Meghan Trainor Releases New and Approved Cut of ‘Me Too’ Video

Yesterday (May 9) Meghan Trainor originally released the video for her latest single ‘Me Too.’  Trainor took the video down after just a few hours because she believed the video was heavily photoshopped. Her waist, which she claimed “is not that teeny,” had been trimmed down throughout the video.

On Snapchat, Trainor let her fans know that she wasn’t going to put up with that kind of treatment and said the people behind the video were going to make things right.

Today, Trainor and her team worked quickly to re-release the video today.

Trainor and this song are all about confidence. It is nice to see that she is holding those around her to a higher standard.

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SoundScan’s 2015 Half-Year Report: Taylor Wins, Strong Streaming Growth Fails to Stop Album Decline

Accountant

No doubt remains that it is the year of streaming — the format has come to dominate music consumption in the U.S.

In the first half of 2015 streaming nearly doubled in popularity over last year, generating 135.2 billion streams, up from 70.3 billion streams in the same period last year. (Some of this growth can be attributed to improved data capture, according to Nielsen Music.)

Audio-only listening generated 58.6 billion streams, versus 33.7 billion last year, an increase of 74.2 percent. Audio’s growth was topped by video streams, which accounted for 76.6 billion view-listens, an increase of 109.2 percent from the 36.6 billion streams counted in 2014.

Taylor Swift is ruling the year so far, with 1989 the best-selling album of the first half of 2015 (not to mention topping 2014, too). Last year, 1989 grabbed the top spot with 3.66 million units moved. The album has scanned 1.33 million units so far this year, followed by Drake‘s If You’re Reading This… with 965,000 units. In vinyl sales Swift also reigned, selling 34,000 units. A combined tally of album sales, track downloads and streams leaves Swift, yet again, atop the mountain, totaling 2.011 million album and album equivalent units.

Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk!” featuring Bruno Mars is this year’s top-selling single so far, scanning 4.9 million units. Drake’s If You’re Reading This… takes the lead on digital album sales, moving (or transferring, if you prefer) 895,000.

Universal Music Group has improved on its industry lead in market share within album plus track equivalent albums (TEA), growing to 39.2 percent of the total market in the first half of the year.

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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

Meghan Trainor Sails Away in Search of Her (Dear) Future Husband

Me and the boys: Meghan's hunky dancers were dressed in shorts, bow ties and boaters 

The 21-year-old took to the stage singing her new song Dear Future Husband,at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, dressed head to toe in a sparkly sailor’s outfit.

Meghan is nominated for three awards tonight – Best New Artist, Song of the Year for “All About That Bass,” and the special Renegade Award.

Meghan Trainor Searches for Her Dream Guy in ‘Dear Future Husband’ Video

Meghan Trainor

In the new video from Trainor’s debut album Title, Trainor hosts a series of aspiring boyfriends, all of whom simply do not listen to her simple rules and get dismissed. “You gotta know how to treat me like a lady, even when I’m acting crazy,”

“Dear Future Husband,” the third cut off her debut Title album, came attached with a list of dates for her upcoming MTrain Tour. Her new trek, which immediately follows her That Bass Tour, kicks off on July 3 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Find the itinerary for her MTrain Tour below:

July 3:       Atlantic City, NJ                      The Borgata

July 4:       Uncasville, CT                         Mohegan Sun

July 7:       Lansing, MI                             Common Ground Music Festival

July 9:       Detroit, MI                               Fillmore

July 12:     Chicago, IL                              Aragon Ballroom

July 14:     St. Louis, MO                          The Pageant

July 16:     San Antonio, TX                      The Tobin Center for Performing

July 18:     Denver, CO                            The Fillmore

July 21:     San Francisco, CA                 The Masonic

July 22:     Paso Robles, CA                    California Mid State Fair

July 24:     Los Angeles, CA                     The Palladium

July 27:     Harrington, DE                        Delaware State Fair

July 29:     Troy, PA                                  Troy Fair

July 31:     New York, NY                         JBL Live at Pier 97

Aug. 2:       Columbus, OH                        Ohio State Fair

Aug. 5:       Philadelphia, PA                      Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing

