As 2019 comes to a close, SiriusXM and Pandora are looking to next year and the artists we think will own 2020 with their breakout talent. By checking in with our curators, analyzing music industry trends and poring over data from Pandora and Next Big Sound, we’ve selected the 24 singers, rappers, DJs and bands we believe are poised for greatness in the coming year. Whether you’re into hip hop, R&B, country or reggae, alt-rock, Latin, Christian, dance or pop, there’s a new face waiting to become your next fave. We’ve got all your musical uniqueness covered.
Check out the Artists to Watch 2020 playlist HERE and learn more about our favorite emerging acts below—with special shoutout lists for Latin, country, and Christian genres, too.
Ali Gatie: Ali Gatie is no stranger to our Trendsetters and Predictions charts and understandably so. His heart-wrenching lyrics coupled with his moody, lo-fi production truly gives us all the feels. His hit single “It’s You” debuted earlier in 2019, and definitely got the world’s attention and garnered tens of millions of streams. Ali Gatie’s music is a refreshing reminder of how necessary it can be to lean into heartache from time to time.
Arin Ray: Arin Ray first took his shot at stardom as a contestant on The X Factor back in 2012. Since then, he’s been writing hits for a number of artists like John Legend, Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj and Jeremih. While currently signed to Interscope/Universal, Arin has so far cracked the Pandora Predictions Chart Top 10 with “A Seat,” his biggest single to date.
Arizona Zervas: Within a month of its release on October 10, 2019, this Maryland-born rapper, singer and songwriter’s song “Roxanne” began receiving SiriusXM airplay support on multiple channels including The Heat, Hip Hop Nation and Hits1. In the wake of SiriusXM’s support, the song has gone on to be streamed more than 100 million times and has landed in the top 25 on the Top 40 chart and top 15 on the Rhythmic chart. In mid-November, Zervas signed with Columbia Records.
BENEE: New Zealand-born Benee, a shortened version of her name, Stella Bennette, first grabbed our attention back in 2018 with her single “Soaked,” which is certified gold in NZ. Since then, she’s gone on to release her debut EP where she blends nostalgic sounds with uptempo moments where she completely bends genre.
Doja Cat: Doja Cat blends Hip Hop and R&B in her own unique style. Singles like “Mooo!” and “Tia Tamera” helped create a viral buzz around the Los Angeles native. In November 2019, Doja released her 2nd studio album Hot Pink that debuted at #19 on the Billboard top 200.
Ekali: Ekali, the Canadian-born producer and DJ, was first known for early production credits on Drake’s If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late, along with high-profile collaborations with Denzel Curry, Yuna, K. Flay, Medasin, and ZHU. Since then, Ekali has been out slaying Festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza, Life is Beautiful, EDC and Ultra while his 2018 EP Crystal Eyes was nominated for a Juno award. We’re so excited for his new music next year, and so far we’ve gotten a taste of his new album with collaborations from Au/Ra, Wafia, and Illenium.
Fire From The Gods: Hailing from Austin, Texas, Fire From The Gods received their first radio play of their career in 2016 when SiriusXM’s Octane played “Excuse Me.” Since then, the band was signed to a new label, Better Noise, and their new song “Right Now” made its World Premiere on Octane. In the following weeks, Octane also identified the song as an “Octane Accelerator” when it was the first national radio outlet to play the song in a regular rotation. The song has since been on Octane’s “Big Uns” top 15 weekly countdown for more than 10 consecutive weeks.
Gabby Barrett: SiriusXM’s The Highway selected Gabby Barrett as a ”Highway Find” artist after the success of her single “I Hope” in February 2019. Four months later, Gabby signed with Warner Music Nashville and “I Hope” reached #1 on The Highway’s Hot 30 Countdown.
girl in red: 20 year old Norwegian singer Marie Ulven seemed to come out of nowhere with a dreamy new take on bedroom indie pop. Her music sweetly sums up all too relatable misgivings of heading into adulthood like depression, insecurity, and unrequited love. Considering she’s only been making music for a little under three years and already making major waves, there is no doubt that this is just the start of something big.
