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Nic Kelly’s Sound Of 2015: 19 artists who will define the year ahead

In 2015: we will not accept mediocre, we will not accept boring, we will not accept half-arsed, we will not accept derivative, we will embrace change, we will embrace collaboration, we will love pop sensibility and we will love music regardless of genre. These are the nineteen most promising commercial crossover artists 2015 will throw up. Some have had success in the past, some you will not know, and some are on the verge of their first experience with greatness.


Charlie Puth is a young Friend Of The Youtubers who made some really impressive sounding singles in 2014, copping him a record deal with Atlantic. This year will see a solidification of his musical vision and he’ll continue to use the audience he’s gained through being a chill online dude to get the stuff out there.


Chase Atlantic is the single most impressive self-run band in Australia right now. They don’t have a manager, guitarist Clinton Cave is making their music sound the best of any home-done pop act in the country, and their live show is down to a tee. Mitchel Cave is one of the best looking, best sounding frontmen in the country right now and the boys are surrounding themselves with people who exude creative energy 24/7, who motivate them to put as much effort into the aesthetic of the act as they are the music. Dalliance was one of the best EPs of 2014, and although at that point I said they kind of sounded like a mix between The 1975 and 5 Seconds Of Summer, their new single Meddle About sets the three-piece on a sonic direction that is uniquely theirs.


Without discounting the incredible things his debut EP TRXYE did, like going #1 in 59 countries on debut, creative wunderkind Troye Sivan will make a defining record for 2015 and a huge mainstream impact through the album he’s busy working on with Bonnie McKee, Cassie Davis, Jack Antonoff and his right-hand lady Alex Hope as co-writers. Sivan’s enormous and loyal multi-platform following, natural ability with digital & native marketing as well as his impeccable taste in influences and collaborative partners are making for a record that will have a cohesive vision and goal – to sound fucking great. Look for a huge single in the next few months and an album Q3 through EMI.


In 2014 alone, Madonna said she’s a “huge fan”, he got a Grammy nomination, found himself with a cut on Kylie Minogue’s album, co-wrote a UK number one (Gecko for Oliver Heldens and Becky Hill), released three singles, started performing live and turned twenty. No second number missing. MNEK is the definition of a prodigy, having an understanding of exciting pop sounds and pop looks since he was 14 years old and living in his family home in Hackney. Everyone under the sun wants to work with him but this year Uzo is focusing on his own thing. He’ll finally put his debut album out and define what pop needs to sound like if you want to be big.


I came across Brayton’s EP at the end of 2014 because his boyfriend (who is also in this list!) re-posted it on SoundCloud. The red-headed Philadelphian is a refreshingly honest pop voice that isn’t wrapped up in sugar-coating his stories with metaphors, he just says shit as it happened. Last night he was in a studio with MNEK til 3am so that’s amazing and look, anything he touches this year will probably turn to gold. I’m so excited for what this artist can do this year. Pop at its most unashamed.


Montaigne’s late 2014 EP was one of the most theatrical, quirky and generally incredible releases Australia made last year. I love Jess Cerro’s story, too. She needed to accompany a scholarship application video she was sending off so she could play soccer in the US Ivy Leagues so she used one of her own, which she also uploaded to triple j Unearthed whilst she was still sixteen, making her a finalist in their Unearthed High thing. The rest is history. She’s a completely unique artist (fuck y’all and ur Lorde comparisons) who has such huge universal appeal. Expect an album late in the year and for the EP to do big things internationally soon – seriously – she wants to re-write her work in French because she’s majoring in it at uni. Jess knows what’s up.


Despite having a full time residency in Las Vegas, enough money from royalties to never need to work again and two children to look after, Britney was back in the studio towards the end of 2014 with a packet of fags in one hand and a microphone in the other. The lead single apparently has Iggy on it, so the song could go one of two ways: it could sound like Problem (amazing) or it could sound like Booty (floppy). Let’s hope for the former and presume it will happen. Britney Jean was shit so she’s due a good record in 2015.


“Sixteen years old. Unbelievable talent for someone so young. That’s how you make music.” – Zane Lowe reacting to playing the Sydney art school student’s bedroom-recorded debut Everything You Fight For on actual Radio 1 across the UK at 7pm on a weeknight for the first time anywhere in the world. That happened because he’s got good people around him AND – most importantly – good songs. I’ve heard demos of a few songs to come and they’re absolutely insane. The kid is going to be huge and he’s the end of the excuse “oh it’s only a demo in my bedroom”.


