Future festival headliners. 21 essential and exciting new artists to look out for in 2021 as we anticipate the fervent return of live music. As you might expect from the voices of now, it’s not all light and pretty.
FFO: Jessie Ware, Róisín Murphy, Empress Of, Georgia
Best tracks: Feels Right, Oh No, Don’t Turn Around
Oh no, I did it againBiig Piig – Oh No
I let my mind leak out into all my friends
And now I’m lonely
Sitting and sink in the blue
Biig Piig is Jessica Smyth, an alternative and multilingual singer-songwriter from Ireland, who grew up in Spain, and resides in London. In 2020, Biig Piig released a stream of consistently good singles including her latest, ‘Feels Right’. In the age of the Internet, when apps have become a substitute for real life connection – making it harder than ever to be vulnerable – music like this inspires openness. With her debut album in the works, 2021 looks very big indeed for Biig Piig.
FFO: Phoebe Bridgers, Lorde, Snail Mail, The Japanese House
Best tracks: Falling Asleep At The Wheel, Deep End
I see you on the weekendHolly Humberstone – Deep End
Dancing like a star
You’ve practiced your lines
To convince us you’re fine
But I know that’s not where you are
With her direct and conversational songwriting, Holly Humberstone is one of the most exciting UK artists to emerge in recent years. 2020’s debut EP ‘Falling Asleep At The Wheel’ displays innate emotional depth, and a rare aptitude for turning personal experiences into accessible and universally relatable songs.
Holly writes effortlessly about love, loss, addiction, depression, and heartbreak, and the talent in her vocal delivery is undeniable. There’s something about the way she holds her soft, rich tone while conveying genuine emotion. Her controlled, delicate cover of Radiohead’s ‘Plastic Trees’ is enough to verify Holly Humberstone as an artist destined for worldwide recognition. And if she doesn’t make you cry then are you even human?
FFO: NAO, Jorja Smith, Nubiyan Twist, The Internet, Mahalia
Best tracks: Spells, Downers
You try reject meGreentea Peng – Spells
But none of your dead talk affects me
All these jealous words and hexing
Cannot test me, do not vex me
Blending classic jazz with her own psychedelic twist and London tone, neo-soul talent Greentea Peng tells it how it is. Greentea Peng is Aria Wells, whose musical influences include Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, and Lily Allen. Her meditative, sunshine-filled, no-bullshit vibe promotes hope for the future. Already confirmed for We Out Here 2021, expect to see Greentea Peng across festival line ups all 2021.
FFO: Charli XCX, The 1975, Glass Animals, Christine & The Queens
Best tracks: Raw Thoughts, Internet Religion, Want Me, Buzzkill
I’ve got a boy crush, he’s never met meBaby Queen – Online Dating
And if he ever did, I bet he wouldn’t get me
I’m such a stoner, I lack emotion
I fall asleep at night and seven tabs are open
Baby Queen, aka Bella Latham, is arguably (I will take you on), the most exciting major label artist set for big things this year. One of the first voices from Generation Z offering social commentary through popular music, Baby Queen demands to be heard. Her Matt Healy, Charli XCX-esque glitchy, futuristic alt-pop centres largely around life in the digital age, depicted best on her singles ‘Online Dating’ and ‘Internet Religion’. As you might expect, it’s not all light or pretty. Baby Queen’s first release of 2021 ‘Raw Thoughts’, explores the highs of partying and lows of wanting to be loved by someone.
FFO: Arlo Parks, Celeste, King Krule, Tierra Whack, The Weeknd
Best tracks: Coffee For Dinner, Lightning
Orion Sun is an artist using music as her outlet to “break through all the noise, all of the societal pressures of what I should be doing at this age”.
Tiffany Majette introduced herself as Orion Sun in 2017 with her SoundCloud mixtape, ‘A Collection of Fleeting Moments and Daydreams’. The rising R&B star’s confessional mixtape gained attention at the beginning of 2020 as it appeared across all streaming sites. Orion Sun’s follow up – her critically acclaimed debut album ‘Hold Space For Me’ – arrived soon after via independent New York record label, Mom + Pop.
One of the best albums of 2020, ‘Hold Space For Me’ amounts to mature bedroom pop, exploring themes of alienation, queer relationships, love, and grief, in a soulful and romantic way. On her lead single ‘Coffee For Dinner’, influenced by The Weeknd, Orion Sun tells her lover “You saw a winner when I felt like a loser”. With her debut album on heavy rotation, “loser” is the last word I’d use to describe this exciting new artist.
