The pandemic has changed the way we look at new music.
With touring - largely - off the cards, artists have been forced to shift the manner in which they operate, finding fresh ways to connect with their audience.
As these pathways have become more splintered, convoluted, and difficult to follow, the speed at which music arrives on our screen, before dashing into the ether, seems to have multiplied.
It's an enormously difficult landscape to traverse, but it's also one fraught with opportunity - put simply, music truly does feel as though it exists at a crossroads.
We've compiled a list of 21 artists who could shape 2021, and it's one of the most diverse new music rundowns Clash has ever run.
Moving from nuanced R&B to finely contoured soul via UK drill street bangers and hip-hop empowerment, it finds room to stop off at blockbuster pop and left-field post-punk along the way.
Dive in below.
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Sitting comfortably at the intersection of indie rock and pop, multi-instrumentalist Baby Queen is one of the many exciting talents London city has to offer. Aided by catchy 70s inspired melodies and atmospheric synths the singer caused quite a stir last year with the release of the ‘Medicine’ EP, capturing audiences with her cutting lyricism and satirical commentary on pop culture.
Voicing the opinions many share but lack the courage to say, the pop singer’s humorous exploration of Gen Z living, mental health, and the internet era is a welcomed sense of reassurance at a time riddled with uncertainty. (Ray Sang)
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Tayo Sound is 18 and already has an EP and a demo mixtape, what’ve you done? The Nigerian- Scottish singer merges Rex Orange County’s grooves with R&B slow jam beats, creating his own uniquely catchy vibe that’s catapulted him onto our radar.
Introduced to music through church hymns and long instrumentals, Tayo is all about perfected tracks, with his EP sounding way beyond his years. Releasing tracks that already rival the work of far old and more seasoned artists, we’re keeping an eye on Tayo Sound for sure. (Lucy Harbron)
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Signed to The Paul Institute - a music collective spearheaded by brothers Jai and A.K. Paul - HIRA’s brand of retro-futurism is artful and immersive, just listen to the cyberpunk odyssey, ‘Red Light Drive’. HIRA’s also a visual artist, committed to bringing you not just an auditory blast from the past but eras with a unifying theme; a smorgasbord of sci-fi and Japanese manga references, surrealist visualizers and merch to boot.
Last year, HIRA released the double-A side ‘Just When I’ and ‘Don’t Question It!’, but the booming slow jam ‘Eclipses’ teased his progression to grown and sexy territory, anchored by his finest vocal performance to date. This year, we’re all joining the HIRA fan club. (Shahzaib Hussain)
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Named one of BBC Asian Network's Future Sounds for 2020, 19-year old Nayana IZ used the year to produce and release her debut EP ‘Smoke And Fly’, which captured an artist unafraid of bending genre to her will, both sonically and thematically.
Raised in London, Nayana spent her childhood wishing she had been raised in native India; a dream that has since found its way into her sound. There are few artists as captivating as Nayana Iz and 2021 looks set to be the year the rest of the world sits up and pays her the adoration she deserves. (Cailean Coffey)
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Enny leads with creative integrity, and is the intuitive mind that will bring the depths of her conscious thoughts to the mic. Realising the currency of social media influence, the South Londoner set up her online market and attracted listeners with each snippet release. Her laid-back and unpolished approach to music is valued amongst her audience and gives way to the authentic experiences she speaks of in her tracks.
The Enny experience is made up of honest storytelling against boom-bap, hip-hop beats that she never fails to master. Last year’s success of her break-out record ‘Peng Black Girls’ saw the artist break the mould and steer the mainstream market into a new direction. (Sweeney Gloria)
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From the moment FLETCHER stepped onto that audition stage it was incontestable that she was ordained for greatness. Whilst carving out her lane as an independent artist tracks like ‘War Paint’ and ‘wasted youth’ garnered positive media recognition for their spirited anthemic nature.
However, it was the refreshing rawness of the new jersey native's breakthrough single ‘Undrunk’ that catapulted her into the spotlight becoming FLETCHER’s first single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. A seasoned performer with several headline tours and festival performances under her belt FLETCHER is on course to be a global star. (Ray Sang)
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Following his early release from prison in the early stages of 2020, MizOrMac picked up where he left off from the pre-jail releases of ‘Kennington Bop’ and ‘4 Man’, with his return only seeing him bounce back in more venomous form.
