The NME 100: Essential emerging artists for 2021

Meet the NME 100, the essential new artists set to take over 2021. Your new favourite artist is waiting...

The NME 100 shoot day is my favourite day of the year. This is where the most exciting new musical talent on the planet convenes at NME Towers in London to be snapped by our brilliant photographers in support of our annual list of ones-to-watch. At any given time, you’ll find dozens of bands (and their entourage) clogging up the hallways and goofing around our desks. The free beer keeps them here as long as possible.

For many, this may well be their first proper photoshoot, as well as introduction to you lot – avid new music fans – and some use their day to introduce themselves to contemporaries (or, quite often, ask me to do the honours). The day hums with an unmistakable nervous energy (again, quite often from me), but it’s always a thrill to see the future of music in the flesh.

This year, we obviously couldn’t host that kind of carnage in our bunker, but I’ve still got that irreplaceable buzzy feeling as we share with you the NME 100 2021 – the essential emerging artists for the upcoming year. Many of these artists are on the cusp of greatness, no matter what the world throws at us all.

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From banging new bands to solo artists ready to make a name for themselves, this is a chance to get to know your favourite new artists. To pull it all together, we polled our writers worldwide to find out who they’re excited about and tipping for success in their respective regions and beyond. Then there’s the fight to squeeze in as many as we can. It is an agonising task – but a bloody fun one, too.

To celebrate our fifth edition of the NME 100 – the first was released in 2017 – we’ve invited some old friends back to see what they’re excited about right now. Expect to see picks from NME 100 alumni such as Nova Twins (2017), Yungblud (2018), Easy Life (2018) and Arlo Parks (2020) throughout the list.

And there’s more to come this week, too. Stay tuned to NME on all of our platforms to see special live performances, a Big Read cover story with one of the below artists and so much more. There will be names you might recognise and some completely brand new, but they’re all worthy of your attention. So if there is a new artist you completely fall in love with, we hope you’ll support them by purchasing tickets, hoovering up merch and collecting their vinyl. They need your support – now more than ever.

Thomas Smith, New Music Editor

Contributors: Alex Flood, Ali Shutler, Andrew Trendell, Becky Rogers, Ben Jolley, Caitlin O’Reilly, Dhruva Balram, El Hunt, Gary Ryan, Georgia Evans, Hannah Mylrea, Iliyas Ong, Jenessa Williams, Jonathan Garrett, Jordan Bassett, Karen Gwee, Katy Hills, Kyann-Sian Williams, Liz Aubrey, Luke Cartledge, Luke Morgan Britton, Mark Beaumont, Max Pilley, Mia Hughes, Natty Kasambala, Nick Levine, Nick Reilly, Patrick Clarke, Paul Bugler, Rhian Daly, Rhys Buchanan, Sam Moore, Sofiana Ramli, Sophie Louisa Williams, Timi Sotire, Tom Skinner, Tristan Gatward and Will Richards

24kGoldn

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Pop’s latest shiny hitmaker with the Midas touch

NME 100 24kgoldn

 

From: California, USA
For fans of: Bankroll Hayden, Justin Bieber
USP: Laced with nostalgia, 24kGoldn makes music that’s full of hope and as glittering as his name suggests.
Why you’re going to love them: 24kGoldn was already a force to be reckoned with back in 2019, racking up his clout tokens by putting out a little bit of everything from pop-rap to moody alt-R&B. Now with a couple of million fans in his pocket, he’s starting to cash in these tokens: a few Billboard hits (you’ve surely heard the iann dior-featuring party stonker ‘MOOD’), flourishing international success and the growing sense that 2021 is his for the taking.
Key track: ‘Mood’ (KSW)

Alaina Castillo

Versatile bedroom pop to soundtrack every emotion

NME 100 alaina castillo

 

From: Texas, USA
For fans of: Clairo, Ariana Grande
USP: Her musical flexibility – she’s got songs to cry to and ones to rave to. Or both at the same time, if you’re in that sorta mood.
Why you’re going to love them: Bilingual pop star Alaina Castillo first made a name for herself with ASMR videos – but as she told NME last year she’s not just an ASMR singer. In the past few years she’s coupled her distinctive, silky vocals and gut-punch lyrics with stripped-back R&B instrumentals (‘The Voicenotes’ EP), spangly synth-pop sounds à la Carly Rae Jepsen (‘Tonight’) and banging, club-ready Latin beats (‘¡párate!’), proving her sound’s one of the most versatile around.
Key track: ‘¡párate!’ (HM)

Alewya

A club-ready melting pot of influences – Honey Dijon and Little Simz are early-doors fans

NME 100 alewya

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Tei Shi, Kelela
USP: You might’ve clocked Alewya as a guest on Little Simz’s 2020 track ‘Where’s My Lighter’ – it’s easy to see why Simz was so quick to co-sign her.
Why you’re going to love them: Influenced by the diverse cultures of west London’s Goldhawk Road, her Egyptian and Ethiopian heritage – and a spell spent in New York during her teens – her 2020 single ‘Sweating’ is just the first taste of what’s to come from this multi-talented singer, songwriter and visual artist.
Key track: ‘Sweating’ (EH)

Anxious

Scrappy heart-on-sleeve punk rock from the East Coast

NME 100 anxious

 

From: Connecticut, USA
For fans of: Title Fight, Fiddlehead
USP: Too emo for hardcore and too hardcore for emo, they take the best bits from both worlds to create a sound that transcends both.
Why you’re going to love them: There’s nothing pretentious about Anxious – it feels like each one of their songs has the sole goal of transmitting pure catharsis. From Grady Allen’s passionate vocals to the band’s irrepressible energy, everything about them is unrestrained and urgent in a way that will remind even the most hardened veteran of why they love punk rock in the first place.
Key track: ‘Small’ (MH)