Hailey Whitters: Hailey Whitters is a rising force in country music. This independent artist spent 2019 on the road opening for Maren Morris, and has written hits for Little Big Town, Alan Jackson and Martina McBride. In a time where the sonic breadth of country music continues to grow, Hailey Whitters is a refreshing reminder of what its true roots sound like with the 2019 release of her EP The Days.
Isabela Merced: Isabela Merced’s catchy single “Papi,” where she makes it clear that relationships will be on her terms and she stands on her own, flew up the US top 40 charts. So in addition to her being a movie star (she acted in Instant Family and Sicario: Day of the Soldado), we can add bad-ass pop star to her resume as well.
Koffee: In a brief span of time, 19 year old Koffee (aka Mikayla Simpson) has risen from social media sensation to one of the most heralded artists in reggae. After some immediate buzz around her first few singles, she released “Toast” late in 2018 – an anthemic song that has resonated with audiences worldwide. Her Rapture EP followed in 2019, along with tours in the UK and opening for Daniel Caesar’s US tour. Her EP was included in this year’s Grammy nominations for Best Reggae Album, earning Koffee the accolade for the youngest artist ever nominated in the category. With a new album on the horizon and a new single “W” featuring Gunna already bubbling up, 2020 looks to be a huge year for Koffee.
Layton Greene: Layton Greene is the first R&B artist signed to Quality Control (home of Migos, Lil Yachty, Lil Baby & City Girls). Her QC debut song “Leave Em Alone” has garnered nearly 100 million streams on Pandora and over 350 million worldwide.
Lil Keed: Lil Keed had the streets buzzing with his single “Nameless.” Born and raised in Atlanta, Keed grew up in the same neighborhood as fellow ATL rapper Young Thug and is signed to Thug’s label YSL Records in a joint venture with 300 Entertainment. On top of releasing his own critically acclaimed projects, Lil Keed has appeared on tracks with Future, Young Thug, Gunna, Jacquees just to name a few.
Lil Tjay: Lil TJay represents the new wave of NYC rappers. Hailing from the South Bronx, TJay combines witty lyrics with a unique style and melodic flow. At only 18 years old, he’s grabbed the attention of the entire industry, especially after his feature on Polo G’s “Pop Out” and his own track “Brothers.”
Mahalia: Mahalia has a sound that has transcended beyond the UK. Named after gospel great Mahalia Jackson, this young lady started writing and recording music back in 2015. Each release pulled her deeper into the R&B spotlight that she now shares with fellow Brit, Ella Mai. “What You Did” is Mahalia’s first single to debut on the US Billboard R&B charts. It’s also one of the first singles ever to be jointly-supported by both Pandora and its parent company SiriusXM.
Mallrat: Brisbane-based indie pop sensation Mallrat has been slowly garnering a buzz for the past several years. Already a household name in her native country of Australia, she has secured opening slots for big names like Post Malone and Maggie Rogers. Take into account her uber catchy upbeat tracks that showcase her affinity for the 90s that undoubtedly put you in a good mood and have you bobbing your head and singing along only shows her mainstream success here in the states is imminent.
NLE Choppa: NLE Choppa is the next big thing to come out of Memphis, a city which has a tradition of producing dope rappers. At the young age of 17, Choppa only started taking rap seriously a few years ago, but once he got serious he’s been a force to be reckoned with. His breakout song “Shotta Flow” went viral, helping NLE Choppa leverage his own record label in partnership with Warner Records.
Paloma Mami: Palomi Mami began buzzing at the end of 2018, and the interest continues to grow since debuting on the Pandora Predictions chart in March of this year. The 20 year old Chilean-American singer is taking full advantage of her bi-cultural upbringing, with her signature brand of moody Latin urban/R&B, anchored by a convincing combo of voice and lyricism that is equally adept in both English and Spanish.
Pink Sweat$: Pink Sweat$ actually wears pink sweats a lot. It’s a part of his brand as well as being a descriptor of his laidback soulful sound. His independently-released single “Honesty” catapulted Pink to the forefront of the R&B landscape at the end of 2018. He’s newly-signed to Atlantic Records, releasing the remix to “Honesty” with Jessie Reyez.
