2020 was undeniably rough, stripping us of too many of the things we hold dear, including live concerts—but music prevailed. The following artists, both new and rising, have produced incredible work you should be adding to your playlists, especially as they promise to break through in the coming year.
At only 20 years old, Arlo Parks is bursting with talent: she’s been featured by NPR and spotlighted by Michelle Obama, amongst other recognitions. It’s no surprise that she’s received so much appreciation. Her soft songs are tender and vulnerable, capturing the way it feels growing out of adolescence into adulthood. In fact, Parks has even been lauded as a voice for our generation.
NEWEST RELEASE: “Hope” (single)
ALSO CHECK OUT: “Black Dog” and “Green Eyes”
Sitting snugly at the intersection of pop and R&B, Asiahn is a vocal powerhouse and criminally underrated. As an out lesbian, her proud lyrics are incredibly empowering. She often sings about the complexities of relationships, self-discovery and exploring life.
NEWEST RELEASE: “The Interlude” (EP)
ALSO CHECK OUT: “Belong” and “Curiosity”
Dijon is most recognizable for his 2018 single, “Skin,” but his entire discography is one worth listening to. With a soft voice and gentle articulation of deep, earnest feelings, Dijon’s music sweeps listeners away on a hazy cloud.
NEWEST RELEASE: “The Stranger” (single)
ALSO CHECK OUT: “Nico’s Red Truck” and “Drunk”
I discovered Hope Tala when Raveena recorded “Floating” with her in 2019. Tala is a talented musician in her own right, releasing track after danceable track in the past couple of years. Her sound is summer-bubbles-meets-summer-blues, and much of her content basks in sensitivity.
NEWEST RELEASE: “Girl Eats Sun” (EP)
ALSO CHECK OUT: “Moontime” and “Lovestained”
Instrumentally, Kyle Dion’s got funk. Vocally, he’s buttery smooth with an irresistible falsetto, which he isn’t afraid to use to its fullest effect. A contemporary artist with a timeless sound, Kyle Dion would be a regrettable artist to miss out on.
NEWEST RELEASE: “That Don’t Mean a Thing” (single)
ALSO CHECK OUT: “Brown” and “Hands to Yourself”
Nilüfer Yanya’s music defies genre boundaries; it can best be described as a jazzy sort of pop, supplemented by her gravelly voice and hard guitars. She handles subjects both soft and tough with a trademark grittiness, and the motif of repetition immerses listeners in the worlds she creates.
NEWEST RELEASE: “Feeling Lucky?” (EP)
ALSO CHECK OUT: “Heavyweight Champion of the Year” and “Day 7.5093”
Something is injected into the music of Orion Sun to make it sound simultaneously nostalgic and current. Perhaps it’s the combination of lax beats and a soulful voice. Or maybe it’s the emotional lyrics juxtaposed with her chuckles sporadically breaking through. Whatever the case, Orion Sun makes subtle, moving tunes you can play in the background of your next hangout.
NEWEST RELEASE: “Forever” (single)
ALSO CHECK OUT: “Antidote” and “Coffee for Dinner”
Q’s discography spans acoustic and pop, demonstrating his range as an artist. His music has picked up more groove throughout the years, but his lyrics remain consistently intimate and raw, with romance and religion featuring as prominent themes.
NEWEST RELEASE: “The Shave Experiment” (EP)
ALSO CHECK OUT: “Your Special” and “Lavender”
Serena Isioma took off on TikTok when her song, “Sensitive,” went viral, and if you were as into it as I was, I guarantee you’ll find the whole EP to be refreshing. Isioma carries a distinct energy into her music, and her upbeat lyrics are rife with self love.
NEWEST RELEASE: “The Leo Sun Sets” (EP)
ALSO CHECK OUT: “Do I Make You Nervous” and “I Feel Fantastic”
It was almost impossible to pick only two of Tanerélle’s songs to recommend because there isn’t a single bad track in her discography. Her slow, deep, sultry voice transports listeners into the celestial realm, and her ethereal instruments elevate one to heavenly heights.
NEWEST RELEASE: “Star” (single)
ALSO CHECK OUT: “Love from NGC 7318” and “Dreamgirl”
Ivy Marie Clarke ‘22 is an English literature and creative writing double major, double minoring in art and women’s and gender studies. She has served as editor of the Arts & Culture section of The Cluster for the last two years. She also interns with Macon Magazine and Mercer University Press and edits for The Dulcimer. She also enjoys drinking coffee and writing poetry.