As another year rolls by, it’s once again time for us to cast our gaze ahead to an incredibly exciting year for breakthrough music. In 2017, we tipped the likes of Dua Lipa, The Amazons and Rag’n’Bone Man for huge success – and boy were we right!
So, read on to discover the best new artists destined to rule the radio waves over the coming year.
We present to you our Rising Stars: Class of 2018!
In brief: British songstress with old-school R&B influences
For fans of: Amy Winehouse, Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys
Hailing from the not-so-exotic climes of Walsall, Jorja Smith is a home-grown talent you can’t help but get excited about. Heavily influenced by a swathe of iconic female voices, most notably, Amy Winehouse, the 20-year-old already possesses the hallmarks of an accomplished R&B singer. But what really sets Smith apart from the pack is her astounding versatility; particularly the ability to flit between genres and vocal styles. This reflects heavily in her musical output. Smith’s recent hit, On My Mind, doffed its cap to the recent garage revival, while earlier number, Beautiful Little Fools, cuts a soulful contrast – inspired by a quote from The Great Gatsby and written while she was still in school. In a crowded musical landscape where uninspiring R&B artists are so easy to come by, Jorja Smith is a real breath of fresh air.
The Magic Gang
In brief: Breezy indie-pop outfit you just need to see live
For fans of: Blossoms, Weezer, Sundara Karma
Although yet to release their long-awaited debut album, these Brighton upstarts have been cutting their teeth as a live band ever since early 2015. With an impressive touring history under their belt, the four-piece have already crafted a reputation as one of the most exciting live acts in the nation. Along the way, they’ve also treated fans to a smattering of glorious singles and EPs; showcasing their penchant for tight-knit melodies and Beach Boys indebted harmonies. Having spent the most part of last year holed up in the studio priming their debut effort, 2018 is the year of The Magic Gang. We can’t wait for it.
In brief: Teenage R&B prodigy oozing with Stateside soul
For fans of: Frank Ocean, SZA, Miguel
It feels kind of unfair referring to Khalid as merely a breakthrough artist. By our standards, this Texan-born R&B prodigy is already a fully-fledged superstar. A huge 2017 saw the 19-year-old’s debut LP certified platinum with over a million sales, while he also managed to squeeze in star-studded collaborations with the likes of Lorde and Calvin Harris. American Teen, his critically-acclaimed album, is a perfect snapshot of the singer-songwriter’s raw talent. Taking a diaristic view of adolescence and high school angst, Khalid’s soothing voice takes the fore over slick beats and pulsing synth. If you haven’t already, this is certainly one to add to the record collection.
Rex Orange County
In brief: Perky Brit singer-songwriter who wears heart on his sleeve
For fans of: Pharrell Williams, Tyler the Creator, Loyle Carner
At 19 years old, Alex O’Connor (a.k.a. Rex Orange County) has already garnered a host of famous fans, including big-hitters like, Frank Ocean and Tyler the Creator. The latter, upon discovering the teenager’s music on Soundcloud, was so impressed he even flew Rex out to LA to collaborate on the rapper’s Grammy-nominated album, Flower Boy. So, what’s the big deal? Ever since the age of 16, this Surrey-born prodigy has self-released and produced a ton of exciting material. Slightly rough around the edges, his dreamy, lo-fi sound is bathed in a raw and vibrant sense of emotion; a sound so incredibly refreshing to hear. The artist’s latest, and second, full album, Apricot Princess, is a jazzy love letter to his young sweetheart and is chock-full of contemplative, candid musings. With feelings ranging from anxiety, to self-loathing, to adoration, to unbridled joy, Rex Orange County chronicles the rollercoaster-ride of emotions that every ordinary teenager faces when growing up.
In brief: Shoegaze-worshipping indie quartet from Manchester
For fans of: The 1975, Wolf Alice, The Cure
Decked out in all black attire and panda-eyed mascara, you’d be forgiven for thinking Pale Waves were serious merchants of gloom. But don’t let first appearances fool you; this Mancunian four-piece’s brand of sun-soaked music is far from dreary. Signed to the same prolific Dirty Hit label as The 1975, it’s not hard to draw comparisons between the two groups. The band’s breakout hit in early 2016, There’s A Honey, was a dreamy pop anthem with the catchiest of choruses and was championed heavily by the likes of NME and Radio 1. Since its release, the band have only gone from strength to strength – sparking a frenzy with every subsequent track release and selling out venues everywhere they go. With an album due for release sometime this year, Pale Waves are more than ready to step out of the shadows and bloom into one of the biggest bands in the UK.
Rising Stars 2018 Spotify playlist
We’ve crammed all our Rising Stars, as well as a host of other new artists we’re super excited about, into one convenient Spotify playlist. Discover the latest sounds of 2018 from any device via Bluetooth and Spotify Connect on loads of our digital radios. You can even take the playlist on the road with a Highway in-car adapter.