It’s crazy to think about, but 20 years ago, no one knew who Rihanna, Lady Gaga, or Nicki Minaj were. The world hadn’t been introduced to Kanye West or Taylor Swift. Even Adele was just another face in the crowd. Nowadays, each of them are living legends, surely to be remembered for generations to come.
That’s one of the most exciting parts of the music industry: watching unknown artists develop into household names and bonafide superstars. Every few years, we watch a fresh-faced crop of buzzy musicians grow before our eyes. And as the latest class — think Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X and Dua Lipa — settle into their roles as established hitmakers, it’s time to look to the future. Here are ten up-and-coming artists who have the goods to become the chart-topping idols of tomorrow.
No one is as poised for stardom as dancehall artist Shenseea. The Jamaican star showed up twice on Kanye West’s 2021 album Donda, demonstrating her vocal abilities on “Pure Souls” and then rapping alongside the icon on “Ok Ok Pt 2.” Ahead of her forthcoming album Alpha (due March 11), Shenseea dropped the Megan Thee Stallion-assisted “Lick,” along with an accompanying video that borders on pornography. Bold!
Check out: “Lick” (with Megan Thee Stallion), “Dolly,” “Lighter”
Before his hyped up debut as Elliot in the new season of Euphoria, Dominic Fike had already made a name for himself in the music industry. Last year alone, he made out with Lil Nas X in Brockhampton’s “Count On Me” video and captured new fans through his feature on Justin Bieber’s “Die For You.” Between his burgeoning music career and his romantic rendezvous with Euphoria co-star Hunter Schafer, Fike will be an A-lister in no time.
Check out: “Chicken Tenders,” “Die For You,” “3 Nights”
New Jersey-bred Audrey Nuna drips with a type of swagger that can’t be manufactured. The Korean-American artist seamlessly switches between a buttery-smooth singing voice and a signature monotone rap style throughout her debut EP, 2021’s a liquid breakfast. In a genreless world of Billie Eilishes and Post Malones, Nuna is the perfect complement.
Check out: “Damn Right,” “Comic Sans”(feat. Jack Harlow), “Irene”
Formally known as Priscilla Renea, Muni Long racked up an impressive songwriting resume that includes credits for the likes of Rihanna, Ariana Grande, and Kelly Clarkson. For her second act, the rising star took her insider knowledge and applied it to her own career — and it paid off! Her sensual R&B track “Hrs And Hrs” went viral on TikTok, catapulting the song onto the Billboard Hot 100, where it’s currently perched at No. 16. Now her name is on every industry insider’s lips.
Check out: “Hrs And Hrs,” “Sneaky Link,” “No Signal”
“If changing my clothes would make you like me more / If changing my hair would make you care / Then I’d grab the kitchen scissors and cut myself to slivers for you,” Conan Gray seethes in the opening of his latest release, “Jigsaw.” With such melodrama, it’s no surprise Gray is regularly seen palling around with the current reigning Queen of Teen Angst, Olivia Rodrigo. With the current emo revival, this sensitive soul is ready to carry Dashboard Confessional’s torch for a new generation of sad bois and girls.
Check out: “Jigsaw,” “People Watching,” “Maniac”
Noa Kirel may be relatively unknown in the States, but she is Israeli pop royalty. Not only did she win the MTV Europe Music Award for best Israeli act for four consecutive years, but at 16, she joined the panel of Israel’s Got Talent as the global franchise’s youngest judge. Now, at 20, Kirel is aiming to conquer America — and between her soaring vocals, athletic choreography, and futuristic fashion, she’s got the full pop star package.
Check Out: “Thought About That,” “Please Don’t Suck,” “Pouch”
With a massive following (17.8 million at the time of writing) on TikTok, it’s easy to dismiss Nessa Barrett as another bored social media influencer who sees her musical projects as a side hobby rather than a career. But to come to that conclusion without giving her debut EP, last year’s Pretty Poison, a spin would be erroneous. On tracks like “I Hope Ur Miserable Until Ur Dead” and “Scare Myself,” Barrett establishes herself as a dark-pop songwriter with a knack for instantly catchy hooks — an easy sell for fans Avril and Paramore.
Check out: “I Hope Ur Miserable Until Ur Dead,” “La Di Die” (feat. Jxdn), “Scare Myself”
Anyone with their finger on the pulse in the world of K-pop knows that Aespa is a force to be reckoned with. The all-female foursome (or octet, if you count their avatar counterparts that regularly dance alongside them) started with a bang: in early 2021, their debut music video “Black Mamba” hit 100 million views, making them the fastest K-pop debut to reach that achievement. Their debut EP Savage also broke the record for highest-ranking K-pop girl group debut on the Billboard 200, clocking in at No. 20. With high-profile performances on the 2021 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and The Kelly Clarkson Show, Karina, Winter, Giselle, and NingNing are on their way to becoming global icons.
Check out: “Next Level,” “Black Mamba,” “Savage”
Between a pair of minor hits (“No More Parties” and “Big Purr” peaked at No. 26 and No. 69 respectively on the Hot 100) and a spot in the illustrious 2021 edition of the XXL Freshmen Class, all signs are pointing to a big year for Coi Leray. On recent releases like “Twinnem” and “Anxiety,” the charismatic rapper shows off a softer, more relatable side — a smart play for an artist who is this close to take off.
Check out: “Big Purr” (feat. Pooh Shiesty), “Twinnem,” “Anxiety”
It can’t be easy being the maligned subject of one of 2021’s biggest albums, but Joshua Bassett has responded to Olivia Rodrigo’s lyrics in stride: “If you get to tell your truth, then so do I / And it’s cool if you want me to play the bad guy / But don’t you dare act like I didn’t love you,” he declares over an acoustic accompaniment on “Crisis.” The track humanizes Bassett and serves as a necessary response to his very public relationship drama — and with it out of the way, it will be exciting to watch the young star explore his artistry outside of Rodrigo’s shadow.
Check out: “Set Me Free,” “Crisis,” “Only a Matter of Time”
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.