14 Artists to Watch in 2014
2013 saw new artists like Ariana Grande, Little Mix, A Great Big World and more blow up and become a part of the pop music conversation, lexicon and culture. We’re even more excited about the crop of up and comers for 2014, which means the pop landscape is about to get very interesting and diverse, thanks to these 14 artists we’ve selected as Artists to Watch in 2014.
We’ve rounded up 14 acts we think are primed for big – actually, make that HUGE —things in 2014. Whatever the case, we can’t wait to see what they come up with… and we will be watching.
A pretty little liar, an English troubadour, a sassy Brit diva, a Justin Bieber-endorsed rapper and a trio of brothers are just a few of the artists that populate our list, and not in any order.
Also, be sure to head over to Beats Music to listen to music by these acts!
Oh, the thought of John Newman makes our pulses quicken. Be still our rapidly beating hearts. It’s been a while since we had this kind of reaction to a new artist. The British singer-songwriter is just 23, but he has a rich, lived-in voice that reminds us of classic, emotive Motown soul singers. His smoky, husky tone sends a sprinkling of chills up and down our spine in spades. Newman sounds 20 years older than he is and you can’t fake that type of authenticity. ‘Losing Sleep’ and ‘Love Me Again’ are just two tracks on his debut ‘Tribute’ that have us listening on repeat.
You won’t be saying “Betty who?” for much longer. The self-taught Aussie, who plays piano and guitar, is an alum of the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Born Jessica Anne Newham, Betty Who is on our radar thanks to the way she imbued the addictive ‘Somebody Loves You’ with ’80s sheen. It’s like one of those songs used for a montage in a John Hughes movie. But it’s not overly retro. It’s more of an homage. Plus, we challenge you to purge it from your brain after listening to it. Her voice is unique and her attention to hooks and melody is pretty uncanny. Betty Who is now signed to RCA, so expect to hear a lot more of her.
This NYC-reared trio of brothers – that’s Adam, Jack and Ryan — are a different kind of boy band. Think the Jonas Brothers, if their older brothers were John Mayer and Michael Buble. We just blew your mind, right? In addition to being cute, AJR are supremely talented and their song ‘I’m Ready’ is all the proof you need of their abilities. With their knack for retro, barber shop-inspired, handclap-driven choruses and unforgettable melodies, the pop world is ‘Ready’ for AJR.
‘Pretty Little Liars’ heroine Lucy Hale is a southern gal at heart and she’s embarking on her country career in 2014. Her sweet (but not cavity-causing) debut single ‘You Sound Good to Me’ just, well, sounds good. Make that really good. It has just enough twang to satisfy country music lovers and the requisite pop sheen that should attract fans of her small screen work as Aria Montgomery. The Taylor Swift comparisons are inevitable and honestly, that’s not exactly a bad thing. Hale is an accessible and talented singer. Besides, we defy you NOT to dance when you crank the volume of ‘YSGTM.’ Hollywood Records will release her debut album this year.
The NOLA rapper is just 21, but he’s in possession of a buttery smooth R&B voice with a decidedly bad boy edge. Plus, he’s backed by The-Dream. ‘I Luv This S–t’ is a naughty song about embracing vices, but Alsina makes it so believable on the street cred level. He walks the tightrope between R&B and hip-hop without a net.
Swedish trio NONONO make us say “YESYESYES,” especially with their artsy, unconventional indie pop track ‘Pumpin Blood.’ The dreamy vocals of Stina Wappling wrap around us like a warm blanket amid a flurry of chirpy, beat-dominated sounds. NONONO will undoubtedly attract hipsters, but there is something about NONONO that makes us fairly certain they will push through to the mainstream in 2014. It’s like, how could they not?
I Break Horses
Another Swedish group, I Break Horses, have this uncanny knack for being able to lull you into trance with their sonically delicious compositions. Mixing ’80s synths with bedroom shoegaze, Maria Linden and Fredrik Balck dole out richly textured songs. Listen to ‘Denial’ and feel yourself be absorbed by the music. It’s almost decadent, right? More please! Pretty please!
Diane Birch has one of those lived-in, storyteller-type voices that adds heft to her songs. You believe what she sings about, as though she has lived through the lyrical situation on a song like ‘All the Love You Got.’ She mixes pop and soul, and the resulting music positions her like a modern Carole King, who, BTW, has entire episodes of ‘American Idol’ dedicated to her songbook; so if you’re looking for relevancy, there you have it.
Chance the Rapper
Chicago-born Chance the Rapper features on Justin Bieber’s ‘Confident,’ which is certainly a career boost if there ever was one. With The Biebs having your back, you can do anything. But… have you heard CtR’s ‘Juice?’ Chance reminds us of Eminem in the way he employs a variety of voices, personas, inflections and tempos with his larynx, and that’s why we’re totally willing to take a “Chance” on him in 2014. He is all of 20, but he’s totally captured our attention. And that of The Biebs. Clearly, this kid’s got a whole lotta something.
There’s this abstract concept called ‘X Factor,’ and we’re not talking about the reality show. It’s that “thing” that an artist or a group has that just… clicks. MKTO, comprised of Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller, have that perfect mixture of talent and star quality. Sonically, they’re an blend of Michael Jackson and Prince, with just a touch of Outkast. The pair met while acting on the Nickelodeon show ‘Gigantic’ and that’s the size of things we expect from them in the one-four. Plus, MKTO aren’t afraid to do the alt hip-hop thing and turn polished R&B on its ear.
Aussie singer Vance Joy has one of those voices that helps him advance and tell a story through song, as is the case on ‘Riptide.’ His tone is richer than Warren Buffet. Joy deftly mixes folk and pop in delightfully indie fashion and he tells stories that you just want to listen to. He sort of reminds us an Oz version of Ed Sheeran in his storytelling ability and you know how that goes. Right? We expect Vance to bring us a whole lot of Joy in 2014.
A guy, a girl and electronic rock. We know what you’re thinking: You’ll stop us because you’ve heard this one before. But that would be unwise. Phantogram, comprised of Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel, traffic in a sort of psychadelic, mind-bending pop that messes with your mind in the best possible way. It has the same effect as a mind-altering substance without all the physical repercussions. ‘Black Out Days’ makes you feel like your are floating in space. There’s going to be more with this came from and we’re strapping ourselves in to ride sidecar. Their album ‘Voices’ drops in February.
It’s sort of impossible to not fall into Foxes’ trap. Foxes –she’s one person, the super cute and stylish Brit Louisa Rose Allen— practices electro-pop with a pulsating heart. A lot of synthy pop music lacks blood and guts, and has an element of cold, synthenic disconnection, but Foxes’ heat and her DNA is felt in every note of her music. Just have a listen to the RCA signee’s ‘Let Go for Tonight’ to feel her heat. She gets extra PopCrush points for her super cute, hip English girl style that we covet and copy.
British pop-rock band the Vamps remind us a bit of One Direction, which is never a bad thing. They’re cute. They’re talented. They deliver songs that we sing along every time we hear them. They play their instruments and are deft. They’ve opened for Selena Gomez and they are poised to step into the headline role in 2014. We’re thinking that the Vamps mania can carry over from jolly ol’ England into the good ol’ US of A!