Mishaal in an article about international artists

6 International Artists To Take Your Music Tastes Global in the New Year

To expand your horizons, try thinking of an area of the world you haven’t explored and dive into its sounds.
December 18, 2020
9 mins read

It’s that time of year again — Spotify Wrapped has rolled out, showcasing the minutes spent on your top artists, songs and genres. Spotify Wrapped gives listeners the opportunity to reflect on their music and set goals for the next year of listening.

As I looked at my Spotify Wrapped this year, I noticed that the majority of the music I listen to comes from U.S. artists. I wondered if that was a common problem with U.S. students. This prompted me to search for some popular musicians who are not from the United States. Read on to discover some new international artists.

1. KAROL G (Colombia) – 31 million monthly listeners on Spotify

KAROL G has worked with both international artists as well as popular U.S. artists such as Nicki Minaj and the Jonas Brothers, but her solo music has also made a large splash in the music industry. The Colombian artist mixes reggaeton, pop and dance sounds in her music. KAROL G’s latest single, “Bichota,” just hit the Top 20 Global Chart. The Latin anthem has a dance club feel with a reggae beat and is about seizing empowerment for listeners, particularly women.

The word itself refers to “a moment of feeling sexy, flirtatious, daring, strong, empowered, and to a certain extent, [it] translates into personal motivation and self-confidence,” KAROL G told Billboard. “We are all super ‘Bichotas’ inside. It’s about believing and working so that the rest of the world can see it too.”

2. Fireboy DML (Nigeria) – 586k monthly listeners on Spotify

Fireboy combines multiple genres into a unique style he refers to as Afro-Life. The Nigerian star was rocketed into fame when his breakout single, “Jealous,” released in 2019. In quarantine, he worked on and released his sophomore album, “Apollo,” which was even more ambitious than his debut, “Laughter, Tears, and Goosebumps.” Fireboy’s music makes use of many instruments, with drums, trumpets, keys and acoustic guitar adding to the unique beat along with his interesting lyrics.

“Not all my songs are about me,” he told The Face about the content of the songs on “Apollo.” ​“I write about the experiences of other people. Sometimes I actually just imagine stuff. I mean, can a man be allowed to imagine for once?”

3. Mishaal (Saudi Arabia) – 1.2 million monthly listeners on Spotify

This NYU Tisch student is an up-and-coming artist from Saudi Arabia. I stumbled upon Mishaal on TikTok as he was promoting his first EP, “Life’s A Ride,” which was released in late October. I decided to check out his music and found that I instantly enjoyed his relaxed style and the mix of different languages in his songs. I especially liked the track “Run Baby,” which has verses in both Spanish and English.

He combines not only different languages but also different styles in his music. “Most of my melodies are very Arabic- and Spanish-inspired. Anybody can like any of (my) songs,” he told Arab News. His music career is just getting started, so it will be exciting to see his discography grow.

4. ELSZ (Sri Lanka) – 15k monthly listeners on Spotify

The singer and harpist from Sri Lanka promotes sound healing through their music. “ELSZ weaves narrative poetry into universal themes that unfold the raw emotional life and an implicit questioning of phenomena such as love and violence,” according to their website.

ESLZ’s music was recommended to me by one of their friends, Alok Vaid-Menon, a writer and activist who spoke at my university. Alok explained that listening to music by ELSZ unlocked their ability to use music as a form of therapy. When I was having a bad day I listened to their song “Are You Okay” and it really resonated with me. The song combines a techy beat with soulful vocals.

“The particular moment we’re in, allows us to be artists in a way we can also be our whole selves and bring everything into our art,” ELSZ told the Juggernaut.

5. Oscar Anton (France) – 331k monthly listeners on Spotify

One of many international artists from France, the pop musician produces his music in his parents’ Paris apartment. Every month this year Anton has released mini EPs he calls packs; each pack has two songs and a bonus track. His songs have a nice lo-fi beat paired with simple lyricism. His biggest hit on Spotify is “nuit d’été” with 3.3 million streams, and is sung completely in French. Anton produced the song with his sister Clementine and released it in his April pack.

“I’m really close to my sister and doing this together has been really amazing, I love this song,” Anton told TEEZ’ in April when the pack was released. “I’m not singing a lot on it, my sister does, but I would say it might be my favorite for now.”

6. MØ (Denmark) – 5.6 million monthly listeners on Spotify

The Danish singer creates electro-pop music with rock influences. The single “Lean On,” featuring Major Lazor and DJ Snake, was named the most streamed song globally in November 2015 and held its position until Drake’s “One Dance” took the lead. MØ’s latest album, “Forever Neverland,” showcases her talent as a solo artist.

“The dream is always to push the borders of whatever area you’re in,” MØ shared with NME. “I dream of doing something where people are like: ‘That’s different, but it’s still something I can relate to,’ because that’s the way of moving forward.”

Keep Discovering on Your Own!

If you want to discover more on your own, in addition to the Global Top 50 playlist, Spotify creates playlists for many individual countries, like the Made in Argentina playlist. Looking through these playlists can help you find new songs and other international artists.

They even have country-specific playlists based on genres, such as the Made Indie France playlist. To expand your global horizons, try thinking of an area of the world you haven’t explored and dive into their music.

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