Ashnikko

Bubblegum punk in love with being as unpredictable as possible

NME 100 ashnikko

 

From: North Carolina, USA
For fans of: Miley Cyrus, Nine Inch Nails
USP: Sex-positive industrial pop that has had enough of fuckboys.
Why you’re going to love them: Her zero-fucks-given attitude is as empowering as it is entertaining, and for every snarling, hook-heavy banger taking revenge against a shitty ex, there’s ‘Clitoris! The Musical’. This Demidevil refuses to do things by halves.
Key track: ‘Daisy’ (AS)

Ashwarya

Left-leaning pop that takes hit-making precision and makes it personal

NME 100 ashwarya

 

From: Melbourne, Australia
For fans of: Billie Eilish, Tove Lo
USP: Count on a spectacle from Ashwarya when live shows return: even during Melbourne’s strict lockdown, she created visual magic for her ‘BIRIYANI’ video by using neon lighting, a comically small tub and generous sploshes of bubble bath.
Why you’re going to love them: Born in India and now based in Melbourne, Ashwarya’s music blends the glorious excess of noughties pop (Rihanna, Lady Gaga and the other stars who featured heavily on the Aussie compilation series ‘So Fresh’) with bhangra beats, Bollywood influences and nostalgic memories of her childhood.
Key track: ‘BIRIYANI’ (EH)

Baby Keem

Kendrick Lamar’s mentee crafting remarkably blunt trap bangers

NME 100 baby keem

 

From: Nevada, USA
For fans of: Denzel Curry, Lil Yachty
USP: Trap and classic hip-hop collide in Keem’s music as simple instrumentals complement crass one-liners.
Why you’re going to love them: His matter-of-fact delivery, cocky storytelling and infectiously simple choruses have already catapulted Keem to virtual notoriety on TikTok and YouTube. With the guidance of Kendrick Lamar – rumoured to be his cousin – in place, the 19-year-old is primed for international mainstream stardom, one crude verse at a time.
Key track: ‘Hooligan’ (GE)

Baby Queen

Sharp, sugary alt-pop smashers that dissect modern life

NME 100 baby queen

 

From: London via South Africa
For fans of: Kate Nash, The Vaccines
USP: Her brilliantly sarcastic delivery of agonisingly relatable lyrics.
Why you’re going to love them: 23-year-old Bella Latham aka Baby Queen is a thoroughly modern artist as her effervescent tunes fuse the pop hooks of The 1975 with glittering production, coupling them with her satirical, drawling vocals. “We can’t Facetune personality” she bites on ‘Internet Religion’, while ‘Medicine’ is a frank musing on the pros and cons of taking anti-depressants (“And my heart can’t break / As my medicine confiscated sex / Now I don’t fancy anybody”).
Key track: ‘Want Me’ (HM)

BackRoad Gee

Incorporating his lived experiences and the current richness of Black British music with an indistinguishable freshness

NME 100 backroad gee

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Skepta, AJ Tracey
USP: BackRoad Gee has a knack for surprising fans with his versatility, but it’s his dense and layered rhyme schemes – paired with a unique ear for a beat – which set him apart.
Why you’re going to love them: Teetering between the edges of drill and grime, BackRoad Gee sonically meshes the two genres together to create his own sound while maintaining the essential elements of each. He’s only released a few tracks and a mixtape thus far, so the fun’s just beginning.
Key track: ‘Enough is Enough’ (DB)

Bad Boy Chiller Crew

Bradford boyos quickly becoming icons for a new rave-loving generation

nme 100 bad boy chiller crew

 

From: Bradford, UK
For fans of: The Streets, Sleaford Mods
USP: They’re as just as funny as they are talented – their Insta feed is consistently a barrel of laughs.
Why you’re going to love them: What with the likes of Todmorden industrial-sleaze merchants Working Men’s Club, Doncaster house hero India Jordan and Bradford’s Bad Boy Chiller Crew pumping our earholes full of very different but equally intensely enjoyable tunes in tandem, we’re perhaps seeing a 2.0 version of the ‘New Yorkshire’ scene (looking at you, The Cribs, The Long Blondes, et. al) that filled the pages of NME in the mid-‘00s. Bassline and garage lads BBCC are endearing goofballs who make megabangers packed with their screwball sense of humour (from breakout song ‘450’: “PC Plonker drives like my grandad”) that will make you long to get mashed. Giiiit up!
Key track: ‘Needed You’ (JB)

BERWYN

Starkly beautiful tales of pain, growth and hope from the Drake-endorsed rapper, songwriter and producer

NME 100 brewyn

 

From: Trinidad and Tobago / London, UK
For fans of: DVSN, Dave
USP: An arresting style of storytelling that has already moved multiple teachers across the UK to start analysing Berwyn’s song lyrics during English classes in schools.
Why you’re going to love them: “I unfortunately have way more sad stories than happy ones,” Berwyn admits, but these are the kind of tales you’re going to go out of your way to hear in 2021. A determined, self-taught musician who moved to east London from Trinidad at age 9, Berwyn masterfully documented his troubled upbringing throughout his stunningly soulful debut mixtape ‘DEMOTAPE/VEGA’ in September. Paired with a powerful at-home performance on Later… with Jools Holland – where he played piano in front of his mum for the very first time – Berwyn already looks destined to be UK music’s next big storytelling star.
Key track: ‘Trap Phone’ (SM)