Roddy Ricch: SiriusXM’s Hip Hop Nation world debuted his track “Die Young” and named it a “Hip Hop Nation First Alert” record in mid-July 2018, since then the channel has gone on to support his songs, “Die Young” and “Tip Toe” as well as his recent collaborations with Marshmello and DJ Mustard. Roddy spent part of summer 2019 opening for Post Malone, and wrapped up the year by releasing his debut full length album, Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial, on December 6th.
Tones And I: Tones and I hails from Byron Bay Australia and hopped on the scene in early 2018. After quitting her day job, she lived out of her van for a year and tried her hand at busking. Fast forward about a year, her smash single “Dance Monkey” hit #1 on our Predictions Chart and Shazam, is certified 3x platinum in Australia and let’s just say, she puts on an amazing live show.
Tyla Yaweh: There’s no denying Tyla Yaweh’s star appeal. His talent, high energy and charisma caught the attention of Post Malone and Dre London causing the duo to sign Yaweh to their label London Entertainment. The Florida rapper has been tearing up the festival stage circuit, performing everywhere from Rolling Loud to SXSW, as well as Post Malone’s European Tour.
Yemi Alade: Yemi Alade has been one of the biggest female voices in Africa since breaking out in 2013, but over the last year she’s made some amazing inroads into the US mainstream via her work on the Lion King soundtrack and her collaboration with Rick Ross. As her male counterparts continue to dominate the conversation around Afropop, Yemi has quietly positioned herself as one of the most consistent artists to come out of the continent and a true contender to solidify the Afro Pop crossover into the US.
With a new decade that finally has a name we can remember, a new crop of Latin artists and sounds look to make an indelible impact right out of the gate in the first months of 2020. From corridos and norteñas, to baladas and banda, Regional Mexican music continues to evolve and drive a huge portion of the Latin listenership on Pandora. We’re excited to see what’s next from Natanael Cano, Cheli Madrid, Grupo Firme, Adrián Chaparro and Jorge Almir. With the domination of urban music in Latin pop, we believe 2020 will mark a return to a more classic Latin pop sound, led by innovative songwriters like Camilo, Luis Figueroa and Cami. R&B was all the buzz in Latin music this past year, and that buzz will only grow with the innovative artistry of Paloma Mami and Omar Apollo. Urban music will continue its domination of Latin listening on Pandora, but don’t look for the same old same old in 2020; artists like Mariah, Lalo Ebratt, Eladio Carrión, Dímelo Flow and Haze are redefining the genre for new audiences. And for those who are looking to take a detour outside of the big genres, artists like Elsa y Elmar, La Doña and Ed Maverick are breaking down barriers with their unique voices. We are excited to see what takes shape in the Latin music world through the next 12 months.
Check out the Latin Artists to Watch 2020 mixtape HERE.
Adrián Chaparro: Adrián Chaparro made his debut on the Pandora Predictions chart this past October, after over a year of increasing viral attention. With his distinct voice and skilled songwriting, as evidenced in corridos like No Mencionan, Adrián signed with Fonovisa in 2019, bringing with him a ton of anticipation. In August of this year, Se Cae La Corona dropped, making a clear statement about the intended trajectory of this young artist from Tucson. Look for more singles to close out the year and the anticipated debut full-length album in January.
CAMI: Chilean-born singer-songwriter Cami’s pop stylings coupled with an affinity for folk traditions caught the ear of audiences in 2019 and earned her a nomination for Best New Artist this past November at the Latin Grammys. Anchored with an expressive and powerful voice, her sound is modern with touches of classic Latin American folk influences, giving her a distinct musical palate. Her audience has grown by over 1000% in the last month, making her one to keep an eye in 2020.
Camilo: Medellín-born Camilo had a big second half of 2019, which included the viral success of his hit, “Tutu,” followed up by a remix featuring Shakira and Pedro Capó, plus a Latin Grammy nomination for best new artist. Camilo has already put his stamp on contemporary music, with songwriting credits that include among many others, Becky G and Natti Natasha’s “Sin Pijama,” Juanes’ “Pa’ Dentro,” Bad Bunny’s “Si Estuviésemos Juntos” and Bomba Estéreo’s “Internacionales.” Debuting on Pandora’s Predictions Chart in October, his 2020 plans include the release of new material and a focus on further self-development.
