On The Verge: 20 Artists To Watch In 2016

Mike Wass | December 17, 2015 2:15 pm
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Exhausted by Year End lists? Tired of reliving the past 12 months like the protagonist of an Adele ballad? Well, here’s a little something to cleanse your pop palate! We have compiled a list of 20 artists expected to make waves in 2016. The aim isn’t so much to predict The Next Big Thing (although they are all legitimate contenders) as to introduce you to a group of Idolator-approved newcomers with big buzz and bright prospects.

As such, anyone with a US hit in their discography (like the amazing Daya or brilliant Rozes) was ruled ineligible for the round-up. Instead, we’re focussing on artists on the verge of finding a much larger audience. Like Australian rapper Tkay Maidza or Darkwave Duchess Abra. It’s an eclectic list that reflects the weird and wonderful state of current-day pop music. Please note that finalists are listed in alphabetical order.

Abra (USA)

Abra is part of Awful Records, and the self-described Darkwave Duchess is the Atlanta hip-hop clique’s secret weapon. She makes cloudy, chillwave-flecked R&B comprising tapped-out bedroom beats and the emotive hooks of a seasoned Top 40 vet. Abra has the voice and instincts to transcend Awful’s internet stardom. — CARL WILLIOTT

August Eve (USA)

Looking for another dark-pop goddess to worship? Well, August Eve could be the star of your next depressing playlist! The 17-year-old delivered one of 2015’s better debut singles with “Ghost” — a haunting piano ballad with a memorable melody and unsettling lyrics. The mysterious teen recently deleted all her social media accounts, which hints at an imminent rebrand. — MIKE WASS

AURORA (Norway)

Sweden’s contribution to pop music is legendary, but their Norwegian neighbors certainly hold their own as AURORA proved earlier this year with sublime EP Running With The Wolves. The juxtaposition of the 19-year-old’s raw, emotive voice against icy synths (and a smattering of acoustic instruments) was unforgettable and promises great things for debut LP All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend (due March 11). — MIKE WASS

Clairity (USA)

2015 gave way to a handful of new off-kilter pop ladies, and one standout decided to pave her path all the way from suburban Tennessee. Clairity first popped up thanks to Kesha’s mother Pebe Sebert, who came across her demo. She then followed through with the moody, synth-filled “DNA” single back in July. Since the track’s release, the 18-year-old singer continued to prove she was a future mainstay with her debut Alienation EP. It is flooded with surprisingly mature electronica that geeks who can’t seem to shake off their ’90s nostalgia (including myself) will appreciate. Who knew being a nerd could sound so cool? — BIANCA GRACIE

Cloves (Australia)

Cloves arrived in a blaze of blog buzz in July with bluesy ballad “Don’t You Wait” and then backed it up with equally gorgeous debut EP XIII last month. While the 19-year-old’s honey-dipped vocals make her a no-brainer for this list, there’s an earthiness to her music that separates her from the pack. She’s more interested in breaking your heart with melancholy melodies and simple storytelling than bruising your ears with a monster chorus. Which makes her a rarity on the pop scene. — MIKE WASS

Conrad Sewell (Australia)

The male newcomers were a bit scarce this year, but artists like Conrad Sewell made everyone take notice. (Jay Z’s business partner famously tried to steal “Start Again” for Kylie Minogue). But there’s more to him than balladry as his feature on Kygo’s vibrant tropical house gem “Firestone” demonstrates. The rising star is currently finishing up his much-anticipated debut album. — BIANCA GRACIE

Elohim (USA)

Mysterious, masked synth songstress Elohim arrived on our radar thanks to a shout-out by Betty Who over the summer, for her sparkling charmer of a single “She Talks Too Much.” Further releases like slow grinder “Xanax” and cute pop number “Bridge And The Wall” further established her as an artist who knows her way around a solid hook. — ROBBIE DAW


A country-tinged pop anthem with a radio-ready chorus, “War Paint” served as FLETCHER’s very impressive calling card. The ruthlessly catchy ode to self-acceptance went viral and racked up more than 10 million streams by the end of the summer. The 21-year-old, who cut her teeth impersonating Hannah Montana at children’s parties (!!), proved it was no fluke by delivering another euphoric pop anthem called “Live Young Die Free.” Needless to say, expectations for her debut EP are high. — MIKE WASS

Frances (UK)

An early favorite to claim BBC’s Sound Of 2016 title (an honor previously bestowed on Adele and Sam Smith), Frances is shaping up to be the UK’s next big musical export. What’s all the hype about? Well, for starters there’s that voice — an instrument that soars and wavers with rare purpose and purity. The Berkshire-born singer/songwriter also displays a willingness to experiment that sets her apart from other big-lunged divas. She’s just as comfortable belting out a beautiful piano ballad (“Let It Out”) as she is dabbling in electronica with a little help from Disclosure. — MIKE WASS


