It was difficult to enter this year with any meaningful hope for the music industry. 2021 was a time of struggle for many in the community and, you felt, 2022 would just be the same.
New restrictions have just come into place in Australia at the start of this month that directly impact music venues more than other spaces, with the arts once again a frustrating afterthought.
There are crumbs of comfort, though, as we wait for the latest COVID-19 wave to be over. We previously brought you the best albums on the way this year, featuring such sterling talent as Beach House, Midnight Oil, and Gang of Youths.
Now we take a look at some of the best new artists set for big things in 2022. From contemporary R&B to inspiring indie rock to the latest set of post-punk revivalists, the industry might be suffering again but the music and talent will always be there.
The young Korean-American artist is such an idiosyncratic rapper. Hailing from New Jersey, her tracks contain infectious pop flourishes balanced with her razor-sharp flow. The 22-year-old has worked with names like Jack Harlow already and tracks like ‘damn Right’ will linger in your mind for days. She released the well-received mixtape a liquid breakfast last year; expect a full-length debut to follow soon.
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Rising K-pop star Adora might have only made her debut as a solo artist a few months ago but her first single, the theatrical ‘MAKE U DANCE’, should be a strong precursor of things to come in 2022. Adora has been working behind-the-scenes with some of K-pop’s biggest names, including BS and GRFIEND, so she knows exactly what she’s doing. She has the personality and songwriting chops to easily pull off a solo career.
Malyangapa and Barkindji rapper Barkaa is one of the most distinctive voices to emerge from Australia recently. She effortlessly weaves serious subjects with wry humour in her lyrics, all performed with a stupendous level of confidence. An abrasive and intelligent rapper, Barkaa should be garnering a wider global audience soon.
Black Country, New Road
The post-punk band exploded onto the scene last year with their excellent debut album For the First Time. To follow that up the following year with their sophomore album, however, is a bold assertion of self-confidence. There’s a reason the seven-piece are at the forefront of the British post-punk revival: the first tastes of Ants from Up There (set for release in February), have been just as strong as anything from their debut.
The Aussie rockers returned late last year with ‘Blue’, their first song in almost four years. The soft and emotional cut was the first release from their forthcoming third studio album, which is expected this year. Georgia Maq and co. have been missed.
It’s impossible to not make a list of artists to watch in 2022 without having drill represented. London’s Central Cee has transitioned to the genre from grime and the decision has paid off for him. His debut mixtape from last year, Wild West, surprisingly made it all the way to number two on the U.K. Album Chart. Its follow-up, 23, is expected in February. If he can replicate the viral success of his song ‘Obsessed With You’, Central Cee could be a breakout drill star this year.
It’s not just in looks that Dylan Fraser resembles Declan McKenna. He similarly writes sharply about things like anxiety and romance, his songs packaged in a pristine alternative pop style. Fraser is an earnest performer and will connect instantly with a lot of fans this year.
Vancouver’s EKKSTACY is only 19 but he’s found an intoxicating atmospheric emo pop sound already. His gloomy but sincere style recalls the indie doom of Current Joys and Porches, tinted with the reverb and intensity that saw 80s bands like The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen make it big. His music is so of the moment: he wallows in bleakness and sadness, not being afraid to tackle mental health in his songs.
Melbourne trio HighSchool haven’t been around for long but their sense of style and vision is already distinctly defined. Hints of 80s goth rock meld with darkwave and synth pop for a glorious mix. They create songs to soundtrack the long nights out the extend into surprise weekend mornings. Euphoric music that reminds you just how good the 80s scene could be.
Horsegirl make the type of beautiful indie rock that reminds you of the music that the genre used to churn out so much and so well. They unceasingly mine the emotional core of their songs, building magnetically building rhythms around them. They know when to indulge in the fuzzy and when to pull back into solemn sincerity. A lot should be expected of their debut studio album.
The Manchester outfit have a key selling point that makes them stand out amidst the all-encompassing British post-punk revival: a lead performer who sings in French. Sometimes that’s all you need. The artsy punks are experimental and elusive, creating thrilling industrial tracks that batter your ears; lucky, then, that Valentine Caulfield is present with her soothing French words.
The Sydney 20-year-old was just nominated for Best New Artist at The Sailor Jerry Rolling Stone Australia Awards and for good reason. Her debut EP, Don’t Kiss Ur Friends, was a top 40 hit in her home country last year and a debut full-length should follow soon. MAY-A‘s songwriting will only continue to grow in quality and she has the delicate pop voice to deliver it all.
Bringing together the talents of raper Felix and producer Louia Pastel, Paris Texas are Death Grips but much less abrasive. They make a hip combination of alternative hip hop and guitar rock. As far as rap and rock hybrids go, this one gets it right. The pair know to include swirling melodies when the throttling production threatens to overwhelm.
In the grand tradition of Melbourne’s DIY music community, Partner Look is a new band bringing together talent from other projects like Cool Sounds and The Ocean Party. Their debut 7″, Geelong/Right Here, was a pleasant introduction to their sound last year. Their debut album, By the Book, is just a few weeks away now and Lachlan Denton and co. definitely have enough to sustain things over a full-length. Pure and delightful jangle pop that fits right into Melbourne’s history.
PinkPantheress was just named BBC Radio 1’s Sound of 2022 winner, joining previous winners like Adele, HAIM, and Years & Years. Her music relies heavily on samples, notably on ‘Pain’, which samples U.K. garage classic ‘Flowers’ by Sweet Female Attitude. Her sound can be described as an infectious mixture of U.K. garage, bedroom pop, two-step, and dance. Pop music in 2022 should feature her heavily.
Groundbreaking Swiss-Tamil artist Priya Ragu exudes self-confidence. She has a clear vision for her music: to bring a South Asian voice to contemporary R&B. That Ragu is also over 35-years-old and just getting her big break makes her story one to follow into 2022.
South Korean singer-songwriter Seori has an arresting voice. She honed her stunning vocals first as a YouTube cover artist before realising she could it on her own. Her songs have already been acclaimed by the likes of BTS‘ Jungkook and DAY6’s eaJ, which should stand her in good stead. Her sound is a contemporary mix of R&B and pop the suits her swooning vocals well.
Robert Pattinson’s partner has done everything from acting to modelling but she might have finally found her groove in music. She signed to Sub Pop last year and shared two powerful new songs. The label will release her debut studio album this year. Sub Pop normally don’t sign any old singer.
Paul Kelly invited Sycco, otherwise known a Sasha McLeod, as one of the openers on his Making Gravy tour at the end of last year. McLeod makes bright bedroom pop filled with vulnerable and honest songwriting. She displays an emotional maturity belying her young years. Expect her to be a triple j favourite this year.
Nigeria’s Tems is set to be one of the biggest stars to emerge from Africa in years. Her contemporary R&B is suffused with beautiful layers of afrobeat and alté, nods to her home country. Her voice is an overwhelming instrument, her songwriting just as strong. She had a small appearance on Drake’s Certified Lover Boy last year and such collaborations will soon become the norm for Tens.
The most hyped band in Britain will feel that they just missed out on winning the Sound of 2022 poll to PinkPantheress. The duo are everywhere at the minute, oozing effortless cool in whatever they do. Their songs are performed with a nod and a wink, infused with a lovely sense of absurdity. Indie rock at the fun end of the spectrum.
Yes, yes, another British post-punk band. The Leeds four-piece have earned their place on this list though. Both articulate and witty, they sound like if Alex Turner was in The Fall. In a genre that can get bogged down in seriousness, Yard Act know that a little humour can go a long way. Their debut album, The Overload, was released this week.