Breaking Big: 9 new artists to hear now
Who’s topping the charts, going viral, and ruling our earbuds? Each month, EW’s introducing the freshest music talent you have to hear now. Below, get to know D.R.A.M., Roosevelt, Goldroom, The Last Bandoleros, Sad13, Maria Hazell, Tkay Maidza, Gnash, and Melanie Martinez.
Who: Maybe you know D.R.A.M. as the biggest name since Dana Carvey to turn “Broccoli” into a major hit song, but the 28-year-old Virginia-born rapper made his debut in March 2015 with his first major label EP #! Epic. Inspired by George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, and Gary Shider — “Ya know the P-Funk wave,” he says — D.R.A.M. describes his sound as “trappy-go-lucky.”
Claim to Fame Though his cult fanbase is strong, D.R.A.M. rose to mainstream fame this year with “Broccoli,” his smash single with Lil Yachty. “I thought it was going to be a success for the culture, for the internet,” he says. “But not in my wildest dreams… I didn’t know it was gonna be the number one rap song in the country.” He’s also collaborated with Chance the Rapper on Coloring Book, E-40 on “Slappin,” and Rob Stone on the remix of his debut single “Chill Bill.”
What’s Next: D.R.A.M. announced his debut album Big Baby D.R.A.M., out Oct. 21, on Friday — the amazing album art, which features D.R.A.M. smiling and posing with an adorable dog, went viral after its release — and a 2017 tour, making stops all across the U.S. “Expect the ‘Cash Machine’ record as the next outright single from the Big Baby D.R.A.M.,” he says, “but expect more importantly to see me somewhere in your city.”
Key Track: Sing-along summer anthem “Broccoli” has gone 2x Platinum, keeps rising on the Billboard Hot 100, and is a total party.
Who: Sadie Dupuis’ indie-rock band Speedy Ortiz broke through with their 2013 sophomore effort Major Arcana. The collection of jagged, ’90s-indebted riffs provided the optimal backdrop for Dupuis’ cutting and witty lyricism. Now, she’s training her songwriting sights on an entirely different genre via her new solo project, Sad13, which Dupuis describes to EW as “ethical weirdo pop.” Although her previous projects like Speedy began as solo recording efforts before expanding into full bands, Dupuis explains that “there’s something fun about having absolute autonomy in composing; you’re just going to wind up with different kinds of ideas than if you were collaborating. … Sometimes you wind up making really outlandish decisions, but at least you know the mistake was your own.”
Claim to Fame: Though Sad13 sounds different from Speedy Ortiz, she hasn’t completely jettisoned the traits that make that group great. For one, Dupuis’ already-sharp songwriting continues to evolve: She says Slugger‘s lyrics address “gendered expectations, con movies, affirmative consent, controlling partners (Jessica Jones duh), Boy Scouts, Biz Markie, monsters, love.” And venturing into pop sounds hasn’t detracted from her idiosyncratic sense of melody. “The beauty of a home recording project, at least for me, is I’m not accounting for the song’s live presentation so I can feel free to add, like, 50 tracks [to] a song,” she says.
What’s Next: Dupuis says she hopes to balance both projects going forward. Sad13 will tour in November and December “and hopefully a little of next year” to coincide with Slugger‘s release. “Speedy’s working on our next album right now,” Dupuis says. “I hope I can do another Sad13 one down the line!”
Key Track: Loaded with synth washes, guitar solos, and even a stray banjo, the woozy indie-pop of “<2” encapsulates Sad13’s restless spirit and irresistible melodies.
Who: Singer-songwriter gnash started releasing music on SoundCloud in March 2015, and says he always wanted to work in the music industry, though at first he thought he would work in management. “The first role in life I aimed for was to be like [Entourage’s] Ari Gold,” he says, “then I wanted to be a DJ, then a lawyer, and finally I started releasing music during my last semester of college and it turned into this.” “This,” he says, is a new genre of music that Gnash is calling “:): (pronounced happy sad).”
Claim to Fame: Inspired by Jack Johnson, Kanye West, and the Postal Service, gnash has had major success with sweet ballads like the Platinum-selling piano track “i hate , i love u ft. Olivia O’Brien.”
