These Are The 13 Artists Who Will Shape Australian Music In 2021
Get across them now so you can say you liked them before they blew up.
When it came time to make this list last year, we were feeling pretty good about 2020. Summer festivals and sideshows were plentiful, a host of big tours shimmered on the horizon and Australian music sounded as good as ever.
Needless to say, things did not stay sunny.
With touring all but impossible, the 14 acts we tipped for big things — including Baker Boy, OneFour, Cry Club and Adrian Eagle — still managed to make good out of a bad situation. In addition to the indie and electronic gems the world expects from Australia, 2020 was a watershed year for our ever-evolving R&B and hip-hop scene. It really, really tried, but the pandemic couldn’t entirely kill our vibe.
This year, we’re going all-in on the 13 acts below. The grab bag of ones-to-watch is refreshingly diverse, spanning sleek house to DIY rap to heartfelt indie. Some of these names are right on the cusp of big things, while others are really just starting out.
We refuse to crystal ball 2021, but the future sounds brighter with this lot in charge.
This time last year, we predicted major success for Mount Druitt’s own OneFour. That bet was right on the money, with the rap crew going in alongside A$AP Ferg, The Kid LAROI and Dutchavelli across a prolific year. While OneFour loomed large, others like Hooligan Hefs, HP Boyz and No Money Enterprise helped signal a bold new era for Australian hip-hop.
Newcomer Lisi — who proudly reps his hometown of Goodna, Queensland — is firmly in this camp. The rapper first turned heads with his DIY video for ‘Say Less’, which now has a cool four million views on YouTube. After showcasing different shades on ‘The Come Up’ and ‘Got This’, Lisi is poised to take the 4300 postcode global.
Teenage Joans are just finding their feet, but they’ve already had one major pinch-yourself moment. Last September, the teenage duo of Tahlia and Cahli won the triple j Unearthed High competition with their stomping, catchy-as-hell song, ‘Three Leaf Clover’.
Teenage Joans self-identify as “juice-box punk-pop”, and their songs feel like the work of a band with a lot more runs on the board. Their latest, ‘Something About Being Sixteen’, sets up a bright 2021.
MAXINE announced herself as an R&B talent to watch with ‘Need To Be Me’, which arrived like a balm last March.
Having won the accolades of triple j Unearthed, the singer-songwriter followed up with the accomplished one-two punch of ‘Do It’ and ‘Say Something’. With her honeyed voice, sharp ear for beats and music video-ready charisma, MAXINE has our full attention.
In a dire year for clubbing, Logic1000 turned out some of 2020’s best club music. The Sydney-born, Berlin-based producer made an impactful appearance in Daphni’s Essential Mix last March, setting the stage for a hot streak of releases.
Building on the steam of her 2019 breakout tune, ‘DJ Logic Please Forgive Me’, Logic1000 gave us ‘Perfume’, ‘Blossom’, ‘I Won’t Forget’ and ‘Medium’ in laser-focused succession. With a style that swerves from bass music to acid house, her output is a true gift to DJs everywhere.
Rolling out of Newcastle with a real knack for feelgood guitar pop, Vacations are already a streaming success story. Since arriving on the scene in 2016, the band has clocked up millions of online plays with expertly crafted songs like ‘Young’, ‘Telephones’ and ‘Moving Out’.
While 2020 put any grand plans of touring on hold, the guys made lemonade with a new album, Forever In Bloom. On songs like ‘Actors’ and ‘Lavender’, the guys showed new shades to their palette. In lieu of a real overseas trip this year (?), it’s nice we can have Vacations.
Right from the moody, assured ‘Delusion’ in 2019, Maina Doe had us hooked. The Sydney artist, who describes her project as “an amalgamation of Somali, Indonesian and Australian culture”, has big release plans for 2021.
As she told KAZI Magazine, the music is going to be “so different” from what people expect. Maina Doe already defies expectation wherever possible, sliding from the sultry, danceable ‘Unwritten Laws’ with Genesis Owusu to the super-smooth ‘Overtime’.