Bree Runway

Genre-splicing belters from the UK’s next pop queen

NME 100 bree runaway

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Kelis, Rina Sawayama
USP: It’s a sonic explosion that meshes pop, hip-hop, PC music and rock – and it absolutely slaps.
Why you’re going to love them: Bree Runway is a musical chameleon – no two tracks sound the same. Yung Baby Tate team-up ‘DAMN DANIEL’ embraces nostalgic ’80s pop, ‘LITTLE NOKIA’ sounds like early ’00s Britney has picked up a guitar and started jamming with Limp Bizkit and A.G. Cook, while ‘ROLLS ROYCE’ is imbued with reggae bounce. The thing they all have in common, though? They’re future-facing creations that mark Bree Runway as a soon-to-be pop-star.
Key track: ‘ATM (feat. Missy Elliott)’ (HM)

Calabashed

Shifting and esoteric jazz-hop from collective who all hang out at creative hub Total Refreshment Centre

NME 100 calabshed

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: King Krule, Bonobo
USP: They’re making harp music cool again! Maria Osuchowska’s instrument may take up the vast majority of the space in their rehearsal room, but her harp playing is a beautiful and crucial constant in Calabashed’s untamed cosmic sound.
Why you’re going to love them: Calabashed’s debut EP ‘Behold A Black Wave’ – which packs in spoken-word segments, sparse saxophone squalls and, in the case of stand-out track ‘Take It Outside’, inescapable drum-led grooves – might leave you with more questions than answers at first, but you’ll soon find yourself wanting to dive back into their strange yet wonderful jazz-tinged sonic world. Their ambitious and complex arrangements are going to be a must-see prospect whenever live shows return, too.
Key track: ‘Take It Outside’ (SM)

Cat Burns

Gospel-infused TikTok voice making empathetic pop

NME 100 cat burns

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Sam Smith, H.E.R.
USP: She can vocally riff to rival the best of them – globally.
Why you’re going to love them: The 20-year-old Streatham native rocketed to online fame via her pithy viral clips of covers and infectious song snippets, but her raw, undeniable talent and casual charisma transcend whatever is trending. With a velvety vocal range and a knack for spinning melancholic stream-of-consciousness stories through her whip-smart songwriting, Burns is the artist making young people feel seen and, more importantly, heard at a time when they need it most.
Key track: ‘Go’ (NK)

Chloe Moriondo

YouTuber-turned-bedroom pop revolutionary

NME 100 chloe moriondo

 

From: Michigan, USA
For fans of: Taylor Swift, Snail Mail
USP: She’s bringing the ukulele back, baby.
Why you’re going to love them: Moriondo takes high school melodrama and teenage troubles and blows them up into overwhelmingly charming and heart-melting, Hollywood-ready acoustic-meets-alt-pop ditties. Lovely stuff.
Key track: ‘Girl On TV’ (AT)

Cj Pandit

Intellectual art-pop to soundtrack the movie of your life

NME 100 cj pandit

 

From: Leicester, UK
For fans of: The 1975, Bon Iver
USP: Not content with merely putting out great tunes he accompanies his releases with art exhibitions and short films, building big creative worlds to immerse yourself in.
Why you’re going to love them: Over a handful of singles, solo multi-instrumentalist and producer Cj Pandit has proven he’s a dab hand at making yearning indie that you’ll want blasting in your ears for your next cinematic hand-against-the-train-window moment. Sob.
What Easy Life says: “CJ Pandit is a longtime friend of ours and I [frontman Murray] even played a few live shows with him when I first started playing in bands. His studio is opposite ours in the same block so very much feel involved with his releases – his unreleased track ‘New York Time’ was written when we were all in New York together and he came along with us to The Governors Ball festival.”
Key track: ‘Digital Love’ (RD)

Claud

Down-to-earth pop from Phoebe Bridgers’ first signing

NME 100 claud

 

From: New York, USA
For fans of: Clairo, Phoebe Bridgers
USP: Their relatable lyricism is uniquely charming.
Why you’re going to love them: The 21-year-old bedroom pop artist was recently announced as the first signing to Phoebe Bridgers’ new label, Saddest Factory Records, so there’s no doubting that they’ve earned fans in high places. But even while unsigned, Claud was already building a cult following of young fans who relate to the honest and genuine depictions of love, yearning and heartbreak in their songs. Upcoming debut album ‘Super Monster’ tells a deeply resonant coming-of-age tale.
Key track: ‘Gold’ (MH)

CMAT

Bastardised country music hallmarked with Jedward and The Nolans’ approval

NME 100 cmat

From: Dublin, Ireland
For fans of: Orville Peck, Lil Nas X
USP: No-one else could sing about crying in a chicken shop so eloquently.
Why you’re going to love them: Self-proclaimed teen-pop sensation Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson, aka CMAT, mostly spends her days shitposting and livestreaming extreme food challenges. But amid the online madness she does allocate some time for making outrageously good Americana bangers. In her own words to NME: “My style? Dolly Parton meets ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, mixed with Katy Perry”.
Key track: ‘I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby!’ (BR)

Courting

Rousing indie capturing the brutal realities of a divided nation

NME 100 courting

 

From: Liverpool, UK
For fans of: Sports Team, The Coral
USP: Courting sum up deep-rooted national insecurities by way of their own vivid social observations.
Why you’re going to love them: There’s a Bukowski-level of social realism going on with every topic this Merseyside four-piece turn their hand to: be it masculinity and the pressures of fitting in with the football lads, industry sell-outs, casual pub racism or the anxieties of the wider political landscape in Little England. It’s thrilling guitar music of the now, driven home in truly chaotic fashion.
Key track: ‘David Byrne’s Badside’ (RB)

Daine

Aussie teen taking emo-pop far into the future

NME 100 daine

 