Cheli Madrid: Cheli Madrid’s unique talent offers a huge opportunity to bridge pop and regional Mexican music for new audiences in ways that a male artist may have difficulty in achieving. This is evidence on dual versions of “Si Algún Día Te Encuentro,” in which Cheli fully owns both arrangements. Further illustrating the promise of this young talent, her audience has grown by 40% in the last month on Pandora, with over 70% being comprised of female listeners, showing that there is an audience for female artists in regional Mexican music, if the industry supports.
Dímelo Flow: Puerto Rican Miami-based producer Dímelo Flow is seriously impacting the direction of contemporary Latin urban music, as evidence on global smashes “Pa Mi” and “Otro Trago.” His unmistakable sound frequently incorporates strings into reggaeton production with low fi drum sounds, rich base tones and minimal arrangements, making for the perfect platform to support the talented Rich Music roster of romancers, which includes some of the best voices in the business, including Justin Quiles, Sech and Dalex, amongst others. As another producer stepping out from behind the boards and being developed as a solo artist, he deserves all the accolades and attention.
Ed Maverick: Eduardo Hernández, known artistically as Ed Maverick, has caught on in his native Mexico in a big way and that audience growth has now crossed over virally in the US. In the last week of November, the disaffected singer-songwriter shot up 17 places to the top spot on the Pandora Predictions chart, an impressive feat for an indie artist whose songs of love and loss are mostly acoustic-based and feature hushed vocals and minimal instrumentation. There is an honesty in his songwriting that has drawn fans in, and with every release, his artistic vision has become more fully developed. We are expect big things in 2020.
Eladio Carrión: Puerto Rican reggaetonero Eladio Carrion has had some big moments in 2019, beginning with the epic “Mi Error,” his collaboration with Zion which was recently given a super-sized remix with the addition of Lennox, Wisin & Yandel and Lunay. The Rimas label member also toured with J Balvin on his Arcoiris tour, further cementing his buzz. With cosigns and features from the biggest artists in the genre, Eladio has moved into the more melodic territory of pop reggaeton after his initial trap releases in 2018, making him very bankable for continued growth and success in 2020.
Elsa Y Elmar: To be clear, Colombian-born Elsa Carvajal is Elsa Y Elmar. There is no other dude. Her brand of subdued pop features tinges of rock, electronic, dub and R&B, led by somewhat ethereal vocals and an inventive lyricism that instantly engages. Having released her first album in 2015, it’s a little misleading to characterize her as a new artist, but that didn’t stop the Latin Grammys from also nominating her for Best New Artist this past November. Elsa y Elmar is poised to grow in 2020, with what seems like boundless creativity.
Grupo Firme: Grupo Firme is another group putting up big numbers on Pandora, having grown their audience by 45% in the last month to almost 1 million listeners. The definition of a party band, the Tijuana-based Firme has been putting in work touring the US and Mexico, winning over new fans with their high energy style of norteño banda and a live show that will leave you with a clouded memory the next morning. Look for big things in 2020.
HAZE: Haze has been at the top of the reggaeton production game for years and is the driving force behind many of the hits that have brought the genre to global dominance. From Yandel’s “Encantadora” to Ozuna and Natti Natasha’s “Criminal,” Haze makes vocalists look good, working alongside his House of Haze collaborator and fellow solo artist, Jhay Cortez. Most recently, “Amanece” with Anuel AA destroyed the charts and was one of the top songs of the past year, racking up 34 million spins and counting on Pandora. Revealing a peek of what’s in store for next year, Haze released “Lo Que Quieras” with Reik last month, a reggaeton ballad that demonstrates the sophistication of his arrangements and songwriting abilities.