Aug. 6:       Boston, MA                             Blue Hills Bank Pavilion

Aug. 11:     Indianapolis, IN                       Indiana State Fair

Aug. 13:     Hamburg, NY                          Erie County Fair

Aug. 15:     Nashville, TN                          Ryman Auditorium

Aug. 16:     Atlanta, GA                             The Tabernacle

Aug. 18:     Raleigh, NC                            The Ritz

Aug. 20:     Louisville, KY                          Kentucky State Fair

Aug. 22:     Des Moines, IA                       Iowa State Fair

Sept. 1:       St. Paul, MN                           Minnesota State Fair

Sept. 3:       Syracuse, NY                         New York State Fair

Sept. 4:       Essex Junction, VT                 Champlain Valley Exposition

Sept. 6:       Allentown, PA                         Allentown Fair

Graphing the Grammys: How 2015’s Record of the Year Nominees Stack Up

Originally posted on Rollingstone.com 
BY  | February 4, 2015

Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, Iggy Azalea, Sia and Meghan Trainor by the numbers

This year, the five Grammy nominees for Record of the Year — the most prestigious award of the evening — are all monster singles — hundreds of millions of YouTube plays, Platinum certifications and at least three Hot 100 chart-toppers.

To compare the similarities and differences between the five nominated songs, we plotted them by nine sets of data: social media dominance, lyrical content, speed, duration, accomplishments and more — and finally, we just threw our hands up and said who we’d like to see win.

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Jimmy Fallon Sings ‘We Are The Champions’ With Every Music Superstar


In honor of his Patriots winning Super Bowl XLIX, Jimmy Fallon brought together an all-star cast of musicians to help him sing an awesome version of “We Are The Champions.”  Stars include Carrie Underwood, Sam Smith, Ariana Grande, Blake Shelton, Usher, Meghan Trainor, One Direction and even Christina Aguilera.

Watch below.

The Vocal Life Coach

originally posted on BuzzFeed

Pop stars like Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, and Meghan Trainor go to great lengths to protect their voices — and their livelihood — amid grueling tour schedules and high-pressure performances (Super Bowl, anyone?). “Vocal life coach” Eric Vetro, whose major heart and minor ego have survived 30 years in Hollywood, keeps their spirits and notes high.

It’s a Friday afternoon in Los Angeles, and Vanessa Hudgens is getting warmed up. She’s kicked off her boots, stretched out her neck, and stepped onto the white carpet in the cozy music room of her vocal coach, Eric Vetro. Sunlight pours in through the patio doors, and Vetro sits at a black baby grand — a high-end digital model he prefers for lessons because it always stays in tune. As he plunks out exercises, Hudgens begins making weird sounds with her voice: hees, hoos, haws, and heys, wes, mas and whiny-sounding nayayays.

“Now say, ‘Yum yum yum yum yum yum,’” Vetro says, and Hudgens sings back, Yum yum yum yum yum yum, following along to the piano. Vetro, flashing a smile, says: “Nod your head ‘yes.’ Roll your shoulders. Now, big gestures with your arms.” The young singer-actor — of High School Musical and Spring Breakers fame — raises her wrists and clicks them together above her head, then drops them gracefully as she reaches a high note.

Hudgens, who, at 26, has been working with Vetro on and off since she was about 17, has met with him regularly lately to prepare for her first major Broadway production. She’s playing the title role in Gigi, now in the middle of a pre-Broadway run at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (ending Feb. 12). Today, though, inside Vetro’s elegant Southern-style craftsman home, they’re preparing for a different performance: an upcoming show at a fundraiser honoring the songwriter Diane Warren, one of the vocal coach’s close friends.

Accompanied by piano and cello, the former played by Vetro, Hudgens will sing “I Was Here,” a ballad Warren penned for Beyoncé about the legacy one leaves behind at the end of life. The song hits close to home: Only a day before this lesson, Hudgens’ boyfriend’s mother passed away (“I miss you already mama,” she wrote on Twitter that night). Despite the emotional weight of the loss, she’s cool-headed and ready to work in Vetro’s music room, taking occasional sips of throat-coat tea from a mug that bears the logo KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.

She’s always loved singing here.

“It’s like going over to a friend’s house to practice,” Hudgens says later. “He wants you to come into his home. He wants you to come into his life. He’s just open.”

Eric Vetro. With Becky G, top. Macey Foronda / BuzzFeed News

From a superficial glance, one might assume that mainstream pop is full of vocal artifice. Pitch-correct programs like Auto-Tune have made it easy for the most mediocre singers to stay on key, while big producers often resort to cut-and-paste techniques to conjure hit performances out of countless vocal takes. Marketing and manipulation play such a big part in the hit machine these days that “authenticity” has taken on new meaning. Critics might see this in the case of a Disney veteran like Hudgens, whose greatest hits to date, including 2008’s “Sneakernight,” can feel like the products of a teen pop assembly line.

