On The Verge: 40 Artists To Watch In 2020
Grateful the glut of Year-End lists is over? Ready to Men In Black 2019 from your memory and dive into a new decade? Well, here’s a little something to cleanse your pop palate! I’ve put together a list of 40 artists expected to make serious noise in the next 12 months. The goal isn’t so much to predict The Next Big Thing (although all of them are legitimate contenders) as to introduce you to a group of must-hear newcomers with growing buzz and bright prospects. They are listed in alphabetical order below.
Alice Chater (UK)
After building a loyal following over the last couple of years, Alice Chater experienced a breakthrough in 2019 via stellar features on Professor Green’s “Got It All” and Iggy Azalea’s (underrated) “Lola.” With her star firmly on the rise, expectations are high for the Brit’s debut EP.
It looks like the stars are aligning for LA’s Amindi. She went viral as the voice of Tessellated & Valleyz’s “Pine & Ginger” and just dropped a stone-cold bop called “Love Em Leave Em,” which has a major sync in Tiffany Haddish’s upcoming Like A Boss. Amindi’s unique blend of dancehall, R&B and pop makes her One To Watch in 2020.
Anna Sofia (Canada)
16 years old and signed to a major label. Anna Sofia is being groomed for big things at Republic Records, not that this diamond needs much polishing. Her debut single, “No Fun,” was an intensely relatable DIY-pop anthem about the joy of doing absolutely nothing. It’s still early days, but the talented teen is off to a flying start.
Ant Saunders (US)
There used to be something of a delay between going viral and climbing the charts, but that’s a thing of the past. Ant Saunders found himself with a streaming sensation when “Yellow Hearts” caught fire on TikTok. That led to a deal with Arista Records and, a matter of weeks later, his first entry on the Billboard Hot 100.
Arizona Zervas (US)
Is it cheating to have Arizona Zervas on the list? For all intents and purposes, the 24-year-old singer/rapper has already progressed from One To Watch to breakout star. And it’s all thanks to the magic of TikTok. After going viral on the app, “Roxanne” climbed all the way to number four on the Billboard Hot 100. He is due for a huge 2020.
Audrey Mika (US)
Signed to RCA, Audrey Mika is the latest in a long line of artists to leverage YouTube fame into a record deal. Less common is the fact that the 19-year-old arrived with a fully-fledged sound. She delivered powerful vocals and real emotion on “Fake Heartbreak,” a track that hints at bigger and better things.
BENEE (New Zealand)
BENEE had a busy 2019, releasing not one but two critically-acclaimed EPs. Fire On Marzz and Stella & Steve showcased the singer/songwriter’s alt sensibility and willingness to experiment. She dabbles in everything from R&B to disco and pop — all through a warped lens that is completely her own. We need an album.
Catie Turner (US)
Who said talent shows no longer produce pop stars? Catie Turner impressed everyone on the sixteenth season of American Idol and immediately began releasing songs independently. “Prom Queen” went viral (it has 10 million streams and counting), while The Sad Vegan EP offers a tantalizing glimpse of her potential.
From Adele to Sam Smith, the UK has a habit of churning out world-conquering vocalists. Celeste could be the next in line. Signed to Interscope in the US, the newcomer commanded my complete attention with “Strange,” a haunting ballad showcases her gravelly vocals and razor-sharp pen. At this rate, her debut EP is destined to be an event.
With co-signs from Lewis Capaldi and Ed Sheeran, CHARLOTTE is destined for a breakout 2020. The budding singer/songwriter, who was discovered by Toby Gad, introduced herself with a 4-track EP called Nowhere To Hide. It’s a good listen, particularly the instantly-catchy “Nervous.”
Clinton Kane (Australia)
From Vance Joy to Dean Lewis, Australia has a long history of producing talented singer/songwriters. You can now add Clinton Kane to that list. The 20-year-old landed a deal with Columbia Records on the back of his popular YouTube covers and wasted no time crafting very good songs of his own. Exhibit A is “So I Don’t Let Me Down.”
Conan Gray (US)
Conan Gray has been on the verge of big things since going viral with “Idle Town” in 2017. Since then, he has signed with Republic and released a well-received EP. Everything finally clicked for the 21-year-old in 2019, however, when “Maniac” exploded on Spotify (50 million streams and climbing). With momentum on his side, Conan’s debut LP is destined to be one of the most-anticipated releases of 2020.
Dana Williams (US)
Timing is everything. After releasing a series of singles and EPs as an independent artist, Dana Williams found a home at Island Records in 2019 and immediately made her presence felt with “Holiday” and “Do No Harm.” She really showed what she is capable of on “Hard,” a relatable anthem about being your own worst enemy. Dana is due for a big 2020.
