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He has a few thoughts. (6/23a)
See you in September. (6/22a)
Wit and wisdom from a renaissance man (6/22a)
Out and proud (6/22a)
An inspiring success story (6/22a)
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
Predicting the next big catalog deal.
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?

2015 was a great year for new artists. Elle King became the second female to top the Alternative radio chart in 18 years, James Bay followed his BRITs Critics Choice Award win with a Best New Artist Grammy nom and Alessia Cara became a seemingly overnight multi-format sensation, earning props from everyone from Drake to Taylor Swift.

That’s all in the rearview mirror now, though. The final stretch of December means more than eggnog hangovers, awkward holiday parties and regrettable New Years kisses. ‘Tis the season for year-end lists! Here on the B-Side, we’ve got our round-up of acts to keep an eye on in 2016 (in no particular order). You’ve surely made a bunch of resolutions, and now you’ll know what to listen to while you break them.

Samantha Hissong

Foals (Warner Bros.)
Alternative radio has a new face, and that shayna punim belongs to none other than Foals. Currently in the Top 15, “Mountain At My Gates” is a blatantly infectious smash. Sharp and timely with a strong build and dynamic quality, the exhilarating song will whip through you like a chilling and refreshing wind. “Mountain” is just one of ten gems off August’s What Went Down. In October, they were honored as the Best Act in the World Today at the Q Awards. That’s quite the title. Skeptical? Decide for yourself.

Aquilo (Harvest)
English duo Tom Higham and Ben Fletcher conjure audible daydreams with their synthy, R&B-leaning electro-pop. Both soothing and groovy, the vibes they induce are most comparable to what’s felt after sucking on a THC-laced lollipop. Powered by lots of early love from BBC (as well as Beats 1 tastemaker Zane Lowe), the pair, who performed on the media giant’s Introducing Stage at Glastonbury, have previously been playlisted by Radio 1 and featured on the In New Music We Trust list.

Maren Morris (Columbia Nashville)
Over in Music City, Maren Morris is the name that’s hot on many a lip. The 25-year-old was one of just 15 buzzing acts to be featured on Spotify’s recently released Spotlight on 2016 Country Artists. Much like peer Kacey Musgraves, Morris brings a special shimmy ‘n’ shake to the format, spicing up a classic country sound with pop and soul sensibilities. In an interview with CMT, she stated that if she could chow down with anyone dead or alive, her dream dinner would be with Jeff Buckley, June Carter and Kurt Cobain. That combo pretty much sums up her allure.

Kacy Hill (G.O.O.D./Def Jam)
Want some lush pop drizzled with trip-hop that’s got equal parts Florence + the Machine and James Blake? Look no further than Kacy Hill. Although I did my best to categorize, she’s pretty hard to put in a box, so the only real way to understand is to listen. Scouted by Kanye West himself (she was a dancer on the Yeezus Tour), the 21-year-old recently inked a deal with G.O.O.D. just before releasing her debut EP, Bloo, in October. Her music is extremely layered, sometimes even striking a jazzy chord, which makes perfect sense for a multi-instrumentalist who started off playing oboe and sax. Talk about versatility.

Dorothy (Roc Nation)
Holy moly, me oh mama. Dorothy Martin, frontwoman of aptly named rock group Dorothy, will certainly get the party started and either leave you seduced or sucker punched by the end. With swampy, blues-inspired earworms such as “Gun in My Hand”—released in September as part of their self-titled EP—and single “Raise Hell,” the local rabble-rousers channel the energy of southern nights and polish them with a cosmopolitan glimmer. Simply, they put the “rrrrr” back in rock ‘n’ roll, but they also appeal to a wider audience, considering you may have caught them opening on Miguel’s Wildheart Tour. Intrigued? Look for their first full-length to drop sometime early next year.

Grace Mitchell (Republic)
“You’re going to hear jitter everywhere,” announced Zane Lowe before declaring 18-year-old Grace Mitchell’s “Jitter” a World Record on his Beats 1. He continued, saying, “it might be the pop song of the year so far. Honestly.” That’s some high praise, which the experimental pop artist deserves every bit of. Her wild beats and buttery vocals come together in a way best described as ear cocaine and seem to aid in opening the doors to a free and expansive musical landscape, one devoid of genre and defined by quality and creativity.