The Harlem Spartans driller proved there were no signs of pen-game-cobwebs when he dropped ‘Return Of The Mac’, only to then jump back to the forefront of the drill scene on his link-up with fellow Harlem Spartan figure Loski for ‘On Me’, a record that proved to be one of the most replayed drill spins of the year.
The buzz has been growing ever since he touched home, and with a mixtape rumored to be on the way, the ceiling has never been higher. (Jack Lynch)
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Hailing from West London, Central Cee over the last few years has made a huge impression within the realm of British Rap. Posing as an emcee to watch this coming 2021, his previous street heaters ‘Molly’, ‘Loading’ and ‘Day In The Life’ only speak for themselves.
Reputable for his grit, self-assured confidence, raw street poetics and all-round artistry, each drop is guaranteed to hit the one milli mark imminently. Having experimented with his sound over time, Central Cee now sits firmly at the forefront of UK rap, more specifically drill.
Capturing the masses with his straight-talking approach, eloquent delivery, and organic pen-game, the London native is set to takeover this year. (Elle Evans)
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Homerton-repping V9 evolved in 2020. His influential ‘Yūdokuna’ tape fused the raw, supervillain energy of debut ‘Homerton Sensei’ with bold, expansive productions. He followed up with an unforgettable Daily Duppy, coupling stone-cold menace over a Fergie vocal sample. The masked driller then rounded the year off with a standout performance on the ‘Class of 98s’ collective project.
V9’s potent formula of experimental soundscapes and charged up, undiluted bars makes him one of drill’s most exciting artists. While lyrically never straying from the scene’s gritty fundamentals, he holds your attention by allowing his anime-loving, darkly humorous personality to shine through. 2021 will be his year. (Robert Kazandjian)
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UK rapper and freestyler Tia Carys ably navigated herself through arguably one of the toughest years to be a musician, propelling herself into the limelight during 2020.
Tracks like ‘intro’ see her tackle issues close to home, rapping about her sexuality whilst confronting a whole plethora of issues that listeners relate to. Her lyrical dexterity, soothing vocals, and amplifying honesty all serve to champion the importance of self-acceptance – she is without a doubt one of the most exciting artists to check out in 2021. (Josh Crowe)
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Bournemouth-based post-punk singer Billy Nomates, AKA Tor Maries highly anticipated album will follow up on her self-titled debut album which included her first single ‘No’ and songs like ‘Call in Sick’ and ‘Supermarket Sweep’.
The album, which was produced by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, delivers on a contemporary take on the genre. Think whippet-smart lyrics delivered in a deadpan, half-sung/spoken narrative, twangy guitars, and electronic beats. Her storytelling is strong and she nails acute observations of modern life. A straight shooter who has won a loyal fan base that includes Sleaford Mods (Jason Williamson features on ‘Supermarket Sweep’).
Expect Billy to be a vital force throughout 2021. (Emma Harrison)
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Rema is a breath of fresh air and the force who continues to marry Afro-influenced melodies with popular music culture. The Nigerian singer-songwriter is a prominent part of the movement that is bridging international talents with mainstream audiences.
First appearing on our radar with his infectious summer hit, ‘Dumebi’, Rema confirmed the promising future of afro-pop and similar. Against his signature animated beats, an undeniable party presence is always felt in his records so it’s no surprise that the chart-topper would land a coveted spot on Obama’s year-ending playlist!
The young artist pens heartfelt and feel-good anthems for his myriad of listeners, and introduces an effortlessly unique energy to the scene. (Sweeney Gloria)
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With three projects in two years, Puerto Rican born rapper, songwriter and singer iann dior, is taking on the music industry at breakneck speed. His debut track racked up 10,000 streams in a single week in 2018. Soon after, he began working with established songwriters and producers before penning a record deal in 2019.
