Sure, 2014’s not over yet, but we’d like to pause for a moment and look at some of our favorite live performances so far. Read on below for the Ones To Watch moments that had us raving after we witnessed them.
10. “Wonderful Everyday: Arthur” - Chance The Rapper and The Social Experiment
What a wonderful kind of day it was when Chance The Rapper and his band The Social Experiment enlist guests like Jessie Ware, Wyclef Jean, Donnie Trumpet, and Peter Cottontale for a cover of “Believe in Yourself,” the theme song from the PBS children’s show Arthur.
9. “Two Weeks” - FKA Twigs
R&B stunner FKA twigs floated across the Atlantic Ocean over towards us shrouded in mystique. When she finally landed, she was so ambitious that she took to Jimmy Fallon’s stage with just a scarf, lasers, and some fans and yet somehow made all the jaws drop.
8. “Change” - Banks
Ones To Watch Jillian Banks quietly rose to the top in 2014 with her intense stage presence, where she delivered emotionally impacted song after another. One of the most magnetic presences in R&B at this point in history, if you don’t know her by now, you can start here.
7. “Love Lockdown” - Glass Animals
Of all the covers to surface in 2014, one of the most delectably twisted ones was Ones To Watch band Glass Animals’ bluesy rework of one of Kanye West’s simplest pieces from his 808s & Heartbreak days. Leave it to this ragtag team of Oxfordshire boys to absolutely kill it and then be all “yeah we just kinda did that real quick on our laptops…”
6. “Seasons (Waiting on You)” - Future Islands ft. Win Butler
When one Samuel T. Herring, who was already the year’s most viewed music GIF thanks to a stunning performance on Letterman, sang Future Islands’ big hit “Seasons” at a Montreal concert in September, the only thing he could have done to make Montreal completely lose its mind was bring out Canada’s indie godsend, Win Butler. And so he did it.
5. “Everlasting Sigh” - Moses Sumney
No one gets himself musically quite like Moses Sumney does. Watching this soulful L.A. performer deftly garnish an empty room with sounds produced purely of his own body is nothing short of mesmerizing. It comes as no surprise then the moment Sumney stepped into the local limelight, it was only a matter of time before Solange and Karen O would take note and summon him to their sides.
4. “Attracting Flies” - AlunaGeorge
While most of Coachella’s biggest shows are, in theory, reserved for the main stages on Night 3, British electronic duo Alunageorge laid down an electric set prior to sunset in the modest Gobi tent that begged to differ. While George Reid helmed the bouncy electronic production, Aluna Francis owned the vocal performance with superior sass and confidence.
3. “Lay Me Down” - Sam Smith
The impending build up to Sam Smith’s debut album In The Lonely Hour peaked in early April, when the vibey R&B singer scored a primetime gig on SNL with Louis C.K. hosting. While Smith brought out a gospel choir to help back him for his hit single “Stay With Me,” Smith’s teary delivery of his album ballad “Lay Me Down” reduced audiences everywhere to various states of teary emotions, cementing his role as one of the most affecting voices of recent R&B.
2. “Low” - Young Fathers
They may have only sold less than 2,400 records in the UK when they won the 2014 Mercury Prize, but Scottish trio Young Fathers’ singular chemistry stood out among emerging acts this year, and the only ones in on the secret were small pockets around the world paying notice. Seven months before beating out the favorite FKA Twigs for the prestigious award, the experimental electronic hip-hop trio played a free show at L.A.’s Bardot in Hollywood, where their palpable frenetic energy lit up the small room and traced a trail to their later success.
1. “i” - Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar may be past the days of being a Ones To Watch act, but we must give credit where it is due for being among our favorite artists to continually change things up. Most recently, Lamar was the talk of the town with his unhinged performance of “i” on SNL, where he donned black contact lenses and an untamed hairdo, infusing his performance with enough Southern voodoo charm to make us wonder if it had anything to do with host Woody Harrelson’s role in True Detective.