What’s Next: gnash is currently on tour through November, playing all throughout North America for the “U, Me & Us Tour,” named after his three EPs, but when asked what fans can expect from him this year he says, “New music, lots of shows, and smiles.”
Key Track: gnash turns “i hate u i love u ft. Olivia O’Brien,” a tender tale of heartbreak, into a breakup anthem for millennials when he snarls over lyrics,”You ever wonder what we could have been? You said you wouldn’t and you f—ing did.”
Who: Josh Legg, who goes by the moniker Goldroom, began his music career in synth-pop band called Nightwaves before striking out on his own in 2011. And after releasing three EPs of warm, synth-oriented pop, he’s just released his debut album West of the West, which blends funky R&B, tropical house, and ’80s New Wave—all of it crafted with the kind of surgical-level precision that’d rival a Steely Dan record. Before pursuing music, Legg was a competitive sailor in college and he says it’s a subtle influence on his work today. “I still sail competitively,” he says. “It’s a big part of my life, since I was a baby. Because of the amount of time I spend on the water, it finds it’s way into my music, I guess. It’s osmosis.”
Claim to Fame: Legg, who had a breakout set at this year’s Coachella, has been a go-to remixer for artists ranging from pop stars (Charli XCX) to rock bands (Atlas Genius, CHVRCHES). He’s even been tapped by pop royalty, cutting a remix of Janet Jackson’s 2015 jam “No Sleeep.” Of that experience, Legg admits he never heard how she reacted to his version of her Unbreakable single. “It was half of the reason I did it!” he says. “But it was such a pleasure to remix it. I’m just going to imagine she jammed out to it.”
What’s Next: Goldroom’s touring the U.S. through Nov. 12. Then, he hopes to return to the studio to record more music: “I’m catching the itch now. I’m always writing.”
Key Track:The hot disco-funk workout “Back to You,” featuring soulful guest vocals from Irish singer-songwriter Rooty.
Who: In 2015, former The Voice contestant Melanie Martinez dropped a bombshell conceptual album, Cry Baby, which follows a child who has seen too much for her age. “My music is like a baby pink frosted cake with sprinkles but when you cut into it, there’s a gooey dark chocolate center,” she says. The collection delighted fans with the electro-pop singles like “Pity Party” and “Soap.”
Claim to Fame: The 21-year-old singer-songwriter has created all of the highly stylized visuals to support Cry Baby, a rare feat for a new artist on a major label. “Since my album Cry Baby is a story from beginning to end I thought it was really important for people to see that story executed visually as well,” she says. “I really loved taking photos when I was younger. I think my love for photography sparked my love for creating the visuals to support my music. My two favorite parts of what I do are definitely writing the music and then writing and directing the videos to support each song. As well as doing my own makeup and styling for the videos.”
What’s Next: At work on her second studio album, Martinez says she’ll continue to write about the Cry Baby character. “Cry Baby is very close to my heart,” she says. “I feel like I am her in a lot of ways. I want to continue making music from her perspective. The next record is a lot more visual sounding, it’s also much darker and it is a story from beginning to end as well. It is about this specific place in Cry Baby’s town, and her experience there.”
Key Track: Released in June, 2015, “Pity Party” introduces Martinez, Cry Baby, and her stellar, full vocals, set against infectious horn hooks.
The Last Bandoleros
Who: The Last Bandoleros are a San Antonio and Brooklyn-based band comprised of pals Jerry Fuentes, Diego and Emilio Navaira, and Derek James, ready to bring Tex Mex flair back to the country charts. With seamless transitions from country to rock to Tejano to pop, this foursome has a sound that’s almost impossible to define, and even harder to resist.
Claim to Fame: Following their infectious debut single, “Where Do You Go?,” the band’s fanbase is growing rapidly, and even includes Sting. The group plays on the the former Police frontman’s upcoming studio LP 57th & 9th and the icon has already returned the favor, as he joined the Bandoleros on stage in New York City last summer. “To be a part of that process,” says Diego, “I mean, he’s one of our idols and now we’re working with him? We know him? Holy s—t!” And while they may have stars in their eyes, the biggest pinch-me moments still come every night on stage. “We played in Seattle the other day and there were so many people digging our music,” says Emilio. “It’s like, how cool is that?”