Jorge Almir: Jorge Almir is not a new artist, already having released two albums since 2014, along with a handful of singles, but the promise of what’s to come is what landed him on this list. The inventively arranged and sung “El Cigarrito” instantly caught our attention with its release this past October. With all the hype around corridos verdes, it was unusual to hear a mariachi flavored marijuana-laced ballad. Jorge broke the mold and made a track that captured the buzz of the current verde fad, while also tying in the nuevo mariachi fad, and he managed to do it without sounding formulaic or contrived. Without revealing too much, the unreleased tracks that we’ve heard take his sound to the next level, as he will continue to innovate and surprise in 2020.
La Doña: La Doña is a wildcard in 2020. The singer and multi-instrumentalist recently emerged out of San Francisco, but she has been performing music professionally since her childhood. Versed in traditional Mexican and Latin American music, Cecilia Peña Govea is incorporating those influences, along with a lot of Bay Area swagger into a hybrid that sounds part pop, part urban, part traditional and all Frisco. La Doña recently opened up for Cuco in the latter half of his 2019 tour, which helped to expose her further. When she hits her stride, lookout, she is seriously one of the most talented artists to come along in a while.
Lalo Ebratt: Lalo Ebratt continues in the tradition of successful Colombian reggaeton artists, with the distinction of not being from Medellín. Born and raised in Santa Marta before moving to Bogotá, you can hear elements of the Caribbean in his sound which sets him apart. His visibility has been elevated recently, having been featured on some of the biggest Latin hits of the year, such as “La Plata” with Juanes, Indeciso with J Balvin and Reik and “Amor a Primera Vista” with Belinda and Los Angeles Azules, the combination of which landed him on Pandora Trendsetters Chart for four weeks in October. He releases a new EP, Numerología, this week. Look for the rest of his crew Trapical Minds to bubble up in 2020, as well.
Luis Figueroa: Like so many artists in the last decade, Luis Figueroa initially found viral fame on YouTube. A cover of Marc Anthony’s “Flor Pálida” caught the salsero’s attention, and Luis was signed to a development deal with Magnus. The Miami-raised Puerto Rican singer leverages his performing and writing experience to make irresistible pop gems as seen on his collaboration with Sebastián Yatra on “Por Perro” and his first single with Sony, “La Especialista.” Luis’ audience on Pandora has increased by 110% in the last month
Mariah: With her runaway hit “Perreito” on repeat this past summer, Mariah added some much-needed feminine energy into the male-dominated Latin urban world in 2019. The 19-year-old Miami native has a throwback aesthetic that pays reverence to the roots of reggaeton, as evidenced by her homage to el perreo. She comes across as confident and poised on the mic with an air of IDGAF. She also can flex on the softer romantic rhythmic production as seen on “Te Necesito,” a versatility that has helped her to steadily increase her audience on Pandora this year.
Natanael Cano: Everyone is already watching Natanael Cano. The 18-year-old Hermosillo native has been on our Pandora Trendsetters Chart for 23 weeks, the majority spent in the #1 position, a streak which was extended by his recent collaboration with Bad Bunny on “Soy El Diablo” Remix. But make no mistake, Nata was huge before Benito took notice, and with the backing of the Rancho Humilde label, look for a lot more smoke-laced urban corridos to be hitting the streets next year. This is an artist that has the potential the change the game.
Omar Apollo: You only have to go to one of his live shows to understand what the appeal is with Indiana-born singer Omar Apollo. With a keen melodic delivery, a repertoire that leans heavily on exploring the different shades of R&B, and an incredible stage presence, Omar mesmerizes audiences, keeping them hanging on his every move. Easily flowing between English and Spanish, he is another example of a young Latin artist taking advantage of the fluidity of being bi-cultural. His audience on Pandora has grown 40% in the last month.
Paloma Mami: Palomi Mami began buzzing at the end of 2018, and the interest continues to grow since debuting on the Pandora Predictions chart in March of this year. The 20-year-old Chilean-American singer is taking full advantage of her bi-cultural upbringing, with her signature brand of moody Latin urban/R&B, anchored by a convincing combo of voice and lyricism that is equally adept in both English and Spanish. Her latest single, “Mami,” drops this week.
