“I just want to fucking talk to my fans and sing and write music and drop it the way these boys do,” Ariana Grande told Billboard last year and that’s exactly what she did. She dropped two albums within six months and released her biggest hit yet thank u, next out of the blue. She’s garnering big stream numbers previously reserved for rappers or Ed Sheeran and the music keeps getting better and better. She’s uncompromising, inspired, honest and transparent. A popstar deserving of her place at the top of the pedestal right now.
If you look up glow-up from now on, you’re likely to be directed to Lizzo’s 2019. The US rapper/singer/flutist has been chipping away at it for years now but the world is only just catching on. She radiates self-love and body positivity, celebrating every part of her personality through her music and visuals. Juice is the most endearing song we’ve heard in a long time, complete with a visual that has made us fall in love with Lizzo about 345 times this year. On top of that, she’s treated the Ellen audience to a fire flute solo and made her bum the centre of a two page spread. Who else can do that?
SOPHIE has always been an exemplary producer but something shifted in the way she presents herself last year. Often hiding behind smoke and mirrors, she stepped out with the heavenly It’s Okay To Cry. She stared front on into the camera as if she was not only introducing herself to the world but embracing every part of herself. The album that followed OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES was an experimental, ethereal and raw triumph that earned her a Grammy nomination. She’s also created a live show that encourages everyone to feel liberated. “I want to create spaces that would allow for that kind of expression to take place; free, musical, decadent spaces,” she told i-D. Trust us, they’re beautiful places to be.
When Solange drops an album it’s a solitary event. Nothing she does emulates what’s popular and yet she finds a way to make her own world popular. Last week’s When I Get Home was Solange’s most visionary project yet. It’s a 39-minute peep into her hometown of Houston. It’s experimental, challenging and linear, effortlessly blending together jazz, RnB and the underground Houston rap scene. On top of that, she handed us a visual so good you could screenshot every frame. Nobody in the industry radiates individuality quite like Solange does.
Julie Adenuga is Beats 1’s London host, repping for the city is the most positive, passionate way. She’s a warm and excitable host who has become one of the most trusted interviewers amongst artists because she makes them feel so at home. A quick YouTube search and you’ll find some of the most endearing interviews of the year like her giggly chat with Jorja Smith, her open and honest moment with Cardi B or her raw interview with Lily Allen. She respects every artist that steps in the room with her and earns that respect back. She’s the type of person that makes you feel inspired by music and that’s rare in this churn and burn music culture.
Tayla Parx has had an incredible year so far and you probably don’t even know it yet. She’s part of Ariana Grande’s friendship group and writing team that spawned huge hits like thank u, next but her discography goes far deeper than that. At just 25 years of age, she’s penned tracks for Khalid, Janelle Monae and Normani while also pursuing her own solo career. That said career is going to blow up this year. She’s dropping her debut album next month and has started that campaign with I Want You today. It’s easily one of the best pop songs this year and a reminder that none of the boys are even close to catching the pop girls this year.
It’s been another massive year for Aussie radio host and music enthusiast Ash London who has expanded her influence once again. On top of hosting Ash London Live on the Hit Network, she’s now part of the 2DayFm breakfast show and she’s hosting MTV’s local TRL reboot. It just means we get to hear her speak more and more about music which inspires us daily. Australian pop music is finally having a moment and we have to thank Ash in part for championing that revival. She’s tirelessly championed Aussie pop kids on Ash London Live giving them a national platform that commercial radio held from them for so long.
If you’re looking for the best songwriter in Australia right now, you’re going to find it right here in 20 year-old Grace Shaw AKA. Mallrat. Her raw and frank pop music is resonating around the world showing that sometimes when you’re unapologetically yourself you can find thousands (millions?) of people that resonate with you. That’s exactly what’s happening with Mallrat. Last year’s Groceries entered the top 10 of triple j’s Hottest 100 while she’s currently touring the world with Maggie Rogers. When she’s not doing the latter she’ll be calling LA home this year and manifesting writing for Dua Lipa and Rihanna, as she told The Fader. We believe it’s going to happen.
