It’s been an odd couple of years, to say the least, and that is an understatement. For many of us, we look for different ways to keep us engaged and inspired. It can be tough to keep moving when all the rest of the world is at a standstill.
Fortunately, there’s music. And fortunately, there are plenty of new up and coming artists who are helping paint these dreary days just a bit better.
This list here features the 15 best new musicians you should tune in to for 2021. It may not seem like there is much to look forward to these days, but at least you have this. From New York to London, these new kids on the block (quite literally, because there are a good number of them belonging to Gen Z) are here to show what it means to persist against all odds.
In no particular order, here are the new generation of artists that are making waves, setting charts ablaze, and tiding us all through these dark and gritty times. Put your feet up, add them to your playlist, and give their music a listen. They’re all good for the soul in various means and ways, you’ll see.
Fresh and bubbly is exactly what you want in your pop music, and this is exactly what Claire Rosinkranz delivers. Her Backyard Boy single, off her debut EP BeVerly Hills BoYfRiEnd, is such a bop that already, it’s been streamed a whopping 80 million streams so far–and that’s just on Spotify. We’re not even talking about it being a huge hit on TikTok yet.
At 16, she’s already set on making and leaving her own mark, starting off with her so-called “alternative-blues-pop” genre. She creates her own music, and her own genre too? Sounds like a true Gen Z creator through and through.
This 22-year-old Chicago native enters the scene with a burst of confidence so striking, he didn’t even bat an eye when he coined himself a “generational talent. The self-confidence is warranted, though, especially since he’s already made it to the top of the Billboard 200.
His latest project, Hall of Fame, delivers the goods, showing that he’s not just your typical melodic street rapper next door, no. Nowadays, he’s kicking it with his own personal idols like Lil Wayne, further lending credence to his growth as a musician in the scene.
The track to listen to, if you haven’t caught him yet, is Rapstar. It’s hard to miss, really, especially when it’s already hit almost 115 million views on YouTube since it premiered in April 2021.
You say you’ve been looking for someone worth watching out for this year? Would a Taylor Swift recommendation suffice? Because that would be none other than Griff, a Chinese-Jamaican musician of the synth pop persuasion breaking out in the London (and not too long after, for sure) music scene.
The 20-year-old from Kings Langley has perfected the art of this generation’s Bedroom Pop movement. For those who get lost in the jargon, bedroom pop refers to the process of today’s young creators being confined in their bedrooms (or any small space) while they come up with music with whatever tools and resources they have access to.
Her own bedroom pop pride and glory: Black Hole. There’s a depth and richness to her voice that captures your attention. It sure doesn’t hurt that the track is a catchy bop too.
Mustafa is 25 years young, but given the long list of titles he has for all the roles he plays, you’d have been given the impression that he’s a fully experienced adult, expertly captaining his ship in this vast sea of life.
Let’s take a look at what he has so far: spoken word poet, activist, singer, songwriter, and filmmaker. Needless to say, there is no doubt as to his proclivity for the creatives. In May 2021, he released his debut album, When Smoke Rises.
In his track Stay Alive, Mustafa shares vivid imagery of his experiences living in a public housing project in Toronto called Regent Park. Only just beginning and already looking back–he’ll be keeping his feet on the ground for long, this one.
It almost seems inevitable. Search for notes on AG Club, and immediately, you’ll be sure to find comparisons with other acts like A$AP or BROCKHAMPTON. It’s almost unfair too, because AG Club, this Bay Area Collective, certainly has more to offer on their own.
They seem to take on a very postmodern approach to their craft, more or less being genreless, in the sense that their hip-hop is not exactly the typical type you may know. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, though. After all, the AG in their name stands for “Avant Garde.”
In 2020, they came out with Halfway Off the Porch, and in 20221, well, they made it to the lineup in Lollapalooza. If you need to kick off your listening party to them, get started with Memphis.
In case you missed the Kenny Hoopla train when it rolled out last year, don’t worry. It’s still not too late to get on board. The 24-year-old singer-songwriter from Ohio electrifies in his music with his raspy, melodic growls, accompanied by boppy new-wave-ish, alternative, punk sounds.
He’s been serving musical goodness since 2016, but it’s only recently that he’s really stepped into the spotlight, and now anyone who’s seen or heard his music are finding it difficult to tear their eyes away from him.
His 2020 single, How Will I Rest in Peace if I’m Buried by a Highway, has reached four million views to date on YouTube, and also peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Alternative Airplay chart. Another track to catch from him is Estella, released in November 2020, and featuring Travis Barker, drummer for Blink-182.
Not to be confused with the punk rock-emo band from the late 90s, Paris, Texas, this Paris Texas (no comma), is an LA rap duo who’s been partnering up to make music for the past three years.
Finally, in February this year, they dropped their debut single, Heavy Metal, complete with a music video that portrays less than comfortable situations for the duo, so to speak. The sound takes on electric beats with rap laid on top of rock guitars, punchy bass lines, and unapologetic crashing cymbals–you know, as you would expect from heavy metal.
They’ve been on a continuous roll since then, dropping Force of Habit next, until eventually releasing an 8-track release called Boy Anonymous. With this offering, listeners now have a fuller view of Paris Texas’s spectrum as artists–and they cannot wait for more.
PawPaw Rod came bursting into the scene at the tailend of 2020 with a single track, HIT EM WHERE IT HURTS, and still made enough noise to make it to Buzzfeed’s “Songs that Got People Through 2020” list. It’s such a catchy tune that not only did it make its way to the top of global charts, it also featured in an Apple commercial.