Country music will continue to be both genre-bending and loyal to its “three chords and the truth” roots. We will likely continue to see successful cross-genre collaborations, as the country audience has continued to diversify. However, the longstanding traditions of the classic, fiddle-and-steel-laced sound mixed with autobiographical and often cinematic storytelling are here to stay. Pandora’s 2020 Country Artists to Watch list is a unique blend of artists representing both of these styles…and so much more. From an American Idol favorite to an indie songwriter moving from behind the scenes to center stage, our list not only runs the gamut in career resumes but also in melodic territory – with many dabbling in pop, soul, R&B and everything in between. We are eager to see how these 15 artists will make their marks on the country music genre, and continue to unleash Nashville’s sonic floodgates.
Check out the Country Artists to Watch 2020 playlist HERE.
Brandon Ratcliff: Brandon Ratcliff first made waves by re-writing the “Rules of Breaking Up,” his R&B-tinged debut single, and now the Louisiana native continues to ride his wave of eclectic musical influences and heartfelt lyrics with the moving “Slow Down Hometown.”
Caylee Hammack: Caylee Hammack was blessed with an otherworldly voice, incredible songwriting talent and clearly more energy than the average human being. Her caffeinated brand of country music merges authenticity with grit, and a whole lot of heart. She wears her family backstory on her sleeve on the infectious “Family Tree” while she dives in diverse sonic territory with the biting “Just Friends.”
ERNEST: ERNEST is the self-proclaimed “Tropical Cowboy” of country music, with influences as polar opposite as Eminem and George Strait. But it’s more of his Jimmy Buffett idolization that comes out in songs he’s written for Jake Owen, Chris Lane and Florida Georgia Line. Major songwriting success led to his own record deal, with his Locals Only LP highlighting his relatability, his laid back vibe, and his affinity for the banjo.
Gabby Barrett: Gabby Barrett first made a name for herself on “American Idol” but has since done what most contestants struggle to do: make a name for herself beyond the show. And she did it with a song she wrote on her own terms, the kiss-off to a cheating ex, “I Hope” – which showcases her killer voice and clever way with words.
Hailey Whitters: A country traditionalist with an ethereal voice, Hailey Whitters has been hitting the Music Row pavement for more than a decade as a songwriter who refuses to gloss up her act to make the airwaves. “I need longer lashes and a shorter dress to be that overnight success,” she sings of her country music journey on the autobiographical “Ten Year Town.” Her authenticity is finally paying off.
Ingrid Andress: Berklee-trained musician Ingrid Andress is the epitome of that old phrase “wise beyond her years” when it comes to writing lyrics that may be about her own experiences but are universally relatable. Multi-faceted in her talents and lyrical prowess, she shows her unapologetically rebellious side in the clever “Lady Like” and vulnerable side in the touching “More Hearts Than Mine” and exquisite “Both.”
John King: Georgia native John King celebrated a Number One hit as a songwriter (Randy Houser’s “We Went”) before seeing his own name on the charts with “Tonight Tonight” – also used as the NFL’s Thursday night football theme song. Current single “Close” fuses his Southern rock and country influences with an infectious melody and heartfelt lyrics that reflect his charming, southern gentleman personality.
King Calaway: King Calaway is far from a “boy band.” The six guys who make up this country-pop group are all multi-instrumentalists who trade lead vocals on every track of their excellent debut album, Rivers. With members from both sides of the pond – from Ohio and Tennessee to Gibraltar and Scotland – King Calaway brings a dynamic the country music world has never seen, along with a rush of adrenaline to their live performances.
Kylie Morgan: In the competitive country music landscape where it’s particularly crucial for female artists to carve their own paths, Kylie Morgan makes her mark as a “Boy’s Girl” with truly unique vocal and writing styles. “I’ll never be Miss Tennessee/More whiskey, less pearls,” she sings in her breakthrough hit. That sassy side is accompanied by a long catalog of self-penned, autobiographical tunes that tackle topics from breakups to bullies.
Lainey Wilson: Country-to-the-core singer/songwriter Lainey Wilson is carving her own path with what she calls “bell bottom country” – a kind of music that reflects everything from her Louisiana roots to her free spirit to her eclectic fashion choices. Her debut EP, Redneck Hollywood, offers a snapshot of her life – with its first single, “Dirty Looks” also showing her sultry side.
