam “This Is Not About Us.”
5. Nashville via Houston crooner Robert Ellis’ dusty barn-burner “Sing Along.”
6. Tielsie’s uncanny sugar rush “Palette” is like snorting ecstasy in the eye of the apocalypse.
7. The lovelorn tropicalia of Sunless 97 and Palmistry’s “Aia.”
8. Azealia Banks’ underrated comeback curb stomp “Heavy Metal and Reflective.”
9. Sturgill Simpson’s wry and loping “Turtles All the Way Down.”
10. YouTube sensation Troye Sivan’s post-808s and Heartbreak standout “Happy Little Pill.”
11. Little Dragon’s indelible and slightly melancholic “Paris.”
12. Dominque Young Unique’s claustrophobic club banger “Throw It Down.”
13. Mr. Twin Sister’s lush and lusty “Blush.”
14. Indiana’s hard-charging Nine Inch Nails–meets–Robyn anthem “Solo Dancing.”
15. Sylvan Esso’s ebullient “Coffee.”
17. Brandy Clark’s strummy, feminist ode to marijuana, “Get High.”
18. Survival Knife’s heavy, enveloping “Thud of the Jackboot.”
19. A$AP Ferg’s weird, awesome “Doe-Active.”
20. Route 94’s sexy, deep-house gem “My Love.”
21. The wistfully unrequited “Archie, Marry Me” from Toronto pop dreamersAlvvays.
22. The sly, come-hither pop of MØ’s “Don’t Wanna Dance.”
23. Eighteen-year-old Australian rapper Tkay Maidza’s electro hip-hop banger “Switch Lanes.”
24. Saint Pepsi’s post-disco delight “Fiona Coyne.”
25. Kelis’ potent, sticky “Jerk Ribs.”
26. Wildbeasts’ dark, magnificent “Wanderlust.”
27. Gyptian’s love-drunk and infectious Ricky Blaze re-match “Stunta.”
29. Meg Myers’ barbed and riff-addled kiss-off “Go.”
30. Wye Oak’s big, groove-laden “Glory.”
31. Gallant’s masterful, steamy R&B epic “Jupiter Grayscale” beats Miguel and Usher at their own game.
32. Modest Mouse stick the landing after a nearly eight-year absence with the rollicking “Lampshades on Fire.”
33. Princess Nokia’s ethereal jungle jam “Dragons.”
34. Aeges’ head-banging, riot-ready “Fault.”
35. The crestfallen, finely crafted synth-pop of Oregonian newcomer Grace Mitchell’s “Broken Over You.”
36. Seinabo Sey’s soulful, life-affirming anthem “Hard Time.”
37. The triumphant, tribal funk pop of Sinkane’s “New Name.”
38. Duke Dumont’s Whitney Houston-interpolating, dancefloor exultation “I Got U.”
39. Isaiah Rashad’s head-nodding street single “R.I.P Kevin Miller.”
40. Caribou’s bass-heavy and tender “Our Love.”
41. Galimatias & Sorrow’s haunting and beautiful daydream “Subside.”
42. Rustie and Danny Brown’s thunderous synth assault “Attak.”
43. The swaggering, defiant new wave of Protomartyr’s “Come & See.”
44. Tei Shi’s taut, cathartic breakthrough, “Bassically.”
45. How to Dress Well’s bravura, R&B masterpiece “What You Wanted” is more luxurious and satisfying than a deep-tissue massage.
46. Shura’s instantly gratifying debut single, “Touch.”
47. Flight Facilities’ intimate siren call “Two Bodies.”
48. Nadus’ glimmering and gargantuan club banger “Nxwxrk.”
49. Partynextdoor’s, sprawling, turnt tirade “Recognize” has the added bonus of the year’s best Drake feature.
50. Travi$ Scott’s baroque turn-up anthem “Don’t Play” featuring Big Sean andThe 1975.
51. The champion music of Cam’ron and Juelz Santana’s Dipset reunion “Dipshits,” produced by Just Blaze and A-Trak.
52. Doss’ digital dreamscape “The Way I Feel.”
53. Young Ejecta’s kinetic disco romp “Your Planet.”
54. Flying Lotus’ postcard from the precipice “Coronus, The Terminator.”
55. Majid Jordan’s silky smooth serenade “Her.”
56. Shlohmo and Jeremih’s sex jam from the future “No More.”
57. The percussive, modernist ballad “The Love You Have in You” by Asbjørn.
59. The long fuse of SZA’s haunting “Babylon” featuring Kendrick Lamar.
60. Jamie xx’s nationalist paean to U.K. hardcore “All Under One Roof Raving.”
61. Son Lux’s eerie and beguiling Lorde collaboration “Easy (Switch Screens)” will make you admire both artists more.
62. Angel Olsen’s smoldering, acoustic lament “White Fire.”
63. Sophie and A.G. Cook’s madcap hot-air balloon “Hey QT.”
64. La Roux’s insouciant dancefloor singalong “Sexoteque.”