From: Melbourne, Australia
For fans of: Lil Peep, Wicca Phase Springs Eternal
USP: Diaristic songs about heartbreak to exorcise your exes to.
Why you’re going to love them: Raised in Melbourne’s hardcore scene since she was 13, now-17-year-old Daine got her start in big riffing bands. When they fell apart, she took the spirit of that community, married it with her love of Midwestern emo and pop, and started crafting an inventive and unique solo project. The results are songs that sound distinctly futuristic but washed with nostalgia – and totally irresistible.
Key track: ‘My Way Out’ (RD)

DEAR-GOD

A strobe-lit modern take on hardcore fit to soundtrack a youthful uprising

NME 100 dear god

 

From: Brampton, Canada
For fans of: Show Me The Body, Death From Above
USP: 19-year-old Robert Ortiz is bringing riot-ready hardcore anthems that stir up the most turbulent emotions.
Why you’re going to love them: As his label Dine Alone Records announced when dropping the rackety and thunderous hardcore anthem ‘Buck’ earlier in the year, “Hey you over there! Are you sick and tired of people telling you who to be, how to act, what to do with your life? DEAR-GOD is here to help!” With a razor-sharp mix of garage, hip-hop and hardcore, this bedroom prodigy’s spirit is the essence of rebellion.
Key track: Buck (RB)

Death Tour

The chaotic, urgent fightback against a world on fire

NME 100 death tour

 

From: Oregon, USA
For fans of: Fever 333, Death Grips
USP: Potent, pissed-off hardcore that isn’t afraid of delving into hyperpop.
Why you’re going to love them: Bands have mashed up industrial hip-hop with hardcore punk before, but never with this sort of mayhem-inducing urgency. Taking influence from emo-rap and the maximalist chaos of hyperpop, these politically-charged, Slipknot-approved ragers are forward-facing and ready for battle. After hearing the pent-up power of recent singles ‘Scared?’ and ‘Survive’, we wouldn’t advise getting in their way.
What Nova Twins say: “We discovered Death Tour this year and we love their gnarly, energetic sound. They make a lot of noise, whilst dripping in style”
Key track: ‘Fucked Up’ (AS)

Demie Cao

Classically trained ballerina turned singer and rapper with a ton of swagger

NME 100 demie cao

 

From: California, USA
For fans of: The Internet, Tkay Maidza
USP: The way she switches between more demure pop songs and hard-hitting hip-hop, led by her alter-ego Demie The Destroyer.
Why you’re going to love them: She’s an artist who refuses to be boiled down to a label, be that one of ethnicity, gender or genre. Despite having only one EP (‘Thicker Lines’) to her name so far, she’s hard to pin down – veering from soft pop to booming beats, or changing up her lyrics from English to Mandarin to Korean. It all makes sense when you think about her early years that saw her learning ballet, undergoing K-pop training and then emerging as a very unique artist of her own.
Key track: ‘Sage (feat. Holly)’ (RD)

Drug Store Romeos

Hampshire trio making electronic-infused indie for dreamy disco dancing

NME 100 drug store romeos

 

From: Hampshire, UK
For fans of: The Orielles, Katy J Pearson
USP: Delicate vocals glide along ‘70s keyboards and electronic drums to create heady, head-scratching disco bops.
Why you’re going to love them: There’s something brilliantly simple and direct about Drug Store Romeos’ music. Might it be the familiarity we already have with their bedroom pop-style electric drums, retro-sounding keyboards or pensive vocals? Or maybe it’s the new ground the three-piece are breaking with their audio-visual approach to songwriting and insistence that each track has its own individual colour palette. Whatever your verdict, you can always expect rich production and a different vibe with every listen.
Key track: ‘Quotations for Locations’ (GE)

Enny

Slick, soulful and spellbinding bars from one of London’s top rap prospects

NME 100 enny

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Noname, Little Simz
USP: Her effortless ability to spit cutting and socially conscious bars over soulful rhythms – it’s no wonder she’s already gained a big fan in Jorja Smith, who hopped on the recent remix of ‘Peng Black Girls’.
Why you’re going to love them: Enny’s music paints an honest portrait of what life is like for young people in London today. Determined to be a positive force in the UK music scene, the rapper and singer is aiming to inspire those who understand the struggles of living in a world where your voice isn’t heard – when the rest of the world ignores us, Enny speaks for us all.
Key track: ‘Peng Black Girls’ (Timi Sotire)

Flo Milli

A testament to just how powerful SoundCloud rap still is in 2021

NME 100 flo milli

 

From: Alabama, USA
For fans of: Bali Baby, Tay Money
USP: Selling rambunctious party tunes, Flo Milli and her cartoonish high-pitched vocal is just what you need to add to your pre-drinks playlist.
Why you’re going to love them: With her voice being so synonymous with the SoundCloud rap culture she emerged from, Flo Milli does have that oh-so-familiar DIY feel as many of her peers. It’s her cocksure confidence, which radiates over enchanting trap beats, that really marks her out as a potential star, though, reminding us of that slick-talking, gum-smacking popular girl everyone thought was so cool back in high school. We wanna be in Flo Milli’s gang.
Key track: ‘In The Party’ (KSW)

Folly Group

Fired-up collective making angsty post-punk anthems

NME 100 folly group

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: The Birthday Party, Crack Cloud
USP: Even when socially distanced their live shows are chaotic – their frenzied brand of electronica can’t help but ping off the walls.
Why you’re going to love them: Both of Folly Group’s singles so far, ‘Butt No Rifle’ and ‘Fewer Closer Friends’, are a bold smack in the face. Crafted to be played live, their rampant maximalism is constrained by what’s possible on stage, but they haven’t let that hinder their creativity. It’s calculated chaos, with every extra lash of aggression fine-tuned to work perfectly within their electro-punk mixing pot.
Key track: ‘Fewer Closer Friends’ (BR)