When I came across Thrilla In Manila last year, I literally had no idea how much Greyson Chance had grown up – both in age and musical maturity. The song had Timberlake-strength falsetto, far too much swagger for a sixteen year old dude and an untouchable disco-funk beat. He’s working with a guy named Mr X but also the dude who worked on a bunch of Bruce Springsteen’s stuff and likes to write after a glass of straight scotch. A very strange character but there’s a certainty that his new album Planet X will be full of incredibly smart pop music. He just needs to get on with it.


Bieber’s best record of his life was just before things started to go ‘off the rails’. His two musical outputs of the last twelve months have been a ‘crunk’ remix of All About That Bass and an acoustic thing with Cody Simpson which could be good, but I think this extended break he’s promised is for the best will actually turn into some unique music and a re-defined sound for Biebs.


I came across DOKO just a couple of weeks ago whilst I was in a mad SOPHIE/Lido phase and I’m now convinced the fizzy sound is going to be a huge part of what pop is in 2015. Sophie’s produced half the Madonna album and will continue to produce their own amazingness along with the QT project whilst Doko’s adorable and lyrically snappy spin on things adds to it a heap. Doko’s written a whole song about Mean Girls, so there’s that.


Wafia is familiar to you cos she’s that really unique and vulnerable little voice you heard on Breathe In by japanese wallpaper and fell madly in love with for a few days. She also copped two million plays on a cover of Let Me Love You so that was nice. This year, you’ll start to hear sounds from a debut record that she’s creating slowly but surely with the help of some pals. There’s another detail about this creative process that I REALLY WANT TO MENTION BUT I WILL BE KILLED IF I DO BUT BASICALLY JUST WATCH HER OKAY SHE’S GOT SUCH PROMISE. A voice as smooth as cashmere, weaved in with smart pop production that melts like chocolate ice magic at every kick. I really want some ice magic now.


I don’t really think this is a surprise so I’ll keep it brief but I’ve heard some songs and they’re very perfect. Expect an EP very shortly. They’ve developed a sonic and visual aesthetic that completely withdraws any past comparisons to other bands-full-of-young-dudes and places them in a previously untouched part of the pop spectrum. I mean when your guitarist wears checkered shirts with the sleeves rolled up you’re not exactly aiming for that 5SOS-faux-punk thing are you. The boys are under incredible guidance and direction from a carefully chosen management team and labels and won’t mess this up.


The voice of Olly Alexander is an undeniably brilliant thing – it’s instantly recognisable as soon as he starts singing on The Magician’s single Sunlight and it’s got such huge versatility. He’s also a great writer, his talents not only shining on the brilliant pop music Years & Years have put out so far, but also on television as a script-writer and supporting actor in Skins. The band has an actual plethora of music ready to roll internationally and Sunlight’s going to help Years & Years get a huge look in for their future singles. Their single Memo is a perfect piece of music and something will definitely resonate on commercial radio by year’s end.


Matthew Young is going to turn out to be one of the most remarkable pop music projects of 2015. A unique blend of hip-hop production and pop melodies, the New Zealander’s vibe lies somewhere between feeling super elusive and like he’s been your best friend for a decade.


Signed to the same management as Lorde, look out for Thomston, a nineteen year old cute dude who’s written the perfect modern pop charmer in Anaesthetic. He sounds excited when he sings. He sounds like he cares about the music he makes. That’s going to be important this year.


Ryn’s debut single OctaHate clocked up millions of Soundcloud plays in the space of a couple of weeks with absolutely no background info on her. The song had unique quirks from one of the brightest young voices in new pop. She kind of sounds like an actually interesting Regina Spektor. Her partner is Cashmere Cat, her best friend is Benny Blanco whilst she’s also working with Michael Angelakos from Passion Pit and Charli XCX. She’s got a writing credit on the upcoming Gwen Stefani album. Hayley from Paramore loves her. Jessie Ware loves her. Tyler Oakley loves her. EVERYONE LOVES HER. Expect new music very soon, but it’s not like we need it, the EP and single she’s already released are never-ending repeats in my car.


LA producer and writer Leland put a stupendously brilliant piece of pop music out last year called Aware, but it’ll be his co-writing credits that’ll make him a huge force in 2015. He’s been working with Brendan Maclean, has at least one cut on the Troye Sivan album and a few other records that will be big this year, and he’s got more of his own releases on the way soon too. Look out for him.


Brendan spent some time in the US at the end of 2014 re-invigorating his penchant for creating innovative and theatrical pop music and I’m really hoping he’s found his groove again. 2013’s Population sported a bunch of the smartest and most honest pop of the year and Brendan’s an artist with great charisma, personality and unique flair, filling a niche no one else is even getting close to. He literally said, drunk in a Virgin lounge, moments ago that he’s done a song with Cobra Starship that he’s releasing. There’ll be an EP late Feb and a new project called Brendan And The Boyfriends later this year after he stars in a musical with Marcia Hines.

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