Larry Fleet: Larry Fleet got his start at the ripe old age of 6, performing in his family’s bluegrass band. The now 20-something singer stays true to his roots with cinematic storytelling and a show-stopping, soulful voice. The aptly-titled new album, Workin’ Hard, catalogs his rise to country success through relatable, toe-tapping tunes.
Madison Kozak: Madison Kozak’s father introduced her to country music, and she pays homage to him with her poignant debut single, “First Last Name” – which she wrote as a Father’s Day gift to her dad. The singer/songwriter/guitarist is the first artist signed to celebrated songwriter Nicolle Galyon’s female-focused Songs and Daughters record label, and Kozak follows in Galyon’s footsteps with introspective songwriting and similarly honeyed vocals.
Riley Green: Riley Green is the only artist on our list to already have a Number One song – his romantic, spirited earworm, “There Was This Girl.” The Alabama-bred songwriter is a seasoned performer who can rile up a crowd with a drinking song as well as he can hush them with a heartbreaker- such as his moving new tune, “I Wish Grandpas Never Died.”
Seaforth: Aussie musicians Tom Jordan and Mitch Thompson of Seaforth joke that Keith Urban is their uncle, but all humor aside, few come as close to the country icon’s stage presence and infectious fusion of country, pop and rock. Debut single “Love That” is a hook-filled tune that showcases their romantic side and unique vocal style.
Tenille Townes: The U.S. is catching up to what Canada has known for years: Tenille Townes has the voice of an angel and a collection of songs that stand the test of time. The reigning CCMA Female Artist of the Year idolized Shania Twain as a young aspiring singer – and you can see that influence in her dynamic live performances. But her introspective, emotional lyrics are more reflective of her affinity for legends like Patty Griffin and Emmylou Harris and their emotive pens.
This Year in Christian will produce an even deeper infusion of hip hop in every subgenre, from the AC pop core to the modern gospel choir. Faith-informed hip hop will gain more legitimacy, thanks, in part, to Kanye. And worship expression, the chameleon-like elephant, will continue shattering the stained-glass ceiling and confines of the genre.
Emergent. Next. Horizon. We use these words to describe the up-and-comers, the artists poised to shake things up in the new year. In Christian and Gospel music, these “Artists to Watch” explore every stylistic post: pop, hip hop, gospel, worship, bluegrass, folk and rock. Some of them have record label support and big touring opportunities on the books in the new year. Others have turned heads at radio, scored a big win in streaming with the first of their releases, won a national singing competition or have simply captured the imagination of a rapidly-growing fanbase. Some devote their talents to ministry, writing songs that spread like wildfire in the Church. And then there’s a cultural icon, brand new to the “gospel” space, as fascinating as a newborn baby to first-time parents. For these A-listers of tomorrow, we’re practically holding our breath to hear what’s next. Here’s 20 new artists worth your time and ear in 2020.
Check out the Christian Artists to Watch 2020 playlist HERE.
Angie Rose: When the guy who A&R’d NF puts back on his A&R hat to sign and champion you, it means something. This pop/hip hop powerhouse from the Bronx is undeniable and destined to fly beyond the box.
Apollo LTD: Adam Stark and Jordan Phillips may be signed to a faith-based label, but they care more about the art than the box we tend to place it in. Probably why the music they make is so, so good. Whether you’re in the club or the congregation, Apollo LTD is on the way up.
Austin French: He competed on both “The Voice” and “Rising Star,” taking second place in the latter. But Austin French stands apart from the pack not just for his incredible tenor, but for his blistering way with a lyric. Wide Open, his debut, is chock-full of incredible songs. And he’s just getting started.
Chris Renzema: Virtually unknown, Chris Renzema’s headline fall tour sold out all 16 shows and left audiences clamoring for more. One listen to “Jacob” and you’ll hear why.
Cochren & Co. : Indiana-based singer/songwriter Michael Cochren has been paying his dues since 2011, but he signed with Gotee in 2018, delivering a big radio hit, “Church (Take Me Back),” that defied the odds at Christian radio. We think it’s time for more piano-soul in Christian music. This is the guy to deliver it.
