If there’s one thing we know about artists and isolation, it’s that they can’t sit idly by and not create. While the coronavirus may have put much of the music industry on pause, this year is shaping up to be an exciting one for music.
2020 may have been the year of Billie Eilish, we’ve compiled a list of artists that have used their time in lockdown to perfect their craft and pose their career to be the next breakout act of 2021.
This TikTok viral sensation found fame overnight with her hit song “Thick Thighs” and then again with “Just About Over You” which reached the number 1 spot on iTunes. The recording of “Just About Over You” was crowd-funded by Block’s fans on TikTok and she quickly started receiving calls from labels as the song shot up the charts, surpassing artists like Grammy superstar Billie Eilish.
Be sure to stay tuned for more to come from this talented country singer-songwriter now that she is backed by record label UMG Nashville.
After the release of his debut album, “Kid Krow,” in March, Conan Gray was chosen as PEOPLE’s Ones to Watch this year. It’s been nothing but success for Gray and his music. His song “Heather” has become a viral sensation on TikTok and has even coined its own trendy catchphrase. Gray was slated to go on tour this year to promote his new album and was set to play at both Coachella and Firefly but, instead, his fans will have to settle for listening to his dreamy ballads from home.
Will he be 2021’s Artist of the Year? There’s a good possibility.
While Phoebe Briders isn’t new, her debut album released in 2017, she has certainly been making a name for herself this year. Her new album, “Punisher,” is one of the most acclaimed new albums of 2020. Released during the middle of the pandemic, “Punisher” jumped to the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart.
In place of the arena tour she was supposed to be on this summer, Bridgers streamed herself playing live from different spots in her home, including the kitchen and her bedroom. She appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live from her bathtub, where she performed “Kyoto.” Oh, and, of course, this now-infamous guitar-smashing SNL performance.
If you spent your time in lockdown reminiscing over old photo albums of your early teen years and memories of the early-2000s, then you might enjoy the throwback pop tunes of Rina Sawayama. Sawayama, a Japanese-British singer-songwriter who released her debut full-length album “SAWAYAMA” in April, fuses her Japanese culture with a mixture of nu-metal, R&B, and teen pop. The album's single “STFU!” expresses Sawayama’s experiences with racism and has a fun metal-like edge to the track that mixes interestingly with her pop undertones.
Her album received a MetaCritic score of 89, making it one of the year’s most highly-acclaimed albums, but she was denied eligibility for the Hyundai Mercury Prize due to not being a legal citizen of the U.K..
Adam Doleac started his music career while playing college baseball. He eventually traded the dugout for the fame of Nashville and began to write and play music professionally. Doleac started to gain some real traction with his single “Whiskey’s Fine,” which reached No. 3 on Sirius XM’s Hot 30 Countdown, and followed with “Famous” which went on to claim the No. 1 spot.
Doleac went on to tour with some of the biggest country music stars including Kane Brown and Chris Young. His success eventually led to a record label deal with Sony Music Group in October of 2019 and the release of his debut EP in June. He’s rightfully earned his spot in Rolling Stone’s ‘10 New Country Artists You Need To Know’ and CMT’s ‘Listen Up’ lists of 2020.
Another artist who found fame thanks to TikTok, Kaash Paige’s single “Love Songs” earned a nod from none other than Kylie Jenner. The track went viral and helped Paige earn a record deal with Def Jam. Her EP “Parked Car Convos” fuses the traditional Texas trap-rap sound with R&B.
At only 19 years old, Kaash Paige has a potentially long career ahead of her. Will 2021 be an even bigger year for Paige?
Ashnikko’s electric-blue wig and “f*ck you” attitude has solidified a following of like-minded individuals. Her singles “Stupid” and “Working Bitch” became viral sensations on TikTok and even gained the attention of Miley Cyrus. Ashnikko even partnered up with Beats by Dr. Dre and TikTok to create her music video for her single “Daisy” where fans were called to vote on their favorite color and submit creative videos for a chance to be featured in the music video.
Her debut album, “Demidevil,” is slated for a November release date. Follow her on TikTok and YouTube to catch some of her live streaming content.
Victoria Monét has decided to step out from behind the shadows and into the spotlight with the release of her debut album. Monét, known for her work with Ariana Grande on her track “7 Rings,” has also worked with artists Chloe x Halle, Brandy, and Kendrick Lamar, among others. The release of her critically acclaimed album “Jaguar” gained her a feature on Apple Music’s “New Up Artist.”
2020 is just the beginning for this new up-and-coming R&B artist. What will we see from her in 2021?
If the name Mulatto sounds familiar, it’s because she’s actually been around for a while. You may know her as the winner of The Rap Game, the Lifetime rap competition show produced by Jermaine Dupri and Queen Latifah. Mulatto won the very first competition at just 16 years old and she has been making a name for herself ever since. Her first hit single, “Bitch From Da Souf,” caught the eyes and ears of record labels and artists and by the end of 2019 she had signed on with RCA and released a remix of “Bitch From Da Souf” featuring Saweetie and Trina.
Despite the craziness of this year, Mulatto has been busy releasing her debut album, “Queen of Da Souf,” appearing in Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” music video, being named to the 2020 XXL Freshman class, and earning her first RIAA gold certification for her single “Bitch From Da Souf.”
Another one of CMT’s Listen Up artists of 2020, Niko Moon is already seeing gold for his single “Good Time.” Moon, Texas-born but Georgia raised, mixes country with traditional Atlanta hip-hop for a fusion that you can’t help but sit around and drink a beer to. When he’s not writing his own music, he’s teaming up with Zac Brown to write songs like “Homegrown,” “Keep Me in Mind,” “Loving You Easy,” and “Beautiful Drug.”
Moon signed with Sony Music Nashville in 2019 and recently made his Grand Ole Opry debut this October.
Fresh off its 2021 Interstate Music Awards win, this Long Island pop-punk outfit has big plans for 2021. In addition to a new music video for its track "Smiling Ghost" and releasing an acoustic EP of stripped-down versions of previously recorded material in March, the band will head back into the studio to record its sophomore EP in April.