Indulge is the name of this London singer-songwriter’s debut EP, and it proves to be a worthy title. There are just three tracks here, but they pack enough of a memorable punch to convince that JONES’ explorations in synth-filled indie-soul are not to be ignored. The best of the bunch, “Deep,” sounds like a cross between Solange’s brilliant “Losing You” and Sky Ferreira’s pop masterpiece “Everything Is Embarrassing.” In other words, get this lady in a studio with Dev Hynes, stat! — ROBBIE DAW

Kacy Hill (USA)

Kacy Hill made the jump from Yeezus Tour dancer to G.O.O.D. Music artist in a matter of months, and her debut Bloo EP makes equally quick work. In the space of three songs, she explores James Blake-indebted ambient pop, stomping soul and the sweeping vocal grandeur of London Grammar or Florence + The Machine. With that kind of range, Hill could be the latest Kanye signee to flourish. — CARL WILLIOTT

LÉON (Sweden)

With the exception of Tove Lo and super producer Max Martin, Sweden was conspicuously absent from the Billboard Hot 100 in 2015. That could change in 2016 when LÉON rolls out her artfully constructed pop anthems. The 21-year-old, who recently signed to Sony, generated significant early buzz with Hype Machine-conquering debut single “Tired Of Talking” and a Katy Perry co-sign. Imagine what she will achieve with a major label behind her. — MIKE WASS

Meg Mac (Australia)

Meg Mac first made waves by winning the prestigious Unearthed competition for unsigned talent in Australia. That buzz went global with the release of soulful ballad “Roll Up Your Sleeves” and a star-turn at SXSW 2015. She delivered on that promise by dropping an EP of flawlessly-executed pop songs and should continue to build an international audience in 2016 with the release of her much-anticipated debut LP. — MIKE WASS

Nao (UK)

Nao’s voice is undeniably similar to that of Aluna Francis, but where Francis can sound relaxed and cool, Nao brings a gooey warmth. The British singer has worked with A.K. Paul and Disclosure, and has a song that shares a title with a Taylor Swift smash. But look for her to make waves without having her name attached to someone else’s, when she releases her debut LP in 2016. — CARL WILLIOTT

Pom Poms (USA)

Like a wave of surf rock spraying us on a balmy summer night at a Zuma beach bonfire, Pom Poms washed over our ears in 2015 with dreamy single “Betty.” This duo, comprised of vocalist Marlene Gold and instrumentalist Billy Mohler, possess a knack for channeling the 1960s like we haven’t seen since the 1990s — a feat that in and of itself makes them worthy of breaking out in a big way next year. — ROBBIE DAW

Shura (UK)

The UK always had a strong grip of impeccably cool pop/dance music, and newcomers like Shura continue steer the ever-growing sonic trends of the two genres. The singer/songwriter (who hails from Manchester) first made waves in the underground blog scene last year, but she owned 2015 with her White Light EP that features the euphoric “2Shy” and the ’80s-inspired synth gem that is the title track. Her music makes you want to reunite your ex-lover, cry in the bar’s bathroom and dominate a glitter-filled dancefloor with your girlfriends — all in one night! — BIANCA GRACIE

Sigala (UK)

DJs-turned-producers out of London who deal in house hits are a dime a dozen these days, but if you thought Sigala’s “Easy Love” — a chart-topping piece of feel-good pop that samples Jackson 5 classic “ABC” — was a fluke, you clearly haven’t heard stomping follow-up “Sweet Lovin’.” Pray to the deep house gods for a full album from this dynamo in 2016. — ROBBIE DAW

Sofi De La Torre (Spain)

It became an unofficial trend for rising pop ladies this year to hail from either the UK or Australia, but Sofi De La Torre is refreshingly breaking the mold. The singer-songwriter hails from the Canary Islands, and her Alt-R&B music (that subgenre doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon) is effortlessly sultry with waves of dreamy synths that’s found on tracks like “Lovers Work Late” and “Mess.” The 25-year-old describes her music as “pop done right” — and while it’s quite an ambitious statement for a new artist, I couldn’t agree more. — BIANCA GRACIE

Steve James (USA)

Steve James made the leap from bedroom producer with an avid SoundCloud following to co-creator of Justin Bieber’s Purpose title track in the space of a year. The 17-year-old is now hoping to capitalize on that well-deserved break by focussing on his own music — namely a killer collaboration with fellow rising star Clairity. Hopefully, he keeps remixing tracks on the side because his overhaul of Melanie Martinez’s “Soap” ranks as one of the year’s best. Pay close attention to him in 2016. — MIKE WASS

Tkay Maidza (Australia)

Australia-based Tkay Maidza pins high-energy raps to productions that circumvent or expand on contemporary hip-hop, resulting in a bouncy rap-pop hybrid that’s as bubbly, hectic and magnetic as anything from pastiche-pop masterpiece Santogold or Azealia Banks’ 1991 EP. Maidza collaborated with fellow Aussie artist Troye Sivan on his debut album this year, but next year look for her to break out beyond Australia. — CARL WILLIOTT

Who do you think will break big in 2016? Let us know below, or by hitting us up on Facebook and Twitter!