Nao (RCA)
Drawing comparisons to FKA Twigs, Nao’s music is simultaneously silky and jarring with beats and melodies that seem perfectly imperfect and a dark, experimental vision, which at times could be labeled Lynchian. Finding comfort in the uncomfortable, this artist’s experimental electro-R&B could turn any bad trip good. She’s one of three artists mentioned here who also managed to secure a spot on BBC’s acclaimed Sound of 2016 Longlist. Like Aquilo, she also performed on the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury. And like most of these artists, her overwhelming presence in the blogosphere grabbed my attention. Notably, “Bad Blood” hit #1 on HypeMachine, the leading blog aggregate. Disclosure was also quick to notice her sparkle and she can be found as the featured vocalist on “Superego,” the ninth track on their Caracal.


This alternative electro-pop troubadour, who, in Sia-esque fashion, chooses to keep her face hidden, entrances with melancholy songs that make you wanna dance. As odd as that sounds, the unconventional underdog has certainly found a formula that works, one that produces art shrouded in mystery, while comfortingly relatable. Still at the starting gates, her Soundcloud launched seven months ago and boasts nearly 1m plays, while praise for her individual tracks can be found all around the blogosphere (ie Stereogum, Idolator, Earmilk, Nylon). A remix of Epic up-and-comer Casey Veggies’ “All That Gold” bubbled up two months ago just before she dropped third and effortlessly hooky single “Bridge and the Wall.”

Gallant (Mind of a Genius)
It’s essentially 2016 already. If you’re surprised to see that “electro” is the most frequently used word in this article, you’re either ridiculously naïve or you’re totally blinded by your own pretentiousness, most likely shacked up somewhere twirling your mustache and alphabetizing your vinyl collection. Gotta get with the times, sonny. On that note, I strongly suggest you get with Gallant. Melding electronic dance music with pop, R&B and soul appears to lead straight to a gold mine, especially when you’ve got pipes reminiscent of Usher and The Weeknd. Let’s just say, the phrase “slipping into something more comfortable” just got a whole new meaning. And word has it he’s been working with James Fauntleroy, the mega producer who co-wrote every song on Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience. Talk about one hell of an ingredient for that recipe.

Blossoms (Virgin EMI U.K.)
Your ears will go on a kaleidoscopic journey upon delving into the psychedelic alternative rock of U.K.-based Blossoms. Considering that this year alone they snagged their major label deal across the pond and have been featured on BBC’s Sound of 2016 Longlist, Apple Music’s New Artists for 2016, Radio X’s 50 Best Tracks of 2015 and Spotify’s U.K. Spotlight on 2016, it seems safe to say that their rise to the top has just begun. If you’ve got modern intentions with a ‘60s heart and like everything from The Beatles to Arctic Monkeys and Brian Jonestown Massacre, you’ve found your champions.

Jack Garratt (Interscope)
It would seem straight sinful to highlight an array of electro-pop artists with R&B flair and not mention Jack Garratt, who seems to be running circles around most in this category. Recently named victor of the 2016 BRITs Critics’ Choice Award, included in the BBC Sound of 2016 Longlist and dubbed the BBC Introducing Act of the Year, the singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist—signed to Island in the U.K.—looks poised for stardom.

Kane Brown
This newcomer’s spark exploded into a full-fledged wildfire just a few months ago when he garnered an all-out bidding war between majors and esteemed indies alike. The highly sought after singer/songwriter’s name quickly became the most searched on iTunes (above One Direction, Luke Bryan, Ed Sheeran and "Hotline Bling") when his cover video of George Strait’s “Check Yes or No” went viral in September; its view count currently sits at 10m. Shortly thereafter, he dropped his official debut single, “Used to Love You Sober,” which peaked at #1 on iTunes’ Country singles chart. Kane Brown’s charm and seamless blend of timeless melodies and modern swagger make him totally swoon-worthy. Brace yourselves for the Justin Bieber of Nashville (Justin Bieber with gravitas, that is). If you don’t believe me, just listen to his cover of the Biebs’ “Love Yourself,” which has already snagged 2m views on Facebook and the vid’s only been up since 12/23.

Nothing But Thieves (RCA)
“Trip Switch,” the breakout single from this Essex-bred quintet is currently climbing through the Top 10 at Alternative radio. With a sound that’s all at once edgy, crisp, mathematical and anthemic, Nothing But Thieves have created a special concoction that falls somewhere between Silversun Pickups and Muse. Their debut full-length, released in October, bowed at a lofty #7 in the U.K.