For a couple of years now, producer siblings Kinder have been honing their sound. In 2018, the Maitland duo’s ‘What You’re Like’ showcased their production and songwriting chops, with the beat and vocals in perfect sync.
Since then, they’ve released understated banger ‘No Sleep’ on tastemaking label Kitsuné Musique and broadcast a range of DJ sets on triple j, including the first ‘Friday Mix’ of 2021. Kinder also recently kicked off “a new chapter” as producers with the slick and bumping ‘Come Along’, featuring fellow one-to-watch A.GIRL.
As the world fell to pieces last year, India-born, Melbourne-based artist ASHWARYA stayed focused on her climb.
The genre-blurring musician (who counts Freddie Mercury as her all-time musical hero) came out swinging with the dark pop of ‘PSYCHO HOLE’ last July. Released on Australian producer Jarrad Rogers’ NOiZE Recordings, the track set the stage for its shape shifting follow-ups ‘BIRYANI’ and ‘[email protected]’. ASHWARYA is a true risk-taker, so we’re here for whatever she tries in 2021.
On his triple j Unearthed page, flowerkid describes his M.O. as “telling stories and serving you my heart on a platter”. That description is a perfect entry point to the teenager’s frankly stunning music.
In 2018, the singer-songwriter from Schofields in Western Sydney delivered a punch to the gut titled ‘boy with the winfields and the wild heart’. The song’s painfully poignant lyrics connected with a wide swathe of people – helped, in no small part, by the arresting way flowerkid sings.
His recent ‘miss andry’ goes even deeper, inspiring the kind of rapturous comments rarely seen on YouTube. One lifetime subscription, please.
Last December, Kymie dropped Indecision, a seven-track EP that definitively announced her arrival. The Western Sydney artist wrote and recorded the songs in her bedroom studio, exploring R&B, hip-hop and skittering electronics.
Kymie worked closely with rapper and producer Kwame on Indecision, with the two trading verses on ‘Name’ and ‘Name Pt. 2’. Once touring is allowed again, you can count on Kymie and Kwame heating up some stages.
In her ingenious music video for last year’s ‘Storm’, CLYPSO dances her way through a series of miniature worlds, bringing a vibrant pop of colour to otherwise static scenes. It’s the perfect visualisation of what the Sydney-based producer and vocalist does.
Emerging a few years ago with the charmingly askew beats of ‘Yolo’ and ‘Pop Roll Flow’, CLYPSO is now in full stride. In addition to 2020’s ‘Sidestep’ and ‘Storm’, she recently appeared on The Avalanches’ triumphant comeback album and teamed up with Belgian disco king The Magician for ‘One Vibration’. We can’t guess what’s coming in 2021, but it certainly won’t suck.
Jeida Woods is another newcomer out of Sydney making music that flows between R&B and night-stalking electronics.
The singer and producer, who moved to Australia from Zambia at a young age, has been on tastemakers’ radars since 2019 cuts ‘LVESCK’ and ‘Selfless’. With star-making label Future Classic in his corner, Jeida released a supremely confident EP, HIVE, at the tail-end of 2020. Tunes like ‘Ultraviolet’ and ‘Chemicals’ are the work of an artist who knows exactly what he’s about.
Teen Jesus And The Jean Teasers
When your band name is Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers, you’re already halfway to cult status. Luckily for us, this Canberra foursome also writes killer songs.
The band broke out in 2020 with the grungy guitar pop of ‘Desk Chair’, which followed earlier barnstormers like ‘See You In A Bit (I Still Care)’ and ‘I Like That You Like That’. Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers is the kind of band you want to hear early at a festival in the blazing sun, ripping through a set that makes the bigger names nervous. Please, universe, let that happen soon.
Jack Tregoning is a freelance writer based in Sydney — he was formerly the Editorial Director at Beatport and an editor of inthemix. Find him on Twitter.