A new year has rolled around and it’s time for me to write one of my favorite posts of the year, placing bets on who will be the 2016 Artists to Watch. As a music nerd, I love to look at who is making waves in the industry and getting people talking. By using the ability to trend forecast I have discovered many artists ahead of their big jump to fame. Which is a neat occurrence for multiple reasons. The biggest being I’ve been lucky enough to see many artists when they were unknowns in small, intimate venues before they were selling out stadiums. That fact alone is reason I continue to take the time each January to sift through the noise and bring you the best of the best.
One of the most interesting things for me when I am compiling this list is seeing the overall genre trends that emerge. Last year, EDM influences reigned. While there are still glimmers of that in 2016’s breakout artist batch, this seems to be the year of the singer songwriter. Thanks to powerhouses like Adele, there has been a swift switch to vocal focused performances and an air of simplicity in music again.
Enough with the small talk, may I present my selections for the 2016 artists to watch.
Conrad Sewell is an Australian singer who is very multi-faceted with his talent. On the surface he seems like your typical crooner in soulful pop, but it’s obvious with his killer melodies he can take on practically any genre. Sewell began to get noticed after lending his vocals to Kygo’s “Firestone” last year. Even Jay-Z’s business partner tried to buy his song “Start Again” for Kylie Minogue to sing.
I’ve got to rep some love for the Minnesota boys Hippo Campus. Selling out venues across the state every time they perform, I knew it was only a matter of time before they went even further than local buzz. A young four-piece, Hippo Campus is full of energy. They spent the last year on the festival circuit making a name for themselves amongst indie rock fans.
If you’re a fan of Adele, Frances is your gal. While watching her perform back in November, I was amazed at how she could command attention with just her voice behind a piano and her wit during the breaks. A big lunged Brit, you’ll be impressed with her purity of voice that delivers everything from ballads to upbeat jams.
Wet has released three albums already and amassed a legion of fans, but recently they signed a record deal with Columbia. That’s a game changer for the Brooklyn trio. Very reminiscent of CHVRCHES with the band’s airy, dreamscape tones there’s another layer of added crystalline pop that makes their music oh-so pleasurable to the ear.
If there’s one thing to be certain with Andra Day, the brassy voiced singer is also full of soul. Her songs have lots of throwback sounds and old-school r & b influences. However, her voice doesn’t get muddled. Ever. Instead, Day has a clarity to her tone that is rarely heard.
Here’s another instance where the EDM influences of 2015 are still heard, but in a very unique way. Aurora is what I’ve seen classified as “icy synth” – slow, EDM backing tracks to compliment a raw emotive voice. Which is exactly what Aurora does. She earned a gold-star approval this last holiday season when the UK’s famed John Lewis Christmas Advert chose her song “Half the World Away” to be featured.
One of the best tell-tale signs of an artist’s likelihood for success is the BBC Sound List, which is great news for Jack Garratt as he scored the coveted top spot in 2016. A husky voice, Garratt is one of those performers you wish it was possible to wrap yourself up in their music if you could. It just feels cozy. A unique blend of pop, r & b, and electronica – he’s not likely to be confused with any other artist out there.
I’ve got a few honorable mentions this year too. While I feel like these artists have already made it big, I realize my music mind sees things skewed compared to the general public. The acts listed below may already be somewhat familiar figures, but do not have wide stream visibility other than a hit single or a vigorous fanbase. I’m talking the bands and singers that will be all over the airwaves and pop culture next year. Click on the name to be brought to a music video for each artist.
Who are your 2016 artists to watch that you believe will make it big in the coming year?
P.S. – Check back on my 2015 breakout artist predictions to see what I got right and maybe pick up a few artists you may have missed along the way.
Until next time,