But Vetro, who is professionally predisposed to value old-world vocal craft, isn’t dismayed by technology. One of the country’s most in-demand vocal coaches, he’s been working in Hollywood for 30-plus years. His pupils include Hollywood actors, Broadway singers, and pop stars like Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, and “All About That Bass” hit-maker Meghan Trainor (all of whom are nominated for Grammy Awards this year). Vetro has lived through the rise of Auto-Tune, and he says it’s never had an impact on his business. He asserts that proper technique and vocal maintenance are still crucial for working artists, and that many singers and producers who record in fancy studios still push to get the most genuine vocal performances possible.

“I completely proceed as if there is no such thing — as if Auto-Tune never existed,” he says, speaking about his approach during lessons. “I try to really help people sound as good as they can, sing as well as they can, and then I figure, you know, if the producer decides, ‘Ooh, we need a little help here. We need to do something,’ then that’s great that he has that tool. But I really don’t ever even consider it on any kind of level.”

Vetro, 58, has a warm and magnetic personality. His students find him easy to make friends with, and as a teacher, he likes to keep a low profile to preserve the sanctity of the work. Unlike other well-known vocal coaches, like Seth Riggs — pioneer of “Speech Level Singing” and coach of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder — Vetro doesn’t have a trademark method. In fact, he doesn’t even have a Facebook page. His website looks like it was designed in 1998, and his Twitter account has been barren for over a year. Still, he loves being around creatives, and in celebrity singing circles, his name is well regarded.

“Eric Vetro is quite the character,” Katy Perry tells BuzzFeed News. She’s been working with Vetro for six years, meeting with him to do warm-ups and cool-downs whenever she’s home in L.A. When she’s on tour, she brings CDs he’s made for her containing specialized exercises. “He kind of reminds me of a character from a Christopher Guest movie. He’s very bubbly and positive, always extremely positive. Never really talks about his other clients, and if he does — if he says a little tidbit — it’s always a very kind, nice thing. He would never dish.”

As for Grande, she once tweeted: “Eric Vetro is my favorite person ever.”

Vocal coaching/teaching has been a steady cottage industry for decades. Allen Henderson, executive director of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, estimates that there are well over 10,000 vocal instructors working in North America today. Many of them operate at beginner or intermediate levels, schooling kids on the basics or helping karaoke diehards crush the competition. Meanwhile, in the upper echelons of pop, opera, classical, and musical theater, Henderson says some in-demand maestros get paid upwards of $200 to $300 per hour for their services — if not more. (Vetro declined to discuss his rates on record.)

Even for the naturally gifted, being a singer is demanding work. Other musicians have instruments to stand behind. All singers have is the soft tissue that makes up their lungs, larynx, and vocal cords. For the best vocalists, the stakes can be perilously high. On tour or during extended show runs, some of Vetro’s clients go months without a day off. When the lights go on and the curtain goes up, exhaustion or an imploding personal life is no excuse for disappointing the crowd. So, many singers go to great lengths to protect their voices.

“If I only have 70% of my voice, I’m not excited. I’m not happy. If I only have 50% of my voice, it’s bad,” Perry says. “If I get hoarse, it’s over. It’s not like, ‘Oh, I can just press some track or something.’ We kind of treat my vocal cords like a Fabergé egg of sorts.”

Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Vetro always has a busy schedule. He sees students seven days a week, and he’s backstage at most of the big L.A. awards shows. He often rises at odd hours or takes breaks from dinner with friends to help touring artists with warm-ups via Skype and FaceTime. His clients marvel at his approach, in which he brings a lot of physicality to the art of breath support, vocal placement, vocal maintenance, and other core issues.

“We do things where we shake our whole body,” says David Burnham, an actor and singer who’s worked with Vetro for 15 years. “We bend over and sing the high note when we’re bending over. We click our wrists together above our head. We stomp on the ground with our feet. There’s lots of different things to loosen you up so that you don’t have tension in your neck, in your throat.”

Though Vetro circulates among the Hollywood celebrities now, he comes from humble beginnings. He grew up in Gloversville, New York, a small city about 50 miles north of Albany. Once a hub for the nation’s glove manufacturers, he says it wasn’t exactly an ideal environment for a budding music lover. “I could not wait to leave,” he recalls.

Still, Vetro’s parents were amateur artists — his dad loved playing jazz, and both parents had a knack for painting. While they wanted Vetro to be a lawyer, they let him splurge on records and bought him a piano, and they didn’t mind when he started an amateur teaching practice, bringing classmates home from elementary school to help them brush up on assembly standards like “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.”