From the off, iann began experimenting and established himself as one of the leading lo-fi hip-hop artists around. Since then, he’s collaborated with leading names such as Trippie Redd, Machine Gun Kelly, and Lil Baby. As an artist built on constant reinvention, who knows where Dior's music could take him next. (Cailean Coffey)
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Delilah Montagu: London-based singer Delilah Montagu has had an impressive journey so far, from signing her first record deal at 19 to featuring on David Guetta and Black Coffee’s dance hit ‘Drive.’ Having had such early success, Delilah Montagu is now refining her skills with a rise in confidence, celebrating life’s rewards but also uncovering deep struggles through her raw lyrics and laid-back pop sound. (Ana Lamond)
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Erika De Casier
Erika De Casier is the Danish DIY maverick bouncing diary-like cogitations off a sound design shaped from MTV-era pop, R&B and ‘Love Deluxe’-era Sade. Last year, Dua Lipa called on her to rework her mega-hit ‘Physical’, but it was De Casier’s ingenious coming-of-age debut ‘Essentials’ that firmly positioned her as a star in her own right.
Playing like a continuous mix of bangers, De Casier invoked the spirit of her teen idols, projecting an aural vision of a past but digitally remastered for a new age. Her ode to anti-romance ‘No Butterflies, No Nothing’, with its idiosyncratic woodwind/brooding bass combo, ushers in a new era, her quest for all-encompassing love far from over. (Shahzaib Hussain)
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Black Country, New Road
2021 sees the year supersonic, new wave illusion Black Country New Road release their debut studio album; ‘For The First Time.’ Having balanced their up-and-coming career on the basis of just two avant-garde singles, it’s fair to say we’re itching to see just how hallucinogenic the group have gone with this album.
In October the group dropped their single ‘Science Fair’, a glitching guitar-driven frenzy, with penetrative sax playing; a stapled Black Country New Road sound to say the least. It’s with this taster that we eagerly anticipate the return of joint frontman-guitarist Isaac Wood’s cryptic spoken word delivery. (Laviea Thomas)
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Chess Club signing Phoebe Green has the world at her feet. Closing 2020 with an exceptional EP, her tag-tag indie brew fuses ultra-relatable lyricism that cuts straight to the bone with the kind of melodies summer was built for. Refreshing and wistful in equal measure, this Manchester songwriter sits in a world of her own - and everyone is invited. (Robin Murray)
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Going from zero to a hundred, the past six months have seen Holly Humberstone release her debut EP, perform live on Jimmy Kimmel and rack up over 1,900,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. One to immediately add to your sad girl playlists, Holly’s honest storytelling lyrics and haunting vocals have us captivated.
Her EP ‘Falling Asleep At The Wheel’ falls somewhere between Phoebe Bridger’s tear- jerking indie and Clairo’s catchy dark-pop,making for a perfect soundtrack for all the chill nights and rainy days ahead. (Lucy Harbron)
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Stepping fresh into 2021 with her very own slot on COLORS, anaiis’ mouthwatering R&B-soul fusion comes at no better time to calm our weary heads after a chaotic year. With a voice that could melt butter three times over, the London-based artist has already headed a tour with Daniel Caesar and hosted her own TEDxLondonWomen talk.
Her 13-track debut LP ‘darkness at play’ saw a soulful ballad-ridden project, a voice steeped in nostalgia, and a heavenly plethora of impeccable tracks – anaiis is undoubtedly one to keep on your watch list this coming year. (Gemma Ross)
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Brijean is the collaborative pseudonym of Oakland-based Brijean Murphy and Doug Stuart. Their debut project, ‘Walkie Talkie’, effortlessly established the easy synergy between Murphy’s dreamy coos and Stuart’s Dilla-esque, crate-digging production.
Their new album ‘Feelings’ conjures up picturesque views of Ipanema through the lens of sun-kissed reminiscence. The duo traverse disco, bossa nova, 80s sophisti-pop and 90s house; resplendent watercolour keys and plush chords flowing over percussion designed to make bodies sway. Brijean’s intention is to transport us out of our world-weariness into carefree ecstasy.
This is music to swoon to. (Shahzaib Hussain)
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Raised between Leeds and London, Jamilah Barry has been plying her craft in the modern soul tradition for a few years now. Last year’s ‘Romance Me’ EP diverged from the soporific feel of her 2018 project ‘Salix Babylonica’, basking in a darker, more narcotic blend – intended to echo the mystifying cycles of love and desire, heartbreak and loss.
Barry’s offerings are never one-note: her molasses smooth vocals are deceptive and pliable; production takes aleatory detours, take the glitchy two-parter ‘Sunblock’, a preserver of Black girl pride. Untethered from convention, Jamilah Barry will continue to fashion her own vision in 2021. (Shahzaib Hussain)
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