There’s nothing quite like the joy of new discovery. It is still not too late to get a fresh start this year – music-wise.
For music lovers, a new year means time to explore wondrous new sounds and embrace the unknown. Aside from the usual mainstream acts, there are a whole host of artistes – some of whom may very well become the biggest breakouts of 2020.
Get your groove on
Australian singer-songwriter Toni Elizabeth Watson aka Tones And I went from busking at coastal town of Byron Bay in 2017 to releasing the infectious hit single Dance Monkey, which currently has over 500 million views on YouTube. Dance Monkey is a song inspired by some unpleasant experiences while busking on the streets.
“The lyrics are all things people have said to me while I was busking. ‘I beg to see you dance just one more time.’ All these drunk people wanting more and more encores,” she said in an interview with Go London.
When she made her US television performance debut on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon last month, most viewers in the comment section expressed how they couldn’t believe that Tones And I live, sounds exactly like her studio recording. Her striking voice, energetic live performances and unapologetic sound has all the makings of a star.
Talk about reinvention. Kate Davis started out as a mesmerising jazz singer, famously wowing audience with her rendition of I’m Gonna Lock My Heart at a concert. Today, Davis sings about love, heartache and everything in between as an indie-rock darling with a bass guitar.
Think of her as a cross between Zoey Deschanel and Lana Del Rey with a rocking edge. You’ll be drawn to her stunning melancholic style and voice. Check out Rbbt and Trophy, the title tracks from her sensational debut album.
From blues to rap
Christone Ingram aka Kingfish began his love affair with blues after his father showed him a documentary on the legendary Muddy Water. Back then, he was only five years old. Now, at just 20, Ingram has been described as a blues aristocrat.
Prepared to be blown away by Ingram’s skillful rhythmic guitar performance and soulful voice. So far, he seems to be on the right path for a blues musician as his debut album Kingfish is up for a Grammy for “Traditional Blues Album”.
But Ingram is just getting started. In an interview with Guitar.com, Ingram said he hopes to incorporate modern genres like rap into his music as a way to get younger listeners to listen to the blues.
“Once we get them in, then we can show them the real deal and show them the history. That’s what I’m trying to do. I love all genres of music, and I want to keep this thing going but still attract a younger audience.”
Harrison “Aitch” Armstrong is putting the Manchester rap scene on the map thanks to the popular singles like Straight Rhymes and Taste (Make It Shake). His laidback rap styling is infectious and unique as Armstrong retains his distinctive Mancunian accent.
The 20-year-old rapper counts Stormzy as a fan. In fact, Stormzy has collaborated with Aitch on two tracks namely Take Me Back To London (Sir Spyro) remix, featuring Ed Sheeran and Pop Boy.
In an interview with NME, Aitch talked about what it’s like to surprise people with his ability to freestyle effortlessly.
“It’s so mad. Even when I’m performing, I don’t really feel any way about it. I find it funny, if anything. I might sit there and write a verse and think it’s average, then play it out and everyone will go crazy.”
Breaking the mould
If you have the optimism of sunshine and rainbows when it comes to matters like love, then you’d love the sound of American singer-songwriter Dayglow (real name Sloan Struble). The indie pop artiste will have you humming endlessly to dreamy, breezy numbers like Can I Call You Tonight and the latest Listerine.
Dayglow may just be the new music equivalent to the popular millennial concept of self-care as he told the Austin Chronicle that he is all about taking listeners to their happy place.
“I want optimism to be evident in my music. I don't think there are enough optimistic artistes right now.”
Fall in love with the smooth, sensual voice of Swedish-Iranian singer-songwriter Snoh Aalegra. Some fans have said that Aalegra has the voice reminiscent of Sade, Amy Winehouse and Alicia Keys.
If you need a playlist filled with new romantic numbers, then Aalegra is your girl. The 32-year-old artiste sings about the pains of defining a modern romance in Situationship to just being hopelessly in love with Fool For You.
For her latest single Whoa, you’d learn that sometimes one word is all you need to describe the wonders of romance. Like whoa…
Twenty-seven-year-old David Bowden or Pink Sweats is looking to shake the R&B music scene in his own way by redefining the idea of masculinity. He proudly wears pink and is not afraid to show some vulnerability in his music.
Bowden’s hit single Honesty is a soft, slow number about the fear to explore uncertainties with a new person. Then in the guitar-driven Body Ain’t Me, Bowden’s falsettos soar as he is haunted by the ghost of a former paramour.
Bowden tells Rolling Stone why he wants to do R&B in his own way, “I’m not trying to be different – I am different. I never talk about sex in an explicit way; that’s intentional.
“I never degrade women; that’s intentional. I don’t have a (fancy) haircut. I wear pink. That’s not typical for the history of R&B.”
Doing it their own way
Itzy is a five-piece Korean pop group consisting of members Yeji, Lia, Ryujin Chaeryeong and Yuna. In 2019, they released debut single Dalla Dalla, a catchy fun electropop-infused where the girls sing about going against the grain.
Then with new latest single Icy, Itzy goes “They keep talkin’/I keep walkin..’” as they urge listeners to never succumb to negativity. If escapist pop is what you’re looking for then Itzy with its unabashedly well-choreographed music videos and colourful personas will help to chase the blues away.
Now you can’t be in the year 2020 and not be aware of what emerging rapper Roddy Rich did at the start of the music year. In January, Justin Bieber released his long-awaited new single Yummy, a number inspired by his wife Hailey Baldwin.
Then Bieber got fans and listeners on social media buzzing as he seemingly “begged” them to stream or buy their music as much as possible to help him hit the coveted No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts.
Did it work? Well, Yummy failed to hit No. 1 on the US Billboard songs chart thanks to Roddy Ricch, whose single The Box, sat pretty on the top instead. Ricch's debut album Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial also debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart.
The 21-year-old hip hop artiste proved that new talents are already off to a great start this year. Listeners, it seems, are more than happy for something fresh.
Forget what you knew about country music and say "howdy" to Orville Peck. The Canadian artiste carries himself as a mysterious masked singing-cowboy who wants to channel his unhappiness into music.
"I grew up fairly lonely, feeling pretty outcast and alienated. So my translation of that into a country and western sar was to be this lone cowboy figure," he told The Guardian.
Peck's single Dead Of Night was even recently featured on HBO's critically-acclaimed Watchmen series.
Cover Image: Orville Peck
Writer l JEM
I like Pina Colada and getting caught in the rain. Not into yoga. Wait, how does that song go again?