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2016 saw an incredible amount of talented new artists skyrocket onto our radar, and while we know their careers are only going up from here, now is the best time to reflect on the year that really started it all. Below are 12 breakout artists from 2016, and all you need to know about them.
Type of music: Disco-ey dance pop
How you know them: The Joe Jonas-fronted band won Best New Artist at the 2016 MTV VMAs.
Why you’d like them: It’s feel-good, dance alone in your living room pop—and at the end of a downhearted year, who doesn’t want that? Jonas aside, female guitarist JinJoo Lee is oh-so-rad.
Music available: Their debut self-titled album DNCE.
Songs worth hearing: Their singles sum it all up—check out the sugary “Cake By The Ocean” or mid-tempo “Toothbrush.”
Type of music: Soulful, funk-laced hip hop and R&B
How you know him: On top of his outstanding solo albums and collaborative project NxWorries, .Paak has collaborated with Dr. Dre, The Game, Schoolboy Q, Mac Miller and A Tribe Called Quest.
Why you’d like him: The singer-rapper assembles rich, melodic landscapes for his raspy rhymes to coast over—delivering the realest messages about his tough beginnings and climb to the top.
Music available: His solo LPs Venice and Malibu, as well as Yes Lawd!, an album as NxWorries with hip hop instrumentalist Knxwledge.
Songs worth hearing: Groovy solo single “Come Down,” “Get Bigger / Do U Luv” as NxWorries or his super fly contribution to Kaytranada’s “Glowed Up.”
Type of music: Lo-fi indie rock
How you know them: Before releasing their official debut in March via Matador Records, Car Seat Headrest had released a casual 12 albums on Bandcamp, which grew them a cult following.
Why you’d like them: Their debut is an ambitious, driving rock ‘n roll album, written by a lo-fi-influenced youth in revolt—which is basically another way of saying that frontman Will Toledo is ages ahead of his time.
Music available: So much, but you get all the goodness you need out of their studio debut Teens in Denial.
Songs worth hearing: “Vincent” and the epic 12-minute “The Ballad of the Costa Concordia.”
Type of music: Trap-hop
How you know him: Oh, just a little song about an endangered Chinese bear, which was also featured on Kanye West’s “Pt.2.”
Why you’d like him: Often compared to Future (we don’t really hear it), the G.O.O.D. Music signee’s nearly-unintelligible rhymes have enough cadence and oomph to keep you tuned in. Also, his shamelessly goofy red carpet persona is weirdly endearing.
Music available: His mixtape New English and two solo singles—the prelude to his upcoming 2017 solo debut.
Songs worth hearing: The full version of “Timmy Turner,” which followed his renowned 45-second freestyle for XXL.
Type of music: Flirty pop
How you know her: The singer-model’s first singles charted heavily in Europe, leading to an opening spot on Troye Sivan’s tour and feature on Sean Paul’s most recent single “No Lie.”
Why you’d like her: Lipa’s hook-filled pop is infectious, thanks to her growly vocal range and undeniable star quality. Her debut single was produced by songwriting mastermind Emile Haynie and Miike Snow frontman Andrew Wyatt, proving the industry’s finest are invested in her talent.
Music available: Several of Lipa’s singles are available for streaming and purchase, but her debut self-titled album is set to release in February.
Songs worth hearing: We dig the adorable “Be The One” and sassy new single “Blow Your Mind (Muah).”
Type of music: Soulful pop
How you know them: If you’ve ever turned on the radio, you’d know this Danish group—particularly two singles off their debut album which peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100.
Why you’d like them: In the first three months of 2016, 17.2 million monthly Spotify listeners made them the 20th most listened to artist on the service. So, you could say they’re likable.
Music available: Their 2012 self-titled debut and (also) self-titled 2015 album, which is commonly known as The Blue Album.
Songs worth hearing: The hit single “7 Years” and newest single “You’re Not There.”
Type of music: Bubblegum trap
How you know him: Yachty collaborated with D.R.A.M. on his bouncy hit “Broccoli” and Chance The Rapper’s “Mixtape.”
Why you’d like him: At 19 years-old, the rapper approaches his youthful sound with a cool level of carelessness. He’s not trying to be the best, but has been pegged as one of the most buzzed-about new voices out of Atlanta.
Music available: His 2016 mixtapes Lil Boat and Summer Songs 2.
Songs worth hearing: His song “Run/Running” or D.R.A.M.’s “Broccoli.”
Type of music: Electro pop
How you know her: Even if you haven’t consumed her smash singles in full, you might have heard two-time Platinum-certified “Gold” as the background music to an Apple Watch commercial.
Why you’d like her: She recorded her debut EP while working as a hardware store clerk, writing her own songs and eventually getting signed to Atlantic Records. Her whirling falsetto and confident lyrics make her a prime role model for young women looking to do the same.
Music available: Her EP low kii savage came out in March.
Songs worth hearing: Her biggest hit “Gold” and the emotive “Feels.”
Type of music: Trap-hop
How you know him: The hot new Atlanta rapper nabbed guest spots on tracks by Drake, YG, Meek Mill and Fetty Wap, and even summoned Future for a verse on his own “X.” He’s also the guy with a sword tattoo on his forehead.
Why you’d like him: Savage is hungry—something that comes across in his menacing, deadpan rhymes and speedy rise to fame this year.
Music available: Two mixtapes and two EPs, including 2016’s Savage Mode, a collaborative project with sought-after beatsmith Metro Boomin.
Songs worth hearing: His own “No Heart” and Drake’s “Sneakin’.”
Type of music: Folk rock
How you know them: Made up of members from Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Smith Westerns, these boys have toured non-stop since January, hitting most of the major festivals along the way.
Why you’d like them: Their melodic rock combines strings, horns, harmonies and psychedelic strums to deliver 60s-tinged stories about loneliness, the open road and growing up.
Music available: The band’s debut LP Light Upon The Lake dropped in June.
Songs worth hearing: Their stunning first single “No Woman” and the melancholic “Dave’s Song.”
Type of music: Indie pop
How you know her: Her gorgeous live set has landed her spots on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, Conan and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. She also toured with Tor Miller for most of 2016.
Why you’d like her: Hailing from the backwoods of Norway, this fairy songstress pens powerful, dream-like anthems that transport you back to her rustic upbringing.
Music available: Her debut album All My Demons Greeting Me As Friends, as well as covers of Bowie’s “Life On Mars” and Oasis’ “Half The World Away.”
Songs worth hearing: “Conqueror” and “Black Water Lillies.”
Type of music: Hip hop and R&B
How you know her: The Chicago rapper delivered a fiery verse on Chance The Rapper’s twinkling “Lost,” which Chance recently admitted was the best guest verse he’s ever received.
Why you’d like her: Her straight-up, gospel-infused rhymes deliver an honest narrative about the plight of black women, and will undoubtedly have even more meaningful impact as her career advances.
Music available: Her debut album Telefone dropped in July.
Songs worth hearing: Her verse on Chance’s “Lost” or her own single “Diddy Bop,” featuring Raury and Cam O’bi.