His sound is best described as hiphop but with a definitive nod for the 60s soul. Instant fans would be glad to know that he’s released two more tracks since HIT EM, one being Glass House earlier this year, and Thin Lines more recently.
Even better news, he’s coming out with “A PawPaw Rod EP” in September 2021.
Talk about multi-talented. Blu DeTiger is not only an accomplished bassist who’s been playing the instrument since seven years old, she’s a TikTok-famous bass player who’s been touring with musical acts like FLETCHER and Caroline Polacheck.
She’s also not just a DJ who’s been busting out magical sets, she’s that DJ that got dubbed as “the coolest” by Vogue–at 18 years old. She’s 21 now, and as with everyone else who got waylaid by circumstances beyond anyone’s control for the past couple of years, it would have been tough to thrive.
But she did, and is still doing it, rather spectacularly at that too. As if her immense popularity on TikTok was no longer enough, she dropped Figure It Out in May of last year, and is now all geared up for a tour in September across the country.
You know you’re off to do more great things if at 16 years old, you’re already on most “Artists to Watch Out For” lists, such as this one. For Maryland native redveil, it’s par for the course.
The (literally) young rapper first had his taste of fame–as with most famous Gen Zs–on the internet. In his case, the platform of choice was Twitter.
It’s mind-blowing when you come to realize that he’s been doing music since 2019, which means he was merely 14 when he started his career. Then again, the thing with these young’uns is that they know the technology, were born into it, and so tend to use it intuitively.
In redveil’s case, he used it optimally to his advantage. In 2020, he came out with his album Niagara, which featured Campbell and Weight, both of which have already achieved millions of streams to date.
Safe to say redveil is just getting started. If only for that, you should definitely watch out for more of him.
British singer-songwriter and poet Arlo Parks just released her debut studio album, Collapsed in Sunbeams, early this year, and already, she’s on track to being one of the hottest artists to ever come out of this pandemic, if not already.
Collapsed in Sunbeams is a certified chart-topper in the UK Albums Chart, and has in fact earned several nominations already at the 2021 Brit Awards, including Album of the Year, Best New Artist, and Best British Female Solo Artist.
Not only that, but the year isn’t even quite finished yet, but she’s already slated for a performance at the Radio City Music Hall in February 2022. You know she’s about to blow up.
Get ahead in line before everyone jumps on the bandwagon. It wouldn’t be too far away now.
If you’re looking for soothing and refreshing R&B vibes, then Q should be your go-to. Hailing from South Florida, Q delivers a satisfying neo-soul take on Take Me Where Your Heart Is.
It’s breathiness is so exquisite, it’s almost breathtaking. The falsettos weaving in and out of the instruments–guitars riffing, bass lazily playing–gives a heady vibe overall, whisking you off to palm trees-lined shores along the Florida coastline.
His name’s easy enough to remember (it’s literally one letter, and yes, that’s his real name), but it’s his music that makes him unforgettable. Influences range from Bob Marley to Michael Jackson to Earth, Wind, and Fire, and his local church, of course.
Take Me Where Your Heart Is is not his first foray in music publishing, however. He’s already come out with a 12-track album in 2018 called Thoughts, at 17 years old. As you would know, a lot changes between those ages, and along with it, certainly his musicality too.
The trick is to embrace these changes by keeping at it, putting in the work continuously, until you find your own voice, develop your own sound. This 2021 version of Q might already be it, so far. Late last year, he released The Shave Experiment, in which he highlighted the evolution he’s gone through so far, precisely.
“Evolve and change and hope, nothing more and nothing less,” he said in an interview with Pile Rats. “Because in life, a lot can happen.” That’s wisdom everyone can take from the youth.
Raised in Miami, based in LA. That sounds like the perfect formula for a party. Either that or an up and coming R&B hitmaker.
In Jenevieve’s case, it’s the latter. The budding musician has only released two songs to date, but not even a pandemic can slow her trajectory down.
Well, at first, it kind of did, actually. 2021 was supposed to be a year of touring and live performing. You know, getting the music out there.
But the world had other plants, and so she had to restructure hers. But that’s okay, it’s just a wee little detour on the road.
She’s been getting ready to come out with a full album and the time off the road has definitely made it more possible for her to focus on it completely. In the meantime, her single Baby Powder is as fresh and soothing as, well, baby powder. Tune in and find out why you’d soon be waiting in line for her next drop.
It’s that striking soulfulness in her voice that first catches your attention. The 26-year-old British-Jamaican rising artist from Britain sings with an enthralling huskiness, with a tinge of jazzy melancholy to it, so much so that you can’t help but be swept in the emotions of it all.
Her lyrics are deep and insightful, careful and deliberate in its depiction of vulnerabilities and insecurities from previous relationships. This way she’s relatable, her music accessible.
Some have even gone on to say that her tone quality is reminiscent of Billie Holiday’s. You don’t have to listen too hard to hear it too. Not Your Muse, her first major-label album, was released at the beginning of the year, immediately debuting at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart.
Like Arlo Parks above, she was also nominated for Album of the Year, Best Female Solo Artist, and Best New Artist at the 2021 Brit Awards. Needless to say, it’s looking like it’s a great year for artists from across the pond.
You’d think the situation today would put a damper on the emergence of great new artists, but what a relief that’s not the case. Just take a look at Zoe Wees, a 19-year-old all the way from Hamburg, Germany, who burst through the scenes online in the thick of the lockdown.
With no other other way to release and promote her first single Control but through online, it was but a matter of time before someone from the other side of the world sat up and paid attention. As it turned out, that “someone” would be Jimmy Kimmel and James Corden, both welcoming her into their late night shows for an appearance.
Considering how she’s never played even a single concert ever, that’s not bad. Not bad at all.