For Those I Love

David Balfe’s vivid and vulnerable tribute to the passing of time

NME 100 for those i love

 

From: Dublin, Ireland
For fans of: The Streets, Mount Kimbie
USP: Heartfelt, considered poems that make you want to hold your loved ones a little closer.
Why you’re going to love them: Turning the loss of his best friend Paul Curran into a powerful living eulogy, For Those I Love offers a startlingly beautiful encapsulation of friendship, austerity and personal reckoning in the gritty vein of This Is England or Trainspotting, heightened by the subversive use of euphoric ‘90s rave samples and biting political commentary. This calibre of gut-punching music doesn’t come around often.
Key Track: ‘I Have A Love’ (JW)

Fousheé

TikTok sensation with a powerful message

NME 100 foushee

 

From: California, USA
For fans of: Frank Ocean, Solange
USP: Mariah Carey-worthy high notes-meet-lyrical and soulful rap songwriting.
Why you’re going to love them: Fousheé’s music is all about empowerment. Her song ‘Deep End’ – an ode to self-respect and racial justice – became a viral sensation on TikTok last year following the murder of George Floyd, while her subsequent release ‘single af’ was a glow-up anthem for embracing singledom. Whatever the subject matter, Fousheé’s quirky and emotive blend of alt-soul always strikes the right chord.
Key Track: ‘Deep End’ (COR)

Fred again..

BRIT Award-winning producer plotting out a path as one of the UK’s most exciting all-rounders

NME 100 fred again..

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Jacques Green, SBTRKT
USP: His versatile ability to seamlessly collaborate with almost anyone: see last April’s absorbing ‘Gang’ project with Headie One and Romy’s pandemic-defying banger ‘Lifetime’.
Why you’re going to love them: Fred Gibson joined the likes of Paul Epworth, the late George Martin and his former mentor Brian Eno last year when he picked up the esteemed Producer of the Year prize at the BRITs. While that gong ostensibly recognised his chart-topping exploits (he co-wrote George Ezra’s 4x platinum hit ‘Shotgun’, for instance), it’s his ace team-ups with the likes of FKA twigs, Stormzy and the aforementioned Headie One which should demand your attention if they haven’t already dominated your playlists. The Londoner has also recently branched out into releasing his own solo material – you may be hard-pressed to not find Fred again..’s fingerprints all over your favourite tunes in 2021.
Key track: ‘Julia (Deep Diving)’ (SM)

Frosty

One of the country’s most talented and ice-cold new lyricists

NME 100 frosty

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Unknown T, Nines
USP: Frosty‘s sound may be raw, but he’s blessed with the ability to jump double-dutch with his rhymes.
Why you’re going to love them: Frosty’s experiences are as real as they get. The rapper’s rhymes depict the stark surroundings he grew up in, while also highlighting the inner turmoil he continues to deal with as well as depicting a range of systemic issues. All of this plays out over infectious, icy production.
Key track: ‘Under Surveillance’ (DB)

Genesis Owusu

Theatrical R&B-meets-rap that lampoons modern doom

NME 100 genesis owusu

 

From: Canberra, Australia
For fans of: Childish Gambino, Steve Lacy
USP: His face is mummified in bandages, which is a pretty cool look TBH. And he did it better than The Weeknd.
Why you’re going to love them: With a theatrical aesthetic and chrome-like soul-funk sound, this Ghanian-born Aussie has the style to much the substance of his direct, existential and good-humoured jams.
Key track: ‘The Other Black Dog’ (AT)

The Goa Express

Coming-of-age garage-rock to live vicariously through

NME 100 the goa express

 

From: Todmorden/Burnley, UK
For fans of: Spacemen 3, Ty Segall
USP: Ending the who-knows-how-long Yorkshire vs. Lancashire feud with short and snappy Ramones-style hits.
Why you’re going to love them: A precedent was set by The Goa Express when they formed in the wake of a wild, substance-heavy night seeing The Brian Jonestown Massacre – one that left them newly single and sleeping rough outside a Tesco. All about having a good time, the lads have already caught the eye of producer Ross Orton (Arctic Monkeys, Amyl & The Sniffers) and Fat White Family’s Nathan Saoudi (a fellow lover of chaos) with their jangly, loud-mouthed garage-psych.
Key track: ‘Be My Friend’ (BR)

Goya Gumbani

Super chilled conscious rap through the eyes of a New Yorker in London

NME 100 goya gumbani

 

From: New York, USA / London, UK
For fans of:
 Loyle Carner, Nas
USP: Spoken word reminiscent of ’90s hip-hop greats and the sumptuous sounds of South London’s vibrant music scene
Why you’re going to love them: Goya Gumbani moved with his family from New York to London when he was a teenager, but he still sounds like an MC straight out of Brooklyn. His lax rap flows will win over any East Coast boom-bap fan, oozing a serene calm rather than adhering to toxic macho stereotypes. A decade of collaborations in his new UK home inspired a back-to-back stream of EPs in 2020 with South London beatmakers Rago Foot and Kiina. The result is an elegant crossover into SE1’s modern jazz community that takes musical inspiration from both sides of the pond.
What Easy Life say: “We first heard Goya Gumbani on A Colors Show and immediately fell in love with his effortless swagger. His recent EP ‘Truth Be Sold’ is on heavy rotation.”
Key track: Blasé (COR)

GRACEY

A future British pop hero with some serious songwriting chops

NME 100 gracey

 