“I’ve just always, always loved hearing people sing — more than hearing musical instruments play,” Vetro says. It’s a quiet evening in November, and he’s sitting cross-legged on a leather couch in his music room, wearing an understated combo of dark blue jeans and a black-maroon dress shirt. “To me, [the voice] is a very intimate and genuine line of communication… That’s why I think so many miscommunications these days happen through texts and emails. Someone can say something, but it’s the way they say it that really communicates their real thoughts.”

In the ’70s, Vetro left Gloversville to study voice and piano at NYU. At night he’d hit the clubs uptown with friends like Desmond Child, who went on to become a famed songwriter and producer. Meanwhile, Vetro roved from music teacher to music teacher, eventually finding a mentor in Lloyd Walser, at the time the chorus master at the New York City Opera. Walser, who died in 1986, was a domineering instructor — sometimes he’d cut a lesson short with a subpar student by declaring, “You have exhausted me!” Vetro opted to cut such brusqueness out of his own practice, but he was inspired by Walser’s targeted approach.

“He would listen to the singer sing an aria, and then he would take a second to assess what really needed the most work,” Vetro says. “And he would tell them, ‘This is what’s good. This is what needs work.’ And that’s what you’d work on. That was very, very revealing to me. He wasn’t trying to make everyone sound the same — ‘This is how you do it.’ He was like, ‘What makes this person special? Why are they good here? What do they need work on?’”

Vetro moved to Los Angeles permanently in 1984, and he’s been picking up steady teaching work ever since. He can afford to be choosy about his clients, though not all of them are famous. Some come directly from producers, like Perry and Becky G collaborator Dr. Luke, who’s hired Vetro to teach some of his artists. At this point, it seems Vetro has been in such close proximity to the annals of pop power for so long that he’s developed an understanding and appreciation for how the system works. Some critics might balk at things like Auto-Tune and Melodyne, a piece of software that lets users reshape recorded performances. But in Vetro’s eyes, those are simply tools producers have at their disposal — which, in recent years, he’s noticed some of them using less and less.

“To be honest with you, the really good producers, the Dr. Lukes, people like that, Max Martin, I think it’s like a pride thing with them that they really try not to use it, if possible,” he says. “They’ll spend extra time to get a really great performance so they don’t have to use that tool.”

Filters in the studio or no, there are still plenty of singers in the mainstream who are actually, well, singing. The proof is in their live shows, and also, alarmingly enough, in the injuries they sustain. In 2011, Adele had surgery to remove a benign vocal polyp, a blistery, fluid-filled bump that sapped her voice of its power and forced her to cancel tour dates. In 2013, Frank Ocean also canceled a tour after tearing one of his vocal cords. And John Mayer was sidelined for over a year while he received two surgeries to repair a granuloma in his throat.

Joanna Cazden, a speech pathologist at the voice and speech program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, compares the fields of vocal medicine and surgery to sports medicine. Powerful though the vocal cords may be, they’re susceptible to wear and tear, in much the same way joggers can get knee problems. Often major issues can be avoided through proper technique and care, but Cazden says the lesser-known workhorses of the music industry — Broadway cast members, backup singers — are especially vulnerable to vocal health problems because of more limited resources, less awareness, and the challenges, even potential hazards, of the job.

“I worked with someone who was in one of the casts of The Lion King, and she has a headdress that weighs 40 pounds,” Cazden says. As is customary with touring musical theater productions, the patient was performing up to eight shows a week — “dancing, with 40 pounds on her head, in this posture. And then she gets vocal trouble, because she can’t breathe fully, because her back is busy supporting the headdress.”

Katy Perry, for her part, is done with the debate over Auto-Tune. “That’s such a conversation from 2005,” she says. “Everybody fucking uses it. It’s just about, how much do they use it? Some people need it a lot more than others.” She’s much more concerned with keeping her voice healthy on her long-running Prismatic World Tour, which started in May 2013 and continues through to March, and requires about two hours and 10 minutes of singing per stop. In a capstone moment for her career, she’ll perform during the Super Bowl half-time show Feb. 1 — the world’s biggest stage — in front of a likely audience upwards of 100 million. It’s the most scrutinized gig in the business (does she risk singing live or lean on a backing track?), and preparation is paramount. Following Vetro’s suggestions, she’s been maintaining a monk-like regimen on the road, sleeping 9 to 10 hours each day and cutting out coffee, alcohol, dairy, and any foods that cause acid reflux.