Kacey Musgraves 2018/19 success story is an unlikely one. The rogue country star was quietly rejected from country radio in the US for standing up for LGBTQI+ rights and fiercely championing female voices. Undeterred, she’s gone onto be one of the most prolific voices of the last year in music off the back of her brilliant third album Golden Hour. The project saw her adopted by just about every other genre in music and earned her the Grammy for Album Of The Year. She’s used her ever-expanding platform to keep celebrating the communities that surround and uplift her. “I feel really hopeful and proud about the state of the modern woman,” she said in her Billboard Women In Music speech. “Her bravery, her unapologetic celebration of rights. Her life, her mind, and her art. And definitely most of all, her realness. And I’ve been craving realness for so long.” She’s passionate about the importance of art in “tumultuous” times too and her art has soothed plenty of people in the last year.
Normani has decided it’s time for her moment in the spotlight and she’s about the be one of the most talked about icons in music. The former Fifth Harmony member is not using her past to drive her current success but rather putting in the hard work. She earned her first solo top 10 in the US last year with Love Lies and has since collaborated with Calvin Harris, 6lack, Sam Smith and Quavo. Her visuals and live performances though are suggesting she has the goods to become an icon of this generation. She’s an unbelievable dancer and every live performance she’s delivered has been breathtaking. Admittedly, we’ve watched her Billboard performance of Love Lies close to 100 times.
Rosalía is one of the most uncompromising artists in the world right now. She’s risen to the top both in her home country of Spain and globally by carving her own path and is completely unwavered by any trends in music right now. She’s fused flamenco with modern genres to create a sound that pays homage to the traditional and also envisions the future. Last years El Mal Querer is one of the most powerful and visionary pop projects in recent memory and on top of that she’s creating a transporting visual world through incredible music videos.
Bridget Hustwaite is the host of Good Nights on triple j and one of the most fiercely passionate music fans in the country. She’s just as likely to champion local talent on the radio (and on Spotify) as she is to fangirl over popstars like Dua Lipa, breaking down the wall of pretentiousness that is often too prevalent in Australian music. She makes us excited about every song she plays, bringing a relentless energy to her time on air and on social media. She’s also an incredibly effective voice for women’s right in this country, giving endometriosis an important platform by sharing her own experiences. You can donate to that exact cause right here if you have seconds and dollars to spare.
Wafia has been releasing brilliant pop music for the better part of three years now and yet she keeps going from strength-to-strength. She’s Australia-based but was born in the Netherlands to Iraqi-Syrian parents and is bringing every part of herself and her beliefs to her music. She’s able to make light of complex political and personal situations within accessible pop music like on Bodies where she depicts the Syrian refugee crisis with succinct, direct imagery. At the same time, she’s able to deliver personal anthems like the all-conquering I’m Good which found a spot in the top 20 of last year’s triple j Hottest 100. In each of her songs we get an insight into both her worldview and her own internal situations, the combination of which is making her one of the most potent artists in the country.
King Princess is exactly the type of popstar we want in 2019. She’s a queer, vocal, unapologetic musician who is making some of the most direct and accessible pop music around right now. Released via Mark Ronson’s label, she’s proving that there’s no worth in doing what others are doing. In 2019, a song called Pussy Is Gold can find an audience of millions and a queer breakup song Talia can generate mainstream success. Thank goodness we’ve got artists like King Princess can show that. She’s the future of music and it’s going to bring comfort and strength to a whole generation of music lovers.
Tierra Whack is the greatest innovator in hip-hop right now. The criminally underrated Philly rapper changed the game last year with her 15-minute visual album Whack World, serving only 1-minute songs. She introduced us to her experimental, wonky and wonderful bars while establishing herself as a creative force. This year, she’s unveiling full-length songs one week at a time and proving that her rise to the top is going to be sharp. “best believe I'm gon' sell if I just be myself,” she opened her Whack World project with and it’s a mantra she’s rightfully sticking to.
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