From: Brighton, UK
For fans of: RAYE, Mabel
USP: After being discovered on SoundCloud, GRACEY began working with the Xenomania hit-making crew (Girls Aloud, Pet Shop Boys) when she was just 16.
Why you’re going to love her: This super-talented singer-songwriter is already on course to become the UK’s Sia. Like her Aussie counterpart, GRACEY cut her teeth working with other stars – she’s co-written bangers for Jonas Blue, Rita Ora and Sub Focus, and teamed up with 220 Kid for the Top Ten hit ‘Don’t Need Love’. Inspired by Lorde, recent solo tracks such as ‘Empty Love’ and ‘Don’t’ showcase her gleaming pop melodies and emotionally resonant lyrics.
Key track: ‘Don’t’ (NL)

Gustaf

Elastic post-punk that knows how to have a good time

NME 100 gustaf

 

From: New York, USA
For fans of: Bodega, Patti Smith
USP: Impossible-to-resist grooves matched with the performance style of a former improv comedian.
Why you’re going to love them: If super serious scene bands send your eyes rolling to the back of your head, Gustaf will win you back around. The Brooklyn five-piece might only a couple of singles to their name so far, but they’ve cultivated a reputation as one of the most fun new bands across the five boroughs (and, perhaps, beyond) thanks to their enthrallingly joyful live shows and inability not to inject everything they do with a playful spirit.
Key track: ‘Mine’ (RD)

Hollow Sinatra

Producer and multi-instrumentalist who thrives in genre-blending chaos

NME 100 hollow sinatra

 

From: Georgia, USA
For fans of: Young Fathers, The Prodigy
USP: From blistering rap-punk to playful art-pop, you’ll have no idea what to expect from one Hollow Sinatra song to the next.
Why you’re going to love them: Their work pulls together elements of rap, rave, industrial, punk and R&B to create a form of controlled chaos, a blend that’s smooth and jagged all at once. His recent ‘Rapture’ EP stretched those influences into a host of different shapes, providing a suitably hectic backing over which Sinatra addressed the political turmoil of the lockdown era. There’s an underlying explosiveness to it all that makes it an absolutely electric listen.
Key track: ‘False Prophets’ (MH)

Holly Humberstone

Existential yet optimistic indie-pop from Grantham’s rising songwriting star

NME 100 holly humberstone

 

From: Grantham, UK
For fans of: Lorde, Laura Marling
USP: Humberstone’s music, which already feels timeless, is guaranteed to make you want to smile and cry at the same time.
Why you’re going to love them: Her refreshing and cerebral take on classic songwriting pairs the angsty darkness of indie youth with a compelling pop optimism, assuring anyone who listens that while you might not have it figured out right now, there’s always a next time. Humberstone’s sound is just as new and exciting to hear when it’s bolstered by synths and drums as it is when it’s stripped back to just her tender vocals and an acoustic guitar.
Key track: ‘Deep End’ (NK)

Hope Tala

The uber-cool romantic poet with a twist in her pen

NME 100 hope tala

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Raveena, Mereba
USP: A literature lover who folds that lyrical precision into her music.
Why you’re going to love them: For a few years now, Tala has been honing what is one of the most distinctive voices around – riffs cascade almost too easily from her mouth. And whether it’s a unique turn of phrase, some artful imagery or a Latin sonic twist, the songwriting is consistently fresh, too. Despite growing up in rainy London, there’s always a sun-tinged, ambrosial quality to Tala’s music as she unravels tales of every emotion from love to jealousy and hope to despair, as well as all things more abstract in between.
Key track: ‘Cherries’ (NK)

India Jordan

Mood-altering rave beamers fusing euphoria and emotion

NME 100 india jordan

 

From: Doncaster, UK
For fans of: Daphni, Dance System
USP: Uplifting high-speed club bangers to aid the escape from the worries of everyday life.
Why you’re going to love them: A much-needed injection of positivity to vaccinate against the depressing party-less year of 2020, the DJ and producer’s joyous rave rockets couldn’t have landed at a better time. Fusing elements of trance, house, speed garage and hardcore together, their recent ‘For You’ EP delivers unparalleled dopamine rushes each and every time that are instantly infectious and uplifting.
Key track: ‘For You’ (BDJ)

Isola

ASMR-style electronica from a mysterious newcomer

NME 100 isola

 

From: Nevada, USA
For fans of: Yaeji, Channel Tres
USP: Understated club bangers built up from whispery vocals, gloopy ambience and hazy house atmospherics.
Why you’re going to love them: Based out of the Las Vegas desert, Ivana Carrescia’s intricately crafted soundscapes are among the most intriguing and multi-layered electronic compositions we’ve heard in recent memory. Though she’s only released one EP to date, the gradual vibey subtlety that forms ‘EP1’ has laid the foundations for her to become LA label GODMODE’s next breakout star.
Key track: ‘Ischia’ (BDJ)

Ivorian Doll

The UK’s answer to Nicki Minaj

NME 100 ivorian doll

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Cardi B, Headie One
USP: Her no-fucks-given approach is a breath of fresh air, as she says what’s on her mind and isn’t afraid to take private matters into the public eye.
Why you’re going to love them: Ivorian Doll’s cheeky energy and wit, coupled with her quickfire rhymes, have already garnered her a big following. But it’s her merciless bars which mark her out as such a talent, targeting anyone who dares to get caught up in the lyrical crossfire.
Key track: ‘Rumours’ (DB)

Jany Green

Genre-hopping tunes dripping in positive mental attitude

NME 100 jany green

 

From: California, USA
For fans of: Dominic Fike, Anderson .Paak
USP: Bottling all of LA’s vitamin D and sprinkling it copiously into his joyous songs.
Why you’re going to love them: If you don’t, your heart is probably made of stone. The Alaska-born, LA-based solo artist makes music that blurs genre lines and instantly paints a big smile on the faces of all who hear it. There are nods to indie, pop, jazz and Green’s hip-hop roots in these infectious cuts, but none of them can overpower the sense that he’s creating his own very special style.
Key track: ‘Little’ (RD)

Jockstrap

Boundary-pushing duo crafting intoxicating future-pop sounds.