Though she doesn’t work with Vetro on technique, Perry turns to him for ways to sustain her voice through heavy use. Describing him as a “vocal life coach,” she says he encourages her to maintain her voice-friendly practices and provides rejuvenating warm-ups and vocal exercises.

“We say ‘popcorn, peanuts’ in this really particular way, and anybody that’s in the room when I’m warming up will kind of chime in with me, and it becomes this weird, like, flash-chorus Broadway thing in my dressing room,” Perry says. As for when she’s recording in the studio, “There’s a really noticeable difference in my voice when I go to warm up with him before I go and sing whatever song I’ve written. You can just tell.”

Back at Vetro’s house, his lesson with Hudgens proceeds smoothly. She finishes warming up and then launches into a modified yoga technique that’s a specialty of Vetro’s. He calls it the “Silent Ferocious Lion’s Yawn,” or simply “Lion’s Pose.” Hudgens pushes her arms out, opens her fingers wide, drops open her jaw, and sticks out her tongue. Then, after 10 seconds, she lets out a giant yawn.

After that, it’s time to rehearse “I Was Here,” the Beyoncé song. The track, which originally appeared on Beyoncé’s 2011 album, 4, builds from a tender opening section to a soaring mid-song climax. In the intimacy of Vetro’s music room, the shift feels pronounced. Taking position at a mic stand, her eyes closed as she sways to the melody, Hudgens brings her voice up a full octave to deliver the empowering chorus — only, instead of using actual words, for this initial run-through she uses only vowels:

MAH MAH MAAAAAH

MAH MAH

MAH MAH

MAH MAH MAAAAAAH

MAH MAH

MAH MAH….

Her voice is taut and strong, if not quite a facsimile of Queen Bey. Even without the words, the passion shows through.

On this Friday afternoon, it’s clear that Vetro’s positivity isn’t just part of his personality. It’s also a working philosophy — a way to set singers at ease and let them open up. Still: When his students show up for lessons, they put in work. Requiring months of discipline, Hudgens has prepared for Gigi like a runner would a marathon.

“You have to be in fighting shape,” she says. “You have to make sure that your voice is very strong and agile. You have to make sure that physically you can keep up to the demands of performing twice a day and singing and running around dancing. You’re an athlete.”

Walter McBride / WireImage

24 Breakout Stars In Music In 2014

Originally posted on BuzzFeed

1. Sam Smith

Sam Smith

Getty Images for GQ Jason Merritt

By the time Sam Smith stood onstage at Saturday Night Live in March, he already had you hooked. You may not have recognized his face then or known his name, but you’d certainly heard his angelic voice anchoring Disclosure’s dance hit “Latch.” Now he’s obviously a giant star, and his haunting, gospel-tinged breakup lament “Stay With Me” is one of the undisputed biggest hits of the year. It was first played on Zane Lowe’s BBC radio show on March 25, and it hasn’t been done with our ears since. We’re not complaining.

2. Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran

Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Ed Sheeran bolstered his songwriting career with credits on songs for One Directionand Taylor Swift, but he made a triumphant return to his primary gig with his latest chart-topping album, X. Sheeran went beyond his voice and his guitar on X, flirting with Justin Timberlake-styled pop ‘n B on lead single “Sing” and rapping on “Don’t.” What’s next for Ed Sheeran in 2015? He’ll continue his X tour, which will take him to Europe, Oceania, Asia, and the Americas. Not bad for a guy who came to L.A. in 2010 with no Hollywood connections.

3. DJ Mustard

DJ Mustard

David J. Bertozzi / BuzzFeed.

The 24-year-old super producer’s signature sound grew from a hip-hop subgenre (“ratchet”) to radio ubiquity via hits including but not limited to Tinashe’s “2 On,” Big Sean’s “I Don’t Fuck With You,” and Fergie’s “L.A. Love (La La).” But the real sign that DJ Mustard was the producer to beat in 2014? Even the hits he didn’t produce (Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” Migos’ “Fight Night”) bore his unmistakable influence.

4. Meghan Trainor

Meghan Trainor

Isaac Brekken / Getty Images

It seems inconceivable now, but Meghan Trainor and writing partner Kevin Kadishspent months trying to shop around her summer smash “All About That Bass” to no avail. Trainor was working as a songwriter in Nashville at the time and hadn’t considered cutting the song herself. All that changed when legendary record execL.A. Reid heard the song and knew immediately that “Bass” would be a hit and Trainor a star. The doo-wop-inspired ode to booty ultimately spent eight weeks at No. 1 in the U.S. and topped the charts in an astounding 58 countries. While the prospect of being a one-hit wonder loomed large, Trainor’s cheery follow-up single “Lips Are Movin” is climbing up the charts and the genre-bending singer-songwriter is poised for genuine pop stardom.