After penning hits for other people, Delacey decided it was time to churn out a few of her own in 2019. The singer/songwriter launched her artist project with the majestic “My Man,” a jazzy, expletive-filled update of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” and then tugged on our heartstrings with “The Subway Song.” I can’t wait for her next move.
Dominic Fike (US)
Dominic Fike penned his debut EP while under house arrest for battering a police officer. That might not be the most auspicious start to a music career, but the 6-song set sparked a bidding war and produced a global smash. The Jack Johnson-channelling “3 Nights” cracked the top 10 in Australia and the UK, and went on to rack up more than 300 million streams. His debut LP album is one of the most-anticipated of 2020.
Evan Giia (US)
Bone-rattling beats, soulful vocals and a knack for penning fiery lyrics are just three of the qualities that Evan Giia brings to the table. Signed to Astralwerks, the Brooklyn-based newcomer came out swinging with an atmospheric banger called “Encore” and then upped the ante with “Sidelines.” Her time is coming.
Faouzia has steadily been building buzz since featuring on David Guetta’s “Battle.” Since then, the 19-year-old has signed to Atlantic Records and released a steady stream of very good singles including “Born Without A Heart” and “Tears Of Gold.” With a debut EP on the way, 2020 could be the year the Moroccan-born pop star takes it to the next level.
It feels a little disingenuous to include someone who has penned number one hits and been nominated for multiple Grammys as One To Watch, but FINNEAS’ music still hasn’t received the attention it deserves. With any luck, 2020 will be the year Billie Eilish’s scarily-talented brother wreaks havoc on the charts with one of his own songs.
If the surprise success of Ava Max’s “Sweet But Psycho” taught us anything, it’s that there is still a place for dance-pop on top 40 radio. Which is good news for GALXARA. The intergalactic diva (who originally hails from Florida) channeled early Lady Gaga on her major-label debut single, “Waste My Youth.” With a song on the Birds Of Prey soundtrack, things are looking up for this newcomer.
Every now and again, a new artist gets so much traction with a song that their ascent feels inevitable. Georgia’s “About Work The Dancefloor” is a perfect example. A cross between late ’00s Robyn and fuzzy alt-pop, the Brit’s debut single won over the cool crowd and mainstream pop lovers alike. Her debut album drops on January 10 and it’s shaping up to be a feast for starving electro-pop fans.
Gia Ford (UK)
Gia Ford made a great first impression with “Turbo Dreams,” a sweeping pop anthem that showcased the Brit’s soulful vocals and visual flair. (She described the video as the “lesbian Notebook”). That was followed by an impeccable debut EP called Poster Boy and another perfect pop song called “Girl.” She’s definitely One To Watch in 2019.
girl in red (Norway)
The 20-year-old singer/songwriter had a breakout 2019 — landing on both my best singles and best EPs countdowns with “i need to be alone.” and Chapter 2, respectively. girl in red should make even bigger strides in 2020 as she continues to build a global following and slowly tinkers away at that much-anticipated debut LP.
Gracie Abrams (US)
Momentum is on Gracie Abrams’ side. The 21-year-old singer/songwriter got everyone’s attention in 2019 with a series of stripped-back pop songs like “Minor,” “Mean It” and “Stay.” With innate musicality and a knack for penning emotional lyrics, Gracie has what it takes to reach a much bigger audience in 2020.
Griff’s The Mirror Talk EP was one of 2019’s most exciting debuts. The 18-year-old found the sweet spot between alt-R&B and pop, tackling subjects as diverse as breakups (“Didn’t Break It Enough” was a revelation) and perseverance in the face of adversity (“Paradise”). The Brit needs to be on your pop radar this year.
It’s not easy to follow in the footsteps of a living legend, but Elijah Hewson — the son of Bono — is doing an admirable job with his band Inhaler. The indie-pop quartet delivered one of my favorite songs of 2019 with “Ice Cream Sundae” and deservedly earned a spot on the BBC Music Sound of 2020 list. They are going to be big.
Isabela Merced (US)
Dora The Explorer has bops! Yes, the star of the live-action adaptation embarked on a pop career in 2019 and impressed with a fiery dance-pop anthem called “PAPI,” which pays homage to her Peruvian heritage by incorporating traditional sounds. She even proved to be handy at choreography in the chic video. Bring on her next banger!
