These Are The Artists You Should Have On Your Radar In 2022
Start listening to them now so you can brag to your friends later.
Not too long ago, you could confidently predict the sound of the upcoming year. A quick glance at the charts would give a look into the sound that was catching favour with audiences and new artists could use that as a springboard into hits of their own.
Now, more than ever, it’s a roll of the dice. A Max Martin-produced track is just as likely to occupy the charts as a cover of a ‘60s song by an Italian band or a year-old pop/punk cut made popular by TikTok.
It makes predicting the artists to watch more exciting than ever. Any of these names on this list could break overnight and you’d hardly be surprised. This time last year, Olivia Rodrigo, had gone from a relative unknown to a superstar in a week when ‘driver’s license’ caught fire around the world. The list below of artists to watch this year reflects an industry that has been blown wide open. It’s a genre-bending, multi-dimensional list of artists who reflect an unpredictable time in music.
Enter the artists you need to keep an eye on in 2022.
Florida rapper Doechii has been slowly raising her profile since she started releasing music in 2016. It was 2020’s mixtape Oh The Places You Go that really got things started though, fully realising her theatrical, charismatic rap style. Last year, one of its songs ‘Yucky Blucky Fruitcake’ went viral on TikTok, collecting millions of streams as a result.
It’s a well-deserved spotlight for Doechii, a rapper who sounds like she’s got plenty more to give beyond her viral moment. A big fan of Nicki Minaj, she brings the same sort of wild versatility to the table while also delivering the oddball charisma of Andre 3000 and the pop sensibilities of Tierra Whack.
Last year, she got her first major rap feature on Isaiah Rashad’s ‘Wat U Said’ but it’s likely there are going to be plenty more where that came from this year.
Sydney singer/songwriter Nick Ward has proving himself to be one of this country’s most earnest songwriters in a very short time. He’s making stirring, intimate music that wrestles with his own queerness and identity. The most immediate reference is Sufjan Stevens as he brings the same sort of delicate, present emotion to the table, always allowing the lyrics to take centre stage uncluttered.
Tracking Ward’s musical development over the last few years, we’ve seen him grow into a fearless songwriter. He’s arrived at a place where he’s able to boldly express himself with vulnerability. On his latest release, ‘Princess’, he sings: “19 years inside my body and only now I’m glad it’s mine.”
It’s thrilling to watch in real-time as Ward becomes comfortable with himself. As he does, the music becomes more and more expansive. ‘Princess’ climaxes in a cinematic, rousing finale that feels like Ward embracing himself.
An album that expands on these notions could be a landmark exploration for Australian music.
For a long time, Australia shied away from big pop aspirations but there’s been a monumental shift lately. Pop music is being embraced by even the most alternative pockets of Australian music and it’s giving artists the key to really embrace the genre.
Clinton Kane is an artist who already sounds like an international popstar. He’s making big, hooky pop music that’s sweeping and emotional. He tackles every chorus with gumption, never shying away from a melodic suckerpunch.
He’s already making waves on the international stage with two entries on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US to date as well as success in the UK. ‘Chicken Tendies’ and ‘I Guess I’m In Love’ are gorgeous ballads but it’s his latest ‘Go To Hell’ that really hits. It’s a rock-infused middle-finger that sounds like chaotic catharsis.
At a time when we’re heralding songwriters like Olivia Rodrigo and Conan Gray who hold nothing back, Clinton Kane is poised for a major breakout moment this year.
Meet Me @ The Altar
The pop/punk revival is in full swing and while that means nostalgia is rising up, Meet Me @ The Altar are a fresh act pushing the genre forward. The WOC trio, who initially met on the internet, are now signed to iconic pop/punk label Fueled By Ramen, which also houses their musical heroes Paramore.
They have the vibrancy and theatrics of early Paramore while also bringing deficiency to the table. On last year’s rollicking ‘Hit Like A Girl’, singer Edith Johnson demands, “Stand tall, you deserve, respect”. Their music has self-respect and friendship at its core even when its at its darkest. Only now are we giving female pop/punk heroes their dues but Meet Me @ The Altar are ensuring that they collect theirs immediately.
With a debut album promised for this year, Meet Me @ The Altar will be at the forefront of the pop/punk revival.