5. FKA twigs

FKA twigs

Tabatha Fireman / Getty Images

Originally a backup dancer for acts like Kylie Minogue and Taio Cruz, FKA twigs has come to center stage as a breathy-whimpery goddess, ushering in a new era of R&B. FKA twigs has drawn comparisons to many fellow Brits who’ve come before her: her barely there voice to Tricky and the sultry Sade, her beats to the trip-hop of Portishead and Massive Attack. Her imagery is in a genre of its own: alternately beautiful and terrifying, from the Walter Keane-esque “Water Me” to the golden opulence of her 2014 hit “Two Weeks.” Music aside, FKA twigs is becoming a celebrity in her own right, with a Vogue photo shoot and feature and a buzzed-about relationship with Robert Pattinson.

6. Nico & Vinz

Nico & Vinz

Getty Images for Clear Channel Bryan Steffy

There were perhaps no better exemplars of the mass globalization of pop music in 2014 than Nicolas “Nico” Sereba and Vincent “Vinz” Dery, whose irrepressibly optimistic ode to moral rectitude, “Am I Wrong,” was the surprise hit of the summer, scaling to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Sereba and Dery, who were raised in Norway by Norwegian mothers and fathers from the Ivory Coast and Ghana, respectively, began as a hip-hop duo before expanding those borders in a bid to bring their message of peace and positivity to a broader audience. They weren’t wrong.

7. Azealia Banks

Azealia Banks

Tim P. Whitby / Getty Images

After years of promising teases and a notoriously bitter and protracted fallout with her major label, Interscope, Azealia Banks’ long-awaited debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste, had achieved near-mythical status. But in 2014, to everyone’s surprise, it actually saw the light of day. Even better? It didn’t disappoint. Rife with amiable club tracks that effortlessly hop, skip, and jump between hip-hop, electro, and even cumbia, Banks proved that she was well worth the wait. Twitter antics andblood feuds aside, this year her artistry spoke for itself.

8. Hozier

Hozier

Bertrand Guay / AFP

After dropping out of Trinity College in Dublin, Andrew Hozier-Byrne embarked upon a musical journey that has landed him performances at this year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and on Saturday Night Live, and a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year. The singer-songwriter’s breakout hit “Take Me to Church” is a sparse hymn that draws upon religious imagery to describe love, no doubt influenced by the Roman Catholic stronghold in Ireland. The accompanying music video is a grayscale depiction of a homophobic hate crime. Hozier, an outspoken supporter of LGBT rights, has described anti-LGBT violence as “a human rights issue, and it should offend us all.”

9. Charli XCX

Charli XCX

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

After years of being billed as “the next big thing,” Charli XCX finally broke through in a major way this summer thanks to the one-two punch of “Boom Clap” and “Fancy.” Instead of following up these successes with more of the same, XCX pivoted and released a dense, punk-tinged sophomore album. Both glossy and aggressive,SUCKER is the rebel yell of one of pop’s most gifted songwriters.

10. Tinashe

Tinashe

Bryan Bedder / Getty Images

Like Charli XCX, Tinashe successfully transitioned from tastemaker favorite to bona fide pop star in 2014, delivering on the potential of a series of well-received internetmixtapes with the monster radio hit “2 On,” produced by DJ Mustard. But the mainstream exposure didn’t dilute the former actor and dancer’s liquid fusion of Aaliyah’s velvet croon and Drake’s sense of mood and atmosphere. Aquarius, her debut album and one of the year’s best, heralded the dawning of R&B’s new golden age.

11. Bobby Shmurda

Bobby Shmurda

Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

Now that Shmurda’s been locked up in Rikers on myriad charges (conspiracy to commit murder, assault in the first degree, possession of weapons, intent to sell and possession of narcotics, etc.) the title “Breakout Star” carries a whole different connotation, but before things went the wrong way for him he clearly had a big 2014. His “Hot Boy” was inescapable, and he had everyone doing the “Shmoney Dance” — even Queen B Beyoncé. His exuberance in the “Hot Boy” video, along with the song’s memorable lyrics — “ABOUT A WEEK AGO!” — made him easily meme- and Vine-able, two unquestionably valuable keys to finding success in music in 2014. Shmurda could face up to 25 years on conspiracy charges and 15 years each on the weapons charges. If convicted, his would be the quickest rise and fall of a young, talented artist we’ve ever seen.

