1. Sway Clarke II
After founding a music school for underprivileged youth in his hometown of Toronto, Sway relocated to Berlin where he studied music and began honing in on his personal take on R&B-inspired pop. Fun fact: he opened for Ones To Watch veterans Haim on their European tour.
This 20-year-old singer and rapper is a powerhouse to be reckoned with, and hip-hop’s biggest names are showing up at her door, including Timbaland, who signed Tink to his Mosley Music Group label last year. But she’s not exclusive to hip-hop, as evidenced by her badass collaboration with Sleigh Bells late last year. “I’m all for expanding. It’s not good to stay in the same circle [of artists]. You have to change, evolve and grow,” says Tink of the track “That Did It.” (watch below)
Call him the pied piper of new soul, because everything Coultrain produces is pure R&B gold. His first EP, Side Effex of Make-Believe, is drenched in honeyed vocals and translucent musings and makes for great late-night listening. Or anytime listening.
4. Until The Ribbon Breaks
The brain child of a former film student, this fun trio made a series of reimaginations (a more expansive and imaginative version of a remix) of popular songs in 2014, proving their surgical might as producers. While they make great soundscapes, they’re also capable of going hard with hip-hop’s finest.
5. Tei Shi
Perhaps because she’s so untraceable as a person (from Vancouver to Bogota to Brooklyn), Valerie Teicher can lay claim to the label of “mermaid music” without batting an eye; she’s most at home in faraway worlds it appears. To be more specific would give away her magic, one only needs to hear her latest EP Saudade to understand that her music is indescribable.
6. The Districts
This young bunch out of Lititz, Pennsylvania made huge strides post-high school - call them talented and lucky to have scored an opening spot for Jack White and a Bonnaroo gig all within one year of hitting the road. Their key? Unfettered, soulful folk-rock delivered straight from their hearts to yours.
7. Marian Hill
Philly electronic duo Marian Hill bring up swing and big jazz to set themselves apart from the rest of them. Everything we’ve heard from this team, who met in middle school during a production of “Music Man,” adds to our excitement for their upcoming album.
Swedish singer and rapper Elliphant won our affections with her intense approach towards everything. Sure, she might be a sweetheart but her music is anything but — along with MØ and Tove Lo, Elliphant leads the pack of hard Scandinavian pop, and we are totally in.
If having one of 2014’s hottest summer singles “2 ON” (which went platinum in November) didn’t give it away, R&B singer Tinashe’s star is only beginning to rise. Having recently released her debut album, Tinashe has big things in store this year. Fun fact: she’s collaborated with Ones To Watch alumnus Kid Ink and Ryan Hemsworth.
10. Nick Brewer
All rappers are poets (well, all the good ones are, anyway), and Nick Brewer is pretty vocal in applying his talents to address society. Especially when it comes to his thoughts on media and its effect on our generation - the kind of unabashed “let’s be real guys” conversations we really need more of today. Of course, it’s no surprise that when Brewer and fellow Ones To Watch 2015 rapper TINK teamed up early on last year, the results were extraordinary too.
11. Erik Hassle
Think Justin Timberlake circa Future Sex/Love Sounds. Multi-talented singer-songwriter Erik Hassle has whatever gene it is that helps you write smash pop hits, as evidenced by his talent both behind and in front of the spotlight. While Hassle contributed his writing talents to Rihanna and Shakira’s hit “Can’t Remember to Forget You,” he’s going for it on his own this year, and we think he’s making the right move. Fun fact: he’s opening for OTW alum Broods on tour.