It’s likely you’re going to see British duo Wet Leg on plenty of lists like this. With only four songs to their name, Isle Of Wight’s Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers have become one of the most exciting bands in the world.
The music suggests an air of nonchalance but the lyrics and vocals are forthright as if they’re staring you down and not letting up for a second. “I got the Big D,” they repeat on debut single ‘Chaise Lounge’, coating it in innuendo and delivering it with a potent balance of intensity and humour. Even when the vocals are smothered in fuzzy guitars, their lyrics come through loud and clear, demanding to be heard and interacted in.
2022 will see them take over even more. Their debut album Wet Leg is slated for release on April 8 and they’re also listed on the Splendour In The Grass bill.
Afrobeats had a landmark year in 2021. Ckay took it to the top of the charts with ‘Love Nwantiti (ah ah ah)’ and Wizkid followed with the Tems assisted ‘Essence’.
She may only have two EPs to her name but Tems has already found global recognition. On top of ‘Essence’ she delivered one of the few highlights on Drake’s Certified Lover Boy making sure that even if you don’t know her name yet, you know her voice.
2021’s If Orange Was A Place presented an effortless mix of Afrobeat and modern R&B. Tems weaved her slinky vocals through warm instrumentals that suspend in the air. ‘Crazy Tings’ asks for space while sonically creating space of its own and runaway standout ‘Found It’ explores every pocket of her textured voice. 2022 is the year Tems goes from feature artist to the main event.
Baby Queen is the product of a generation that has been given unlimited access to every genre of music. She’s a popstar in waiting, but Arabella Latham’s sonic tapestry is multi-dimensional. The Brit has the rock ‘n’ roll spirit of Arctic Monkeys, the cheek of Lily Allen, the rawness of Amy Winehouse, and the raucous pop energy of the Spice Girls.
The result is captivating. Every song she’s released so far contracts and bursts with uninhibited energy. Like pop gold standard Robyn, Baby Queen takes you to the dancefloor and then pours her heart out. ‘You Shaped Hole’ is a heartache anthem with a juxtaposing swagger while ‘Dover Beach’ finds euphoria in nostalgia.
She’s only been releasing music officially for just over a year and already has one of the most recognisable sounds around. Expect a hit from Baby Queen in 2022.
Jenevieve released her debut album Division last year but she hasn’t been paid her dues yet. Word continues to spread about the soulful record from the 22-year-old Florida-born artist and for good reason. Made up of breezy, weightless R&B tunes, she manages to sound both vintage and futuristic. It’s like Kaytranada met with Sade and made a mixtape.
She took off with the loved-up ‘Baby Powder’ and while that remains her biggest streamer there’s plenty more where it came from. ‘No Sympathy’ is one of the most joyous sounding romps we heard last year, ‘Medallion’ is both understated and addictive, and ‘Midnight Charm’ manages to be both careless and concerned.
British all-rounder Shygirl has been an underground club hero for years now but last year she stepped up as a potential mainstream force. Her 2020 EP ALIAS was a distorting, twisted project full of thrilling detours but last year’s ‘BDE’ announced her arrival as a potential hitmaker.
Recruiting Slowthai, she softened the experimentalism while still sounding like nothing else out there. She then took another left-turn by dropping the grandiose ‘Cleo’ — unlike anything she’s ever made before. What it proved is that she has the ambition to take her wild pop/club/rap hybrid to bigger stages.
With remixes for Lady Gaga and a recent feature on FKA twigs’ Caprisongs it seems we’ll be hearing Shygirl everywhere in 2022.
Australia’s R&B and rap scene has come in leaps and bounds in the past few years thanks to voice like KYE, making boundary-pushing music poised for the international stage. KYE was born in Zimbabwe, raised in London and currently based in Australia which may explain why her music trips through a variety of genres and sounds.
Her debut EP Good Company is an accomplished and confident project that’s far more realised than most first projects. There’a warmth and richness to KYE’s music no matter the subject. She celebrates herself over a discon-infused beat on ‘Finest Quality’ and contemplates everlasting love with Sampa The Great on ‘Gold’. It’s refreshing to hear an who radiates sunshine with such ease.
Sam Murphy is a music writer and Co-Editor of The Interns. He also co-hosts the podcast Flopstars. Follow him on Twitter.