NME 100 jockstrap

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Jamie XX, Four Tet
USP: An unexpected, utterly hypnotic collision of sounds that works in unfathomable ways.
Why you’re going to love them: Anchored as much in classical music and electronica as it is in hip hop and jazz, the Warp signees demonstrate unbounded ambition with their bold, chaotic soundscapes that flow seamlessly in every direction imaginable. Whether it’s the sharp strings and poetic vocals on ‘Acid’ or the dark and dizzying production on ‘Robert’, this is mind-bending music that will leave you both entranced and confounded.
Key song: ‘Acid’ (KH)

Joesef

Glaswegian master of the lovelorn ballad

NME 100 joesef

 

From: Glasgow, UK
For fans of: Celeste, Leon Bridges
USP: Gorgeous old-school melodies guaranteed to get you in the feels.
Why you’re going to love them: Joesef is the musical equivalent of the BBC series Normal People, a deep dive into the euphoria and mourning of your first love. The old soul’s 2019 EP ‘Play Me Something Nice’ and its recent follow-up, ‘Does It Make You Feel Good?’, tell the story of his relationship with another man through a rich soundscape of romantic strings, Motown brass and Chet Baker-style wistfulness. Heartbreak, for all its ugliness, comes out smelling of roses.
What Arlo Parks says: “He has this song called ‘The Sun is Up Forever’ and it has the warmth and soul of Al Green, but that pop sensibility that makes you want to dance around your kitchen. I always dance around my kitchen to that song.”
Key Track: ‘I Wonder Why’ (COR)

Jordana

Genre-slippy indie with a gloomily dark sense of humour

NME 100 jordana

 

From: Wichita, USA
For fans of: Lucy Dacus, Soccer Mommy
USP: Taking on an array of influences – The Black Keys-esque garage rock here, intricate reflections of Grizzly Bear there – Jordana always keeps you guessing.
Why you’re going to love them: Jordana’s lo-fi debut ‘Classical Notions of Happiness’ was something of a sleeper hit last year. Having signed to New York indie Grand Jury, the Wichita musician just keeps levelling up, blending her dry wit with gnarled, tricksy indie-rock.
Key track: ‘Big’ (EH)

Josie Man

Bubblegum-pop star making tunes for life’s champagne moments

NME 100 josie man

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Matilda Mann, Arlo Parks
USP: A sure-fire blast of warming energy; Josie Man invites you into her care-free world with golden tunes that will instantly take you to a brighter place.
Why you’re going to love them: A lazy day whistle kicks off ‘Colours’, Man’s standout single so far, that epitomises the effervescent charm that underpins her music. Her 2020 debut EP ‘aLOVINGboothang’ was a vast and varied landscape of minimalistic bubblegum-pop perfect for a poolside lounge or a more universal pick-me-up during these uncertain times.
What Easy Life say: “Josie Mann kills it! Bumped into her a couple of times at the studio and she’s super fun! Really cool vibe. Definitely one to keep an eye on.”
Key track: ‘Colours’ (RB)

Kamal

Pensive teen penning candid R&B reflections on social anxiety

NME 100 kamal

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Bakar, Jordan Rakei
USP: Textured R&B-meets-indie instrumentals paired with a coming-of-age vulnerability that’s expressed through introspective lyricism.
Why you’re going to love them: At just 18, Kamal brilliantly taps into Gen Z anxieties surrounding mental health, falling in love and navigating social media – all while making your foot tap. His lyrics, which mainly centre around being alone, are set against a backdrop of smooth, downtempo beats – a ruminating songwriting style which made him an essential quarantine listen. Billie Eilish is just one admirer; she recently included Kamal on her lockdown-inspired playlist.
Key track: ‘Homebody’ (GE)

KennyHoopla

A new rock hero for ‘00s indie diehards

NME 100 kenny hoopla

 

From: Wisconsin, USA
For fans of: blink-182, Yungblud
USP: The youngster’s music is a frantic update on a genre that’s often defined by its seemingly rigid boundaries. Kenny’s here for a good time, y’know?
Why you’re going to love them: After hungrily devouring the best that the mid-2000s had to offer in his bedroom, KennyHoopla now presents the sound of the next generation: bringing indie, punk and emo rap together with a sound that’s both a love letter to the glory days and an exciting step forward. Time to scrawl his name on your pencil case.
What Yungblud says: “KennyHoopla is exactly what I think a 2020 rock’n’roll star should be. His music blends so many styles but he clearly knows his shit – like you can hear his influences so clearly, and I relate to them and I relate to what he’s saying so brilliantly. Kenny, I fucking believe the hype.”
Key track: ‘how will i rest in peace if i’m buried by a highway?’ (WR)

Kid Kapichi

Grimy garage rock that gives the bleak everyday a bit of bounce

NME 100 kid kapachi

 

From: Hastings, UK
For fans of: IDLES, Queens of The Stone Age
USP: Ambitious punk made for boozy singalongs in the face of despair.
Why you’re going to love them: Swaggering along like the sound of a rowdy Friday night on any British high street, Kid Kapichi create snarling anthems that never feel pedestrian. Though they’re driven by punk’s unifying spirit, they refuse to settle for doing what everyone else is, throwing heaps of their rough-and-ready charisma into every blistering track, each of which is primed to inspire a great time.
What Nova Twins say: “We’ve had a cheeky peek at their debut album, which comes out this year and can confirm that it’s full of certified bangers – big things are coming for them so get on the Kapichi train now before the rest of the world finds out.”
Key track: ‘Working Man’s Town’’ (AS)