Common Hymnal: Common Hymnal describes itself as an “online library for the spiritual underground, a connecting point for an as-yet-uncoalesced movement around the exchange of songs, stories and ideas.” But what we hear is almost otherworldly: voices in community — uniquely diversified — sounding like nothing else in the genre. And certainly nothing like you’ll hear on Christian or gospel radio. But if we lived in a perfect world, this hymnal would be famous.
Elle Limebear: What makes Brighton UK-based singer/songwriter Elle Limebear unique is hard to pin down. Again, it’s not about pedigree — although her dad, Delirious frontman Martin Smith deserves his pioneer/icon status — but rather the authenticity and lyrical wisdom beyond her years.
Emily Brimlow: One of the best singer/songwriters you’ve probably never heard of. Infectious. Delight. And all the good things. “Hope” brought it.
High Road: Poised to take their high-harmonies beyond the southern gospel sphere, the women of High Road debuted in November. Not only are they incredible songwriters, but they play every instrument and create harmonies that stay with you after the song ends.
Hulvey: Brunswick, GA native Chris Hulvey will sign his first record deal in Q1 2020. All that info is embargoed at present, but if “Motions” and “Mad Today” are any indication, it’s runway time for this one.
Jon Reddick: Put aside the fact that he’s already worked with Matt Redman, Tommy Sims and Sheryl Crow. This Memphis native, Franklin TN-based worship pastor makes our list because his music has a profound way of bridging the divide… between races and creeds, between sinners and saints, between all that divides us. We need him to soar. And we believe he will.
Kalley: Singer/songwriter and worship pastor with Bethel Music, Kalley (Heiligenthal) dropped a seriously intriguing alt-pop EP set, Faultlines I and II, in late October. She arrives with a built-in, worldwide audience in tow.
Kanye: We simply couldn’t leave Kanye out of this list. Why? 1) Jesus Is King may well be one of the most overtly Jesus-centered album of any genre in the history of ever and 2) because he says he’s going all “gospel” from now on, so can’t wait to hear what that sounds like.
Kelontae Gavin: Described as “the next big voice of his generation,” this 20-year-old from South Carolina hit a home run out of the park with the chart-topping gospel hit “No Ordinary Worship,” an anthem that likely outlive us all. He’s been singing since the age of four, but he’s just getting started.
LEDGER: Sure, she can play the shazam outta those drums for Skillet, but make no mistake, Jen Ledger has more talent than the two-stick kind. She’s a dynamic performer, an honest lyricist, and this rock chick rocks about things that matter. Put all that together, and we can’t look away.
Melvin Crispell: The winner of BET’s Season 9 Sunday Best competition, Melvin III carries on the gospel legacy of his parents, who died when he was a teen. Toss in the backing of RCA Inspiration and co-producers like Aaron Lindsey and Myron Butler, and we’ll carry on with him. All day.
Mission House: This fierce duo, Jess Ray and Taylor Leonhardt, met in their hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, and began as a folk-rock act playing the college circuit. Then, they turned their talents to writing songs they knew their friends needed to hear. Their debut single “Nothing Left to Do” stretches modern worship in the very best way. As more women take their place in the modern worship landscape, and as the music grows rootsier, Mission House is right on time.
Pastor Mike Jr.: “What’s in front of you is bigger than what’s behind you!” shouts Pastor Mike Jr. at the beginning of the contagious gospel single “Big,” And within a matter of months, this Birmingham, AL-based pastor’s debut, Live Free, commandeered the top of the Billboard gospel album chart. There’s much more where that came from… we just know it.
We Are Messengers: Ireland’s own Darren Mulligan continues to surprise. “Power,” the first single from his upcoming sophomore release is already well-positioned near the top of the charts. And with support from Curb and touring in the works, 2020 will be a defining year for We Are Messengers.
We The Kingdom: This gritty folk/pop worship band has crazy talent in their DNA chain, as children (some, anyway) of award-winning producer Ed Cash. But we didn’t pick ‘em based on pedigree, but on their infectious live performance and on the promise of their debut EP, Live at the Wheelhouse.