9 musical artists to watch in 2014

You heard it here first: These musicians are on the way up

Thanks to the relentless hype machine that is the internet, it's never too early to start speculating about which artists will make it big in 2014. Artists are increasingly buoyed by buzz and blogs over traditional factors like radio play and record deals, which means it's not uncommon for a mega-star to pop up seemingly out of nowhere (who had heard of Lorde last February?).

From rising rappers to quiet folk singers, here are nine promising musicians poised for a breakout year:


Los Angeles-based vocalist Jillian Banks makes sultry, futuristic R&B that's turning the heads of listeners and producers alike. While each song on her London EP was produced by a different beat-maker, Banks' songs are always moody and rich with emotion. Called "the most plainly obvious pop star you're ever likely to see" by VICE, it doesn't take many listens to realize Banks is headed somewhere big.
For fans of: Jessie Ware, Little Dragon
Listen: "Waiting Game"

2. The Orwells

Garage-punk band The Orwells may be fresh out of high school, but don't call them amateurs. The Illinois quintet recently made waves and won the praise of David Letterman (who called for an encore!) when they powered through a restless, thrashing performance on The Late Show in January.
For fans of: The Stooges, Arctic Monkeys
Listen: "Other Voices"

3. Sam Smith

You may not know his name, but you'll likely recognize U.K.-born singer-songwriter Sam Smith's powerful, emotive voice. Smith gained attention for his soulful guest spot on Disclosure's 2012 smash hit "Latch," and followed up with a handful of impressive acoustic performances and a solo EP last October. His versatility, pop appeal, and undeniable vocal prowess have already led the BBC to crown him the winner of its yearly Sound of 2014 poll.
For fans of: Disclosure, Adele
Listen: "Money on My Mind"

4. Vic Mensa

If you like your rap off-kilter and hyper-verbose, Chicago native Vic Mensa is your guy. A good friend of 2013 rising star Chance the Rapper, Mensa shares a similar flow with the Acid Rap mastermind — but he's more streetwise, and "100 percent talent," says David Drake at Complex. His criminally underrated mixtape, Innanetape, was released in September.
For fans of: Chance the Rapper, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar
Listen: "Orange Soda"

5. FKA Twigs

Ethereal, dark, and supremely sexual, Britain's FKA Twigs (née Tahliah Barnett) makes sensual R&B with an experimental twist. On her latest EP, Twigs' breathy vocals fit effortlessly into producer (and recent Yeezus collaborator) Arca's free-floating, constantly shifting beats. The result is a group of tracks that sound like they were recorded underwater.
For fans of: Massive Attack, Jamie xx
Listen: "Papi Pacify"

6. Courtney Barnett

On the lead single off the Australian slacker-rocker's The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, Courtney Barnett has a panic attack while attempting to do some gardening. The song itself, however, doesn't sound panicked at all. "The paramedic thinks I'm clever 'cause I play guitar / I think she's clever 'cause she stops people dying," Barnett sing-mumbles in a Lou Reed-esque drawl. When she makes it big, Courtney Barnett will probably be the one who cares the least.
For fans of: Kurt Vile, Bob Dylan
Listen: "Avant Gardener"

7. MØ

"Long hair, don't care" may well be Karen Marie Ørsted's m.o. The Copenhagen native, who has made a braided ponytail her signature look, combines irresistible pop hooks with her distinctive voice to create electropop that is at turns raucous, icy, and soulful. If her stellar collaboration with producer Diplo is any indication, producers will soon be lining up to work with MØ.
For fans of: Lorde, Lykke Li
Listen: "XXX 88 (feat. Diplo)"

8. Angel Olsen

Singer-songwriter Angel Olsen is constantly blurring the line between minimalist folk, country, and indie music. But no matter what genre her music shifts to, Olsen's effortlessly devastating voice and intimate lyrics make any song she touches an emotional powerhouse.
For fans of: Leonard Cohen, Bill Callahan
Listen: "White Fire"

9. Speedy Ortiz

Between their grungy guitars and DGAF attitude, it's no surprise that this Massachusetts quartet nurses an affection for '90s alt-rock heroes like Liz Phair and Pavement. But this is more than a well-done tribute, as frontwoman Sadie Dupuis' oddball lyrics reliably prove that the band is more personality than pastiche.
For fans of: Pavement, Built to Spill
Listen: "No Below"


The daily gossip: March 20, 2023
Tina Fey
Daily gossip

The daily gossip: March 20, 2023

Adam Gopnik recommends 6 classic books for literature fans
Adam Gopnik.

Adam Gopnik recommends 6 classic books for literature fans

The biggest TV shows ending in 2023

The biggest TV shows ending in 2023

What's next for Brendan Fraser and Ke Huy Quan?
Ke Huy Quan and Brendan Fraser

What's next for Brendan Fraser and Ke Huy Quan?

Most Popular

The truth about alcohol
Alcohol being poured into a rocks glass.

The truth about alcohol

North Korea claims 800,000 people volunteered to fight against the U.S.
North Korean soldiers march in a parade in 2018.
A Frightening Figure

North Korea claims 800,000 people volunteered to fight against the U.S.

Russia's spring Ukraine offensive may be winding down amid heavy losses
Ukrainian tank fires near Bakhmut

Russia's spring Ukraine offensive may be winding down amid heavy losses