Isaac Dunbar (US)
They’re starting young these days. Isaac Dunbar is all of 16, and he has already released a couple of eccentric major-label singles. “Body” and “Onion Boy” both showcase his alt-sensibilities and uncanny knack for pop hooks. His debut EP, which is due in early 2020 via RCA, is going to be special.
Kate Teague (US)
Kate Teague just has one of those voices that speaks directly to your heart. That coupled with a razor-sharp pen and a pleasantly lo-fi approach to production made songs like “Gilly,” “In Our Element” and “Sweetheart” absolute gems. With a critically-acclaimed EP under her belt, it’s time to start chipping away at that debut LP.
Leyla Blue (US)
The award for the best-named EP of 2019 went to Leyla Blue for Songs For Boys That Didn’t Text Me Back. That impossible-to-ignore calling included notable bops “Silence” and “What A Shame.” She is already back on her grind, kicking off 2020 with a rowdy banger called “Peppa Pig.”
Lola Young (UK)
A priority for Capitol Records in 2020, Lola Young is one of the new wave of UK pop stars on the verge of Very Big Things. The 18-year-old introduced herself with the pragmatically-titled Intro EP, demonstrating considerable vocal talent and a chameleon-like approach to pop over its seven very-good tracks. She is going to have a big year.
Midnight Kids (US)
Comprised of Kyle Girard and Dylan Lee, Midnight Kids is one of the most exciting new acts in EDM. Since debuting in 2018, the duo has taken their time — releasing just four songs over two years. What they lack in quantity, they more than make up for with quality. Listen to “Those Were The Days” and “Run It” for proof. With new music on the way, Midnight Kids are well and truly on the rise.
Nasty Cherry (US/UK)
As soon as word got out that Charli XCX had assembled a girl group, all eyes were on Nasty Cherry. Expectations were not only met, but thoroughly exceeded when the quartet debuted in 2019 with a stone-cold smash called “Win.” With an excellent EP now under their belt, bigger and better things are to come.
There’s something refreshingly retro about ren’s DIY, grunge-pop sound. After generating buzz with “waves” and “mind games,” the 17-year-old really hit her stride with “idc” — a wonderfully blunt fuck-you anthem wrapped in layers of fuzz and feedback. The Canadian teenager is definitely One To Watch as 2020 unfolds.
I think this is technically cheating because I have covered Grace Sewell at length since she debuted with “You Don’t Own Me” way back in 2015, but the Australian soul singer underwent a name change in 2019 and reemerged as SAYGRACE. While the moniker is new, the sound is largely unchanged. Which is a very good thing. Here’s to the 22-year-old finally getting the recognition she deserves.
Tate McRae (Canada)
Between “tear myself apart” and “all my friends are fake,” Tate McRae racked up more than 10 million streams in 2019. The 16-year-old then followed it up with an even better song called “stupid,” which documents a serious case of lovesickness. With her debut EP on the horizon (all the things i’ve never said drops January 24), she’s gearing up for a breakthrough year.
Tifa Chen (China)
While K-Pop gets most of the attention on the global stage, the rest of Asia is starting to catch up. China’s Tifa Chen is a superstar at home thanks to a second place finish on The Voice. She made her international debut in 2019 with a feature on Jonas Blue’s “Billboard” and impressed with her bilingual vocals. Expect the Chinese sensation to make even bigger moves in 2020.
Tones And I (Australia)
Tones And I was arguably the breakout star of 2019 thanks to the staggering global success of “Dance Monkey.” The unstoppable anthem topped the charts just about everywhere and is looking increasingly likely to repeat the feat in the US. However, there are more hits where that came from. Expect the Aussie to go from strength to strength in 2020.
Trevor Daniel (US)
Originally released in late 2018, Trevor Daniel’s “Falling” exploded on Spotify in 2019 and delivered the Houston native his first entry on the Billboard Hot 100. The moody hip-hop/pop concoction is still climbing the charts, which means that we’re going to hear a lot more from the genre-bender in 2020.
Tyla Yaweh (US)
Mentored by Post Malone, Tyla Yaweh has been building a following via a steady stream of very-good singles and a killer mixtape called Heart Full Of Rage. The most exciting thing about the LA-based newcomer is his versatility. He’s equally adept at hip-hop, R&B and pop, which makes him the perfect artist for our post-genre world.
Winona Oak (Sweden)
Sweden just does pop better. That was first established by ABBA in the ’70s and then confirmed by a long list of artists including Roxette, Ace Of Base, Robyn, Tove Lo and many, many more. Winona Oak is the next in line and she mesmerized pop fans in 2019 with gloomy gems like “Break My Broken Heart” and “He Don’t Love Me.” Don’t be surprised if she breaks big this year.