The Top 21 Artists to Watch in 2021
In a world where the only universal certainty seems to be opening every email with "hope you're doing well," the only other surefire guarantee is that there will continue to be new music worth discovering. And, we figured with the start of a new year, what better way to say to spend the waking hours of 2021 than introduce you to a few of the artists we currently have a close eye on. Often genreless and belonging to Gen Z, these are the 21 artists we are watching in 2021.
Where to Start: "Calvaire"
In her breakout single "Calvaire," spill tab sings in French over an intoxicating backbeat. The effect is akin to a spell, ushering into existence something inherently danceable and transfixing, like an Angà¨le B-side finding new life as a Billie Eilish cut. It is a standout moment that would be followed by similar standout moments in the form of a series of varied singles, culminating in spill tab's debut EP, Oatmilk. Short and sweet, the four-song collection holds all the promise of a 2021 artist to watch.
Where to Start: "The Sun Is Up Forever"
Emerging from the fog of Glasgow, Scotland, Joesef's marriage of heartbreak, desire, regret, hope, and sublime joy is nothing short of intoxicating. Immediately making an impression with his tender, heartfelt croon, the Glasgow artist's songs soon give way to emotionally rife personal recollections - some beautiful in their understated minimalism, some breathtaking in their expansive scope. Whatever the setting, the result is always the same - a passionate, shared moment you will not be forgetting anytime soon.
Where to Start: "dropout"
Self-described as "self-care punk," brakence effortlessly pairs the unmatched energy of punk with an impressive showing of vulnerability. While the past few years saw the Ohio native experiment over a range of singles and on his debut album, 2020 was without a doubt the year he found his sound in the noteworthy punk2. Blending Midwest emo, trap production, hip-hop, and alternative, brakence's sophomore effort is a masterclass in infectious emotional catharsis.
Where to Start: "Stay Alive"
Few artists embody the sentiment of music as poetry as emphatically as Mustafa. First leaving a mark with 2020's "Stay Alive," Mustafa introduced himself to the world with a breathtaking, earth-shattering ballad rife with impassioned emotional imagery. Soft-spoken but never lacking for impact, the poet, activist, filmmaker, and songwriter brings to life the lived realities of Toronto's Regent Park, a public housing project that shaped Mustafa into the once in a lifetime artist he is today.
Where to Start: "Falling Asleep At The Wheel"
In her 2020 debut EP, Falling Asleep at the Wheel, Holly Humberstone proves herself a master at crafting a palpable atmosphere. Rife with emotional highs and cathartic lows, all backed by Humberstone's magnetic and graceful songwriting, the British artist lays her heart on her sleeve and in turn lays the groundwork for a debut offering poised to stand the test of time. It is no mere hyperbole to say that Humberstone is an artist to watch out for not only in 2021 but in the years to come.
Where to Start: "Memphis"
The initial comparison of AG Club to collectives like BROCKHAMPTON and A$AP may be an easy one to draw, but a single listen tells another story. While the genreless Bay Area collective may radiate the same rapturous energy of the aforementioned groups, AG Club is clearly riding high on their own wavelength. Aiming to make hip-hop but not as you know it, the idiosyncratic collective made their vision clear with the release of 2020's Halfway Off the Porch, an electrifying amalgamation of disparate genres, sights, sounds, and moods.
Where to Start: "Dancing in My Room"
Euphoric, difficult to perfectly define, and haphazardly brilliant, aidan347 embodies the adventurousness and inventiveness of Gen Z. The project of 17-year-old Aidan Fuller, the Cambridge, Ontario native has spent the past five years making music. Yet at the beginning of 2020, the Cambridge artist had less than three thousand monthly listeners; now, that number sits well above five million. A testament to 347aidan's tenacity, his devoted fanbase, and the power of a TikTok-fueled viral hit - arriving in the form of "Dancing in My Room" - it really feels we are only witnessing the prologue of what's to come.
Where to Start: "Space Girl"
When thinking of music's future stars, what better place to look than to the galactic, lovelorn musings of Frances Forever. Making less of a splash and more of a tidal wave with the release of "Space Girl" late last year, the Boston bedroom artist's ode to intergalactic love has been rapidly climbing the TikTok and indie charts. Now signed to Mom+Pop records, Frances Forever is more than ready to shoot for the stars and beyond in 2021.
Where to Start: "Lovestained"
Hope Tala is impossible to ignore. A West Londoner to her core, the UK singer-songwriter finds inspiration in everything from '90s movies, classic literature, to the constantly changing world around her. Transforming what feels like a lifetime, and some, of inspiration into an undeniably spellbinding fusion of R&B and bossa nova, Hope Tala's musings of daydreams, heartache, and fear are the sort ready to define a generation's ails, joys, and mundane triumphs and anxieties. Universal in scope yet deeply personal, Hope Tala is without doubt an artist to keep your eye on in 2021.
Where to Start: "Take Me Your Heart Is"
Q, much like his name, is an anomaly. Releasing one album a year since 2018, the ineffable soul and R&B artist has somehow coasted under the radar in spite of releasing some of the most breathtaking music out there. And with the release of 2020's The Shave Experiment, Q feels like he's finally stepping into the much-deserved limelight. Leading with the striking "Take Me Your Heart Is," Q brought to life a nostalgic, hyper-emotive track sure to stop you in your tracks. Hopefully, it's one of many to come.
Where to Start: "Backyard Boy"
16-year-old Claire Rosinkranz has been making music for the better part of her life, and 2020 was the year that scribbling down lyrics and helping her father compose music for TV shows and ad jingles paid off in a major way. The California native's single, "Backyard Boy," taken from her debut EP, BeVerly Hills BoYfRiEnd, soon became a TikTok hit, racking up over 80 million streams to date, on Spotify alone. If there are two things to look out for in 2021, make sure it's your mental wellbeing and Claire's euphoric self-dubbed "alternative-blues-pop."