12. Tove Lo

Tove Lo

Johannes Helje

Flung to our shores from Sweden — global pop music’s molten, ever-bubbling core — like a tendril of white hot plasma, Tove Lo was a refreshing presence on Top 40 radio this year, where her irreverent, drug-themed party anthems “Habits (Stay High)” and “Not On Drugs” were intoxicating insurgents. Her impressive debut album, Queen of the Clouds, delivered some of 2014’s most frank discussions of love, drugs, and sex in mainstream pop music, earning her a slot opening for Katy Perry on tour, a gig writing for Max Martin, and firm status as one of her genre’s most promising new stars.

13. Troye Sivan

Troye Sivan

EMI

If there was any doubt that 2014 was the year that Internet fame eclipsed mainstream celebrity, consider this: When YouTuber Troye Sivan released his debut EP, TRXYE, in August, it shot to the top of more than 50 iTunes charts around the globe. (Up from the 13 countries that sent his lead single “Happy Little Pill” to No. 1 a few weeks before.) A surprisingly sophisticated collection of electro-ballads, the EP announced Sivan as a pop force to be reckoned with.

14. Makonnen

Makonnen

Cam Kirk / BuzzFeed

You could call Makonnen lucky — plucked from his bedroom and obscurity by Drake to turn the remix of his ode to midweek partying, “Tuesday,” into a legit hit — but there’s more to him than just catching a break. His success has been a long time in the making. He was working with It producer Mike Will Made It as far back as 2008, and much of the in-the-know early fans of the Atlanta-based soulster were the result of songs he’d uploaded to his Myspace page. His voice — smooth but gravel-tinged at the same damn time — is undeniable and undeniably appealing. Whether he’s singing about how he no longer sells Molly or… the drugs he is selling… he’s doing it over fat synth chords and entrancing beats that hook listeners in. Big year.

15. Run The Jewels

Run The Jewels

Ross Gilmore / Redferns

There was a lot to be angry and sad about this year, and no one captured those two feelings with as much eloquence and awe-inspiring bombast as NYC rapper-producer El-P and Dungeon Family patron saint Killer Mike’s Run The Jewels. Particularly, Mike’s verse on the RTJ song “Early” — about how quickly a police stop can go wrong if you’re the wrong color — had particular resonance this year. The duo’s performance of it on Letterman shortly before the verdict in Ferguson was one of the most powerful performances on TV this year. Their 2014 offering Run The Jewels 2 was Pitchfork’s Album of the Year, and Rolling Stone named it Best Rap Album of 2014. It, like their newly found slow bleed into crossover success, is well earned.

16. Jack Antonoff

Jack Antonoff

Theo Wargo / Getty Images for Firefly Music Festival

Between the Bleachers album and his contributions to Taylor Swift’s world-conquering 1989, Jack Antonoff carved out a niche for himself as pop music’s foremost ‘80s enthusiast. Everything from his aggressive, abounding optimism to his fondness for sugary synths, clattering drum machines, and anthemic choruses evokes the Decade of Decadence. What separates Antonoff from other ‘80s imitators, however, is the way he incorporates his influences into the current pop landscape; as a result songs like “I Want To Get Better” or “Out of the Woods” sound nostalgic instead of dated.

17. Young Thug

Young Thug

Decoding the dyspeptic yaup of Atlanta’s Young Thug was every rap nerd’s favorite pastime this year, but whatever he was really saying on breakthrough tracks including “Stoner,” “Danny Glover,” “Lifestyle,” and “About the Money,” Thug’s magnetism, originality, and influence were unmistakable. In record time, his oddball persona and idiosyncratic flow became the new normal in rap, clearing the way for other weirdos like ILOVEMAKONNEN, Shy Glizzy, and Dej Loaf, while established heavyweights (*ahem,* T.I.) struggled to catch up. That his label situation still seemsunsettled and a proper debut album remains elusive may be a moot point: Hip-hop’s Young Thug era is already well under way.