Kynsy

Rough-and-ready neo-noir that Julian Casablancas 100 per cent wishes was his

NME 100 kynsy

 

From: Dublin, Ireland
For fans of: The Strokes, Just Mustard
USP: Laughing the pain away with genre-busting beats.
Why you’re going to love them: Kynsey digs deep with her deadpan lyrics, traversing tales of overhearing racist remarks at parties (‘Cold Blue Light’) and the whirlwind of post-break-up emotions (‘Happiness Isn’t A Fixed State’). However, when paired with her sticky, distortion-heavy blend of homemade pop, indie and electronica that echoes ‘Is This It’-era Strokes, it somehow transforms into an uplifting light at the end of the tunnel.
Key track: ‘Happiness Isn’t A Fixed State’ (BR)

The Lathums

Wigan trio who helped save their local football ground with a single vinyl record

NME 100 the lathums

 

From: Wigan, UK
Sounds like: For fans of: The Charlatans, Arctic Monkeys
USP: Their songs conjure the unbridled joy of being reunited with all your mates at a jam-packed festival tent.
Why you’re going to love them: Since their first show at a Coachella-themed hen do, the Island signees have rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in indie (Blossoms, Tim Burgess, James Skelly) over the course of an unstoppable two-year ascent. Think you’ve got ’em sussed? Think again. Keen to avoid coasting in the indie lane, their latest EP pulls inspiration from all over the musical map. Closer ‘Foolish Parley’, for instance, contains a Tarantino-worthy riff and combines Specials-esque verses with a chorus that’s a sure-fire festival smash.
Key track: ‘All My Life’ (Tom Skinner)

The Lazy Eyes

Fresh-faced Aussie four-piece viewing psychedelia through a modern lens

NME 100 the lazy eyes

 

From: Sydney, Australia
For fans of: Temples, Tame Impala
USP: An attempt at untangling hazy, drunken memories from a heavy weekend down the beach – whether it be Bondi or Brighton.
Why you’re going to love them: The Lazy Eyes make no qualms about wearing their psych-rock influences on their sleeves, but do so with the kind of cheekiness only a teen band could get away with (take the self-deprecating title of the charming ‘Cheesy Love Song’, for example). Written largely during their high school years, The Lazy Eyes’ sole EP already provokes equal measures of nostalgia and “cringeness” for the group – a sign they’re ready to evolve and carve their own path to the big league.
Key track: ’The Seaside’ (Tom Skinner)

Logic1000

Scorching, sample-heavy house bangers from the Berlin-based DJ and producer

NME 100 logic 1000

 

From: Berlin, Germany
For fans of: Octo Octa, Caribou
USP: Inspiring impromptu and morale-boosting at-home raves while the clubs are all closed.
Why you’re going to love them: One of the comforting thoughts that got us through 2020 was the notion that, one day, the in-person joy generated by dance music will be waiting for us whenever we exit this darkest of timelines. Logic1000 – aka the Sydney-bred, Berlin-based Samantha Poulter – will be hoping to kick-start plenty of IRL parties in 2021 (pandemic-permitting), and her upcoming ‘You’ve Got The Whole Night To Go’ EP should start the new year off just right.
Key track: ‘I Won’t Forget’ (SM)

Loose Articles

Melodic punk quartet tackling radical politics with infectious sarcasm

NME 100 loose articles

 

From: Manchester, UK
For fans of: Talk Show, Dream Wife
USP: Having cut their teeth on Manchester’s DIY scene, the band take on society’s ills with a witty angst that bleeds into every corner of their sound.
Why you’re going to love them: Loose Articles provide the perfect soundtrack to a year spent getting drunk on Zoom whilst watching politicians justify leisurely trips to Northern castles. Thumping basslines, writhing guitars and sardonic storytelling about the struggles of everyday life from Natalie Wardle, Erin Caine, Tree Nah and Louise Rivett provide the perfect outlet for our collective angst. Self-described as ‘Feminine and threatening. Working and class’, they’re not afraid to raise their voices and be heard, but it comes with a self-deprecating wit.
Key song: ‘Up The Disco’ (KH)

The Lounge Society

Yorkshire punks hitting the dancefloor with all guns blazing

NME 100 the lounge society

 

From: Hebden Bridge, UK
For fans of: Squid, Working Men’s Club
USP: Breathing new life into their dark, electronic influences, The Lounge Society refuse to be written off as another whip-snap punk band.
Why you’re going to love them: The stats alone tell enough of a story. The quartet’s debut track ‘Generation Game’ – a nightmarish, punky groove that confronts political divides in the US – became the fastest-selling 7” single for cult label Speedy Wunderground, shifting all copies in a day. And it’s not hard to understand how they did it. Combining a dense mix of fidgety analogue synths and throbbing guitars, The Lounge Society go hard on the eclecticism. They’re smart, they’re shit-hot, they’ve got the world at their feet.
Key track: ‘Generation Game’ (SW)

Lucy Deakin

Hot-pink pop from the north of England

NME 100 lucy deakin

 

From: Manchester, UK
For fans of: Hailee Steinfeld, Troye Sivan
USP: Deakin is the musical equivalent of that sweet but no-nonsense mate in your heartbreak advice session.
Why you’re going to love them: A MSN Messenger-era kind of popstar, Lucy Deakin isn’t immune to the romantic trials and tribulations of youth, but she certainly doesn’t have time for your tired clichés. Much like the early work of her hero Miley Cyrus