Where to Start: "how will i rest in peace if i’m buried by a highway?//"
KennyHoopla is nothing if not electrifying. The alternative, punk, and '80s new wave-evoking artist moves through each track with a sense of world-ending hunger, jumping from one ensuing mosh pit to the next. It is a balancing act of new wave nostalgia and genuine inventive alternative that results in a maelstrom of palpable excitement. To best experience this cathartic form of self-expression firsthand, look no further than his debut EP, last year's how will i rest in peace if i’m buried by a highway?//. No one is quite making music like KennyHoopla, in 2021 or beyond.
Where to Start: "THE BOTTOM"
New York collective MICHELLE deftly imbues the sincerity of soul and R&B into a uniquely tender pop outlook, and the result is nothing short of infectious. The project of six predominantly queer POC individuals, the group originally earned widespread critical acclaim for their 2018 album HEATWAVE, but it was arguably their subsequent signing with Atlantic Records last year that has them set to be one of 2021's most promising acts. Quickly making the most of their newfound major label status, MICHELLE released "Sunrise," the sonic equivalent of the first rays of light breaking through the clouds, signaling the end of a rainy day. It's safe to say the future is looking bright for MICHELLE.
Where to Start: "eyesore"
Few artists define and defy the label of hyperpop as readily as glaive. Falling somewhere between 100 gecs and the second coming of mid-2000s pop punk, the newly-signed Interscope artist released his major debut label EP, cypress grove, earlier this year. Yet before finding a home at Interscope, glaive's official discography only stretched back as far as 2020. Making the most of a year we all would rather soon forget, the 15-year-old wunderkind showcased to the world a continual musical evolution that is looking to only further pick up steam in the coming year.
Where to Start: "Wish You Were Gay"
From opening for Clairo to releasing a steady stream of resonant singles, Claud has spent the last couple of years making a name for themselves in the indie music world, but 2020 saw arguably their biggest breakthrough moment yet. With the release of "Gold," Claud became the first artist signed to Phoebe Bridgers' Saddest Factory Records. Arriving as the first taste of their upcoming debut album, Super Monster, 2021 is looking absolutely golden for Claud. And not to mention the fact they recently started a band with Clairo and friends.
Where to Start: "The 1"
Where has Maràa Isabel been all our lives? First making herself known with the release of "The 1," an ode to long-distance relationships, which soon became more prophetic than we ever could have imagined, the debut single served as lovely an introduction as they come. Thankfully, we would not have to wait too long to hear more dreamlike R&B from Maràa, who graced us with her debut EP, Stuck in the Sky shortly thereafter. Uniquely heartfelt and velvety smooth, Maràa's voice is just the thing to carry you through 2021.
Where to Start: "Photo ID"
The past couple of years have seen avant-garde pop wunderkind Remi Wolf test the waters with one out of this world single after another, and 2020 felt like the year everything finally fell into place. Arriving on the Bay Area native's sophomore album, I'm Allergic To Dogs!, "Photo ID," and its unafraid, in your face anti pop mentality cemented itself as a surefire hit, and TikTok soon took notice. Serving as a testament to Remi Wolf's mainstream appeal in spite of her outsider approach, "Photo ID" merely set the stage for what is to come.
Where to Start: "HIT EM WHERE IT HURTS"
PawPaw Rod may be the only artist on this list with only one single to their name, but in no way does that disqualify him from being an artist to watch in 2021. Releasing his debut single, "HIT EM WHERE IT HURTS," out into the ether, the Los Angeles artist immediately landed on something special. Blending elements of hip-hop, funk, and alternative under a mellow, syrupy flow, PawPaw Rod wasted no time in setting himself apart from the pack. And with godmode - the same development company that brought us Yaeji, Channel Tres, LoveLeo, and more - it is safe to say that this is only the beginning.
Where to Start: "WIYULD"
In her dreamlike take on alternative R&B, Evann Mcintosh attempts to capture the turbulent act of coming-of-age. At times delicate to the touch and at times emanating a self-assured confidence well beyond her 16 years of age, Evann Mcintosh's 2019 debut album, MOJO, laid the groundwork for an act whose promise knows no bounds. It was a promise she made good on during the tail end of 2020, with the release of singles "WIYULD" and "BULL$HIT." Showing off two different sides of her continued musical growth, 2021 has us all the more excited for what Evann has in store.
Where to Start: "Sensitive"
In her breakout single, "Sensitive," Serena Isioma fuses modern-day R&B and woozy indie pop with reckless abandon. The outcome is a song that not only sounds quite unlike anything else out there, but one whose own vibe seems to shift and evolve from one moment to the next. It is an electrifying opening moment that begins to define the Isioma's artistry and her debut EP, Sensitive. The first of two EPs the Chicago-based artist would release in 2020, it is hard not to feel like Isioma is already in the process of creating a one-of-a-kind discography.
Where to Start: "Figure It Out"
Whether you know her as the touring bassist for acts like FLETCHER and Caroline Polachek or as the TikTok famous bassist, the fact of the matter is that Blu DeTiger is an artist you need to know. A bassist since age seven and crowned the "coolest DJ around" by Vogue, the New York native's music skirts the realms of funk, indie, and dance. Unmistakable, nonchalantly cool, and unsurprisingly bass-heavy, you deserve doing yourself the favor of diving headfirst into Blu DeTiger's music. Just be sure to come up for air, when you're ready.