What’s Next: The group is on tour through the end of November and then they’re heading back to the studio to finish up their debut LP, which will “hopefully” drop in early 2017.
Key Track: “Where Do You Go?” for its stellar accordion solo.
- Who: The Swedish singer combines her country’s legacy of stellar pop music with a love of R&B, citing Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Aretha Franklin as some of her key influences. Hazell, who got her start acting in movies and musicals as a kid, also has the coveted Max Martin seal of approval. “I ended up singing a demo for him because he had heard me on another demo and wanted that sound on a song,” she says of working with the Swedish songwriting legend. “He just called me one day and I went into his studio.”
- Claim to Fame: Perhaps you’ve discovered her on Spotify—the streaming service named her a woman to watch in 2014, and her ultra-catchy new single, “Debut,” was featured on a New Music Friday round-up in September. She takes particular pride in adapting her slick pop sounds for her shows: “A lot of people are really surprised when they hear me live because they don’t expect me to sing my hooks,” she says. “They think they’re pitched or a synth—[like] on ‘Golden Boy,’ for example.”
- What’s Next: She’s writing and recording for an upcoming album, with songwriting sessions booked in London and Los Angeles this fall. “I’m always in the studio writing new material,” she says. “I love the mixture of harder, rhythmical stuff and airy R&B-indie melodies. I’m looking forward to exciting collabs and hopefully a lot of gigs.”
- Key Track: “Debut,“ a smoldering slow-jam about re-connecting with an ex.
Who: Berlin-based Marius Lauber started out playing drums in rock bands before writing and recording his own stylish brand of electronic music with a psychedelic bent. His stunning debut, Roosevelt, builds upon that sound with big pop hooks and Lauber’s impossibly cool lead vocals. Achieving such a heavenly vibe was grueling for Lauber: “I built my own studio in Cologne to record most of the record and it was quite an intense working progress,” he says. As for the meaning behind his moniker, he admits there isn’t one: “I just stumbled upon it and went with it.”
Claim to Fame: Roosevelt was tapped by Hot Chip member Joel Goddard’s label Greco-Roman—and Lauber, along with a back-up band, just finished his biggest tour of the U.S. yet. “It’s been a brutal schedule, 11 shows in 11 days,” he says. “The audiences here are amazing though — it felt great to do our first proper tour over here.”
What’s Next:He’s already working on new music and he hopes to travel the world more to work on it. “I’m thinking of going to different places,” he says. “I have a strong idea of how the second album should sound already — I can’t wait to start writing and recording it.”
Key Track: The blissed-out gem “Fever.”
Who: The Zimbabwean-born, Australian-bred rapper-singer studied architecture before committing herself to music full time. Now, she’s just as comfortable singing over EDM beats (see: her Martin Solveig collab “Do It Right” as she is spitting rapid-fire rhymes on her upcoming debut album, Tkay, out Oct. 28. “I think they came together at the same time,” she says of her skill set. “Sometimes I favor one more than the other. I just thought that it was more efficient for me to do everything vocal-wise on my songs when I started rather than trying to get guests for everything.”
Claim To Fame: Run the Jewels’ Killer Mike raved about Maidza during a lecture at M.I.T. last year before hopping on her new single, “Carry On,” this year. “It was a super special moment,” she says. “Run the Jewels was one of the first acts I discovered at my now favorite music festival, and to have to the backing of someone so experienced is so amazing. It’s certainly a moment where I felt like I fit in somewhere and had support from someone I looked up to.” She’s also toured with Charli XCX and collaborated with fellow Aussie Troye Sivan on his debut album.
What’s Next: She’s touring the U.S. this month before playing shows in Australia and New Zealand. “It’s always nerve-wracking playing in a different country because I’m basically starting over and trying to please different crowds to win people over,” she says. “[But] it’s been a good experience seeing so many pretty towns and cities I wouldn’t have ever expected to see.” Between all that, she’s planning to shoot more music videos and is already writing new songs.
Key Track: “Carry On,” stuttering showcase for Maidza’s feisty verses and natural charisma.