As the new year comes into itself, a number of musicians have already begun staking their claims as “ones to watch” in 2019. However, while these headline-dominating music makers certainly deserve all the attention they have earned for themselves, there are a number of other artists, specifically vocalists, who I think are poised to have a breakout year.
So, in no particular order, here are a number of incredibly talented, yet still overlooked singers whose names you might just find yourself hearing more and more as the months pass.
1. Sasha Sloan
An indie pop singer based in LA, Sloan was originally a songwriter for people such as Camila Cabello, Tinashe and John Legend. Sloan’s music tackles emotional issues not normally covered in pop, such as family turmoil, loneliness and depression, and some of my favorite works of hers are “The Only” and “Normal.”
With EPs named “sad girl” and “Loser,” Sloan’s music taps into the sadder parts of our souls in a way that is both relatable and poignant. Pairing such rawness with a melody you just can’t get out of your head, Sloan’s work will have you dancing and crying all at the same time.
Recently, a number of writers have pegged Sloan as an up-and-coming artist. For example, Erica Gonzalez, for Harper’s Bazaar, wrote, “Her songs might contain dim subject matter—i.e. her parents’ divorce, heartbreak, being an outsider—but that’s why they’re relatable.”
According to the music website onestowatch, “Sasha Sloan makes no effort to disguise her moods, branding herself as ‘Sad Girl Sloan’ across her various social media platforms. She’s been picking up plenty of steam with her plain, introverted aesthetic, as well as a steady stream of impressive music.”
Even Perez Hilton tweeted about Sloan’s music:
I’m going to coin a new phrase – Seattle pop! Portland pop works too. @sadgirlsloan fits this category nicely, keeping @MaggieRogers company. Normal is gonna turn up your local Starbucks! Check it out HERE: https://t.co/qQ6HCgbqCp
— Perez (@ThePerezHilton) January 19, 2019
With over 4 million monthly listeners on Spotify and substantial media attention, Sloan certainly began to make headlines in 2018, but I’m confident 2019 will be when the rest of the world falls in love with her music just as I have.
One of few musical groups I regularly listen to, EXES is an indie pop duo composed of singer Allie McDonald and producer Mike Derenzo whose music is at once romantic, heartbreaking and emotional. According to their Spotify bio, “Allie’s lyrical intimacy combined with Mike’s sonic intricacy allow the duo to create a detail-oriented sort of indie pop; equal parts affectionate and vulnerable in production, lyrics and melody.”
The group’s piece “Cain” is currently one of my favorite songs and is a touching ballad about McDonald’s first love. The two met online, but he ended up passing away from cancer before they got a chance to meet in person. After Cain’s passing, McDonald went to visit Cain’s friends and family, and this experience inspired the song.
EXES hasn’t yet attracted the same amount of media hype as Sloan, but I’m sure that their attention is coming soon. Their number of Spotify monthly listeners has risen to over 867,000, and their music has been featured on various popular TV shows, such as “Quantico” and Netflix’s “Degrassi: Next Class.”
Another thing I love about EXES is their accessibility. The group makes a point of engaging with their fans through their Twitter account, frequently interacting with people’s posts in a way that makes them feel connected to both the music and the artists themselves.
3. Willow Smith
When I found out that Willow Smith was still making music, I assumed her new work would be similar to “Whip My Hair,” which she released in 2010 when she was 10 years old. It’s safe to say I was quite surprised then when her music turned out to be soulful, existential and almost spiritual R&B.
Now 18, Willow makes music that is unique and emotional, with topics such as the soul, consciousness and our existence within the universe. My absolute favorite song of hers is “Marceline,” which is inspired by Marceline, a vampire from the TV show “Adventure Time.”
Smith’s music is not well-known either, but she has a good number of Spotify monthly listeners, currently over 1 million. The reason behind her music’s absence from the media might be Smith’s own doing. In an interview with Vulture, when asked if she would have done anything differently looking back on “Whip My Hair,” she said, “I probably wouldn’t have made music at first. I would’ve trained and trained and became a savant first, and then I would’ve allowed myself into the public eye. That’s what I would’ve done differently, but everything happens for a reason. And I’m gonna become a savant now so I can have the best of both worlds.”
In my opinion, Smith is on her way to achieving her goals. She’s a hidden gem that gets more and more polished with each song she creates.
4. Billie Marten
Nineteen-year-old British folk singer Billie Marten, whose real name is Isabella Tweddle, has a lyrical, ethereal style combined with a simplicity that tells beautiful, achy stories. Her songs are intimate and tinged with notes of sadness in the honesty of her simple, powerful work.
Marten first became popular in 2011 at the age of 12 after going viral on YouTube; she then released her first EP at 15 and a full album at 17. In 2016, she was even nominated for the prestigious BBC Sound of 2016 Award.
“Bird,” my favorite piece of hers, is a delicate and sorrowful work of art that has garnered 1.1 million views since its 2016 release. Marten has 1.5 million monthly Spotify listeners, a count that has been steadily growing as she releases music, like her new song, “Mice.”
Marten is also open about her struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a kind of depression that is triggered by the dark, melancholic nature of the winter. In the BBC article “Billie Marten: Why nobody’s looking at the teenage star,” Marten called music her outlet, and said she also volunteers at a charity to cope.
“Your attitude to everything changes,” Marten said about SAD. “ … You get very bitter, very resentful of people’s lives if they’re not affected by it — which isn’t a nice trait to have. Most mental illnesses do that. They isolate you — rather than make you want to accept other people’s love or your own love.”
Marten rose to fame quickly at a young age, so it’s no question that her music is good. Even though the attention has somewhat faded, Marten is continuing to improve as an artist, so she will likely have another, perhaps prolonged stint in the limelight.