18. Shawn Mendes

Shawn Mendes

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

While Shawn Mendes ended this year mugging with Taylor Swift at her star-studded birthday party, the 16-year-old singer-songwriter began 2014 as just another social media star singing covers in his bedroom. It wasn’t until the Canadian cutie signed with Island Records in May that things really began to take off. In June, Mendes made history as the youngest artist to debut in the top 25 of Billboard’s Hot 100 with a first chart entry with his single “Life of the Party.” Just a few weeks later, The Shawn Mendes EP reached No. 1 on iTunes within 40 minutes of its release. His earnest guitar-driven pop has earned him an enormous internet following, a Teen Choice Award, and a much-coveted spot on Taylor Swift’s 1989 tour.

19. Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen

Jagjaguwar / Zia Anger

Bolstered by her leap from a tiny record label to the still-small but formidable Jagjaguwar (home of Bon Iver), Angel Olsen’s third album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, achieved cold fusion in February, breathing life into the young year like kindling to a flame. Her signature voice, which seems to have wafted in from somewhere outside of time, thrived over muscular instrumentation from a new backing band (the singer-songwriter and guitarist’s first), and reviews of a retooled live show were rapturous. Alt folk has a new hero.

20. Future Islands

Future Islands

Mark Metcalfe / Getty Images

A cult favorite in blog circles and around their native Baltimore for years, three and a half minutes on David Letterman in March changed everything for Future Islands, thrusting the amicable yet hard-to-classify band into the national spotlight. The gods of popular culture are mysterious and fickle, but fame hit Future Islands at a fortuitous time, heaping a little extra love on the band’s enchanting fourth album,Singles, while bringing a new and well-deserved audience to earlier recordings. Frontman Samuel Herring has always sung and danced like a man on fire; this year, he really was.

21. YG

YG

Christopher Polk / Getty Images

After the East Coast/West Coast rap war of the ’90s crowned a clear winner (the South), the focus shifted away from both and has yet to come back. Enter Compton’s YG. His bold and catchy album My Krazy Life reminds us that California knows how to party — it’s a funky, Funkadelic-inspired concept album that, like Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, emulates the West Coast classics, but with a twist: Krazy Life takes us through a day in the life of a South Central L.A. gangster. With beats by longtime partner and undisputed producer of the year DJ Mustard (please, Tupac in Heaven, let this new beef between the two be a publicity stunt), it bumps with a ferocity so lyrically astute listeners sat up and took notice this year, raising YG’s profile along the way.

22. St. Vincent

St. Vincent

Thos Robinson / Getty Images for American Expres

Annie Clark’s fourth album as St. Vincent follows 2011’s critically acclaimed Strange Mercy. On St. Vincent, Clark’s eclectic lyrics are laid over jaunty guitars and nontraditional melodies, with her lines spanning topics from routine masturbation in “Birth in Reverse” to the Burning Man-meets-Bible-verse visions of “Rattlesnake.” Earlier this year, she charmed and confused the masses with her Saturday Night Live performances of “Birth in Reverse” and “Digital Witness,” featuring hand and arm choreography, mechanical movements, and an unblinking stare. And she is definitely ending 2014 on a high note — she’s been featured on numerous year-end best of lists for her innovative take on pop.

23. Sturgill Simpson

Sturgill Simpson

Erika Goldring / Getty Images

It’s not often you find a country album that espouses the benefits of using DMT or that’s named, in part, after a Seth Abramson poem, but then again Sturgill Simpson’sMetamodern Sounds in Country Music isn’t your average country album. In fact, it’s a shot between the eyes to a good deal of the so-called “Bro Country” that runs the radio waves these days. Simpson himself has said he aimed to make “the kind of country record I’m having trouble finding anywhere else” — outsider art with a rebel edge that’s a throwback to Nashville stars of yesteryear but still, somehow, thoroughly modern. Metamodern, even. Simpson’s second self-released album, bolstered by the philosophical meditation on religion and drugs “Turtles All the Way Down,” is on every year end list worth its salt — NPR, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, etc. — and was, according to Simpson, the last album he would’ve been able to write and record on his own had it not sparked a fire. Luckily, it didn’t just catch, it exploded, ensuring we’ll all be able to enjoy this kind of music for a long time to come.

24. Us The Duo

Us The Duo

Republic Records

Michael and Carissa Alvarado — better known as Us The Duo — posted their first six-second cover on Vine in November 2013 and made history when they landed a deal with Republic Records and became the platform’s first major-label signing less than six months later. However, the married musical team’s meteoric rise didn’t stop there: They rereleased their sophomore album, No Matter Where You Are, headlined an international tour, and released their first music video — all while continuing to post their popular six-second videos on Vine. They may be a product of the internet age, but their sweet folk-pop sound is timeless.