9 unsung acts to see at Coachella 2019
The names of this year’s Coachella headliners — Childish Gambino, Tame Impala, and Ariana Grande — are enough to satisfy the collective musical appetites of alt-rock junkies, hip-hop heads, Arianators, and those festivalgoers only in it for the Insta pics (you know who you are). However, it’s important not to overlook the acts who are a little further down the lineup poster. As the festival (taking place over two weekends this month) eagerly welcomes the biggest names in popular music, it also displays the talents of Irish folk, Afro-fusion, K-pop, R&B, and electro-pop groups, all colliding under the same tented stages for a whimsical weekend tucked away in the red-rock hills of Indio. Here are nine who are worth checking out.
“cum to Coachella,” King Princess recently announced on Twitter. The casual declaration just about sums up the laid-back, self-assured world of the 20-year-old queer pop icon, whose rich vocal delivery and honest LGBTQ+ and female empowerment anthems have secured her a group of small but devoted listeners. The singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer is also using the momentous occasion to kick off her next cross-country tour.
Lisa, Rosé, Jennie, and Jisoo are about to make history as the first K-pop girl group to perform at Coachella. The foursome just dropped their new EP, Kill This Love, and are preparing to put on a show unlike any of the other weekend’s artists, complete with coordinated ensembles, explosive choreography, and arsenal of badass beats. By switching between rapping and singing in English and Korean, Blackpink keep listeners on their toes.
The Toronto duo bring their smooth R&B reminiscent of Usher and Daniel Caesar out to the desert for a Saturday set. Frontman Daniel Daley anchors the group’s sound in classic R&B conventions, while producer Nineteen85 provides the pair with a clever combination of sinister trap beats and syrupy-sweet synths. Through lonely late-night confessions and recollections of passionate love affairs, Dvsn captures the raw power of romance. No wonder Drake signed them to his record label, OVO, back in 2016.
It was nearly impossible to miss the one-two punch Bazzi threw in 2018 with hit singles “Mine” and “Beautiful” (feat. Camila Cabello). The tracks helped crown the 21-year-old the king of mushy, upbeat love songs that manage to sound both sweet and sultry. The singer’s two newest singles, “Paradise” and “Caught In The Fire,” which dropped April 4, showcase his rapping-singing style that he is known to strip down for live performances, where he trades drum machines for acoustic guitar riffs.
If you’re a fan of Coachella veterans Vince Staples or Frank Ocean, prepare to fall in love with Smino’s soulful, sing-songy flow. Influenced by swinging jazz and vintage R&B, the St. Louis-born, Chicago-based rapper seeks to embrace and embody blackness in music through his own playful implementation of slow beats, bouncy synths, and filtered vocals. As his 2018 album Noir showed, Smino’s light sound is a breath of fresh air in today’s modern rap scene.
Coachella-goers can find respite from a long day of raving under the desert sun by slipping into the soothing sounds of Sabrina Claudio. The 22-year-old Puerto Rican-Cuban born in Miami manages to be both delicate and commanding as she tells stories of love, lust, and self-exploration through mellow, dreamy R&B songs. The singer-songwriter’s music is propelled by steady, gentle grooves and understated instrumentation, leaving room for her stage presence to shine through.
The Brown University alums Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern began making music together their senior year in college and haven’t looked back, fusing Hawley-Weld’s study of Portuguese and jazz with Halpern’s DJing sensibilities, to create an internationally influenced electronic blend that transcends genre. Their similarly playful aesthetic — complete with beaded corsets, body glitter, neon hair, and loud, clashing patterns — provide a carefree vibe and creative approach to their carefully crafted music.
Burna Boy knows better than anyone that he deserves to be featured in this year’s Coachella lineup. In fact, this January, he posted to Instagram about his dissatisfaction with where he was listed on the festival’s poster, refusing to be reduced to “tiny writing” and saying, “I don’t appreciate the way my name is written so small in your bill.” Complaints aside, the self-proclaimed “African giant” has credits dating back to 2011, and is considered a Nigerian Afro-fusion icon. In an interview with The Fader, Burna revealed that he draws from dancehall, R&B, hip-hop, and Afrobeats to shape his inventive, eclectic music in a way that young Nigerian artists are seeking to “photocopy” — and listeners around the world are becoming obsessed with.
Take Mumford and Sons, strip it down, give it a twist, and make it Irish. The Dublin-born singer-songwriter Dermot Kennedy dropped his debut self-titled album in January and has been making moves ever since. Coachella is just one stop on his upcoming international tour (his first). An artist that “has always been fascinated by extremes,” Kennedy captures the highs and lows of life through poetic language and a gripping mesh of electronic and organic instrumentation that compliments his gritty, powerful voice. His acoustic performance style is heavily influenced by his love of hip-hop.