FFO: Billie Eilish, Madison Beer, Sasha Sloan, Banks, bülow
Best tracks: happy face, you broke me first, that way
I’d barely seen you when you asked me if I hated youTate McRae – happy face
Wasn’t surprised but still had nothing I could say to you
I’m sorry if I ever made you feel the way you do
Propelled by TikTok popularity, Tate McRae blew up at the of 2020 with her commercial heartbreak banger, ‘you broke me first’, produced by Blake Harnage. Her 2020 EP ‘all the things i never said’ turns vulnerable emotions into glossy pop music. Tate’s sweet, raspy American voice pairs well with gritty production. With that recipe in mind, McRae is on her way to becoming dark pop’s next big thing.
FFO: Jacques Greene, Tourist, Jai Paul, Everything Is Recorded, James Blake
Best tracks: Chika (Scared), Julia (Deep Diving)
I’m deep divin’ into your emotionsFred Again.. – Julia (Deep Diving)
And sometimes I think I might be broke
But you’re bringin’ back all my feelings
And I fuckin’ love it
Fred Gibson, known professionally as Fred Again (stylised as Fred again..) came onto the scene in 2019 with his signature out of box sound. Fred’s music is self-described as ‘Actual Life’, a trademark sound that features vocals uncovered from the unlikeliest of sources; from obscure YouTube clips to personal FaceTime conversations, random Instagram accounts and iPhone video footage of half-remembered nights out.
The effortlessly cool and British multi-instrumentalist’s ‘Actual Life’ genre counts Jamie xx, FKA Twigs, Headie One, and Jessie Reyez, as fans and collaborators. From his romantic and emotionally-charged bop, ‘Jessie (I Miss You)’, to his biggest hit so far, GANG (ft. Headie One), Fred’s unpredictable sound is one to follow in 2021.
FFO: Adele, Lily Allen, Sinead Harnett, Jorja Smith
Best tracks: 6 Feet Under, Blind Love, None For You
Yes, I got an ego, so do youLola Young – Blind Love
You touched my heart, it left a bruise
I ran out of all excuses
After performing at The Great Escape and then signing to Island Records, Lola Young went on to release her ‘Intro’ album at the end of 2019, with her name appearing on every tastemaker’s ‘ones to watch’ list for the coming year. We all know what happened next. The COVID-19 pandemic stole the show. Still. Lola’s music feels timeless, she is going places.
Lola resurfaced at the end of 2020 with her ‘Renaissance’ EP; a promising body of work that flaunts her cheeky Essex charm, and honest, witty lyricism. Her recent single, ‘Woman’, an ode to female empowerment, certifies Lola as an essential new act to follow in 2021.
FFO: Wolf Alice, Nilüfer Yanya, The Big Moon, Gengahr
Best tracks: Right Round The Clock, Snakes, Perfect
I go to the same spot every nightSorry – Right Around The Clock
Wanna get in your head you just want to get out of it
Say so many things with those reckoning eyes
Wanna get in your head you just want to get out of it
Sorry are an exciting new band from North London centred around childhood best friends Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen. Sorry were signed by Domino after developing a reputation on London’s underground circuit. They brought a wildly experimental sound influenced by everything from trip-hop, ’90s alt rock, and early trap to their 2020 debut album 925. Their raw sound is catchy without losing its cool and as live music returns, 2021 will be the year this guitar band thrives.
FFO: BROCKHAMPTON, Loyle Carner, Steve Lacy, Young Franco
Best tracks: Lay Next 2 U, Apple Juice, Impressions
We’ve both said some shitDan D’Lion – Push 45
Now we gotta learn to live with it
Dan D’Lion is the solo project of Dan Bartlett, born out of his studio in Hoxton, East London. After working in the background for years, producing and writing for other artists, before self-releasing music in 2018/19, Dan D’Lion truly came into his own in 2020. His ‘When One Thing Leads To Another’ mixtape, released last summer via Insanity Records (Sony), has a fresh commercial sound with an alt-pop edge.
FFO: Little Simz, slowthai, J Hus, Stefflon Don, Kano, The Internet
Best tracks: Unveiled, Roundtown, Sweet Flaws
Flohio (AKA Funmi Ohio) is a British artist, rapper and songwriter hailing from Bermondsey, South London. Building on the blueprints of UK rap, Flohio’s sound pulls in references that span electronic music for a sound that’s visceral, infectious and unique.
FFO: Clario, Flume, Robyn, Shanti Celeste, DJ Seinfeld, Bonobo
Best tracks: Maybe in the Summer, Are You Still a Lover
SASSY 009, aka Sunniva Lindgård, is a young Scandinavian creating electro-pop music, but with a harder edge, intricate lyrics and a profound sense of intimacy. Its hard to name just one best track when 2019’s entire eight-track ‘KILL SASSY 009’ EP is a flawless body of work. Although SASSY 009 didn’t release much new music in 2020, there’s still huge excitement for what’s to come next from Norway’s most exciting rising artist. She explains: “this is only the beginning. bliss.” Maybe in 2021?
FFO: Lucy Rose, Big Thief, Sharon Van Etten
Best tracks: Motion, The Part with Each Other, So Far
You don’t need to hold my handAlex Amor – So Far
Let’s just have each other’s backs
Because we’ve come so far
Subtle production and delicate vocal delivery with lyrics that demand your full attention. Sometimes, the situationships are more heartbreaking than relationships. Glasgow native Alex Amor explores the complexities of modern love with her honest, conversational songwriting. Alex’s debut EP ‘Love Language’, released 15th January 2021 via Believe, is a vehicle for connection as much as personal reflection.
FFO: The 1975, The Vaccines, Sea Girls, The Night Café
Best tracks: Digital Love, Eventually
I’m sick of this digital loveCj Pandit – Digital Love
I don’t want you this way
Enough is enough
Credible pop with an indie punch. By now, we’re all craving real life connection; sick of dating apps, voice notes, and trying to maintain any level of chemistry over messaging apps. Cj Pandit’s ‘Digital Love’ is a festival-ready anthem that will have you singing at the top of your lungs. With his instantly recognisable tone and penchant for a catchy melody, Cj shows major main stage potential.
FFO: Lana Del Rey, Celeste, Charlotte Day Wilson, Nick Mulvey
Best track: accidentally told you (demo)
With only one track to her name online, the mysterious Tamzene is a singer, writer and multi-instrumentalist from the coastal town of Cromarty in the Scottish Highlands. Her one released song, which is listed as a demo, is special enough to place her as one to watch this year.
FFO: James Blake, Bon Iver, Mura Masa, Jim-E Stack
Best tracks: Sideline, Willow Tree
Multi-instrumentalist George Gretton produces his own signature brand of experimental left-field goodness. George grows with every release and has already mastered how to translate his unique craft to a live setting. His songs are filled with subtle moments that prove at once emotionally fractured yet wholly beautiful.
Nothing George creates is watered down or safe. Although his more niche sound may take longer to break, this Nottingham native is on his way to producing music that will stand the test of time.
FFO: Khalid, Troye Sivan, Post Malone
Best tracks: Nicotine, Roses
With his unique raspy voice, Somerset kid Finn Askew sounds like a certified superstar who already grew up living the rockstar lifestyle. A staple of Generation Z, Finn’s debut EP pushes the boundaries of genre from pop to rock to hip-hop, with his voice remaining the constant throughout.
FFO: Lennon Stella, HAIM, Harry Styles, Maisie Peters, FLETCHER
Best tracks: LA in Two, CHARGER, Jackie Onassis
Maybe I’ll cross that line one year when I’m makin’ my moveELIO – LA in Two
I’m just ‘tryna get LA in two, but don’t wanna go without you
ELIO, aka Charlotte Grace Victoria, is creating a blueprint for glossy chill-out pop. With the support of Charli XCX, ELIO has proved herself to be one of the most exciting artists to watch in 2021. Choosing to name herself after Call Me By Your Name’s protagonist tells me ELIO is here to stay.
FFO: Rex Orange County, King Krule, Glass Animals
Best tracks: Funeral – i never wear black, Changing
I’m not ready for a funeral, I never wear blackSfven – Funeral – i never wear black
And I don’t wanna kill a part of me I’ll never get back
Sfven, also known as Jamie Clarke, came to my attention at the end of 2020 with his lo-fi indie bop ‘Funeral (i never wear black)’. The rising artist from Leeds describes his music as “sad stories entwined in happy tunes”.
FFO: The Big Moon, Dream Wife, The Orielles, Wolf Alice
Best tracks: Reinvent, Golden Girl, A World I Forgot
I’d like to think I’m funny, but I’m far too fucked to tellPhoebe Green – Reinvent
I’ve had to repeat my name three times, but I think it’s going well
Low-key one of the most underrated new artists. At the core of Phoebe Green’s appeal is her genuine ‘give a fuck what you think about me’ attitude. The feisty Mancunian is a dream festival headliner, making music for people who are ready to jump straight back into the mosh pit.
FFO: Conducta, Prospa, Paul Woolford, Low Steppa, Kurupt FM
Best tracks: Back to Then, Thinkin’ of You, Hot Shot
Churning out fresh garage hits is Bklava. Her tunes are made for sunny festival afternoons. Remember those? If you’re someone who wants to spend the first part of 2021 positively vibing and feeling excited about the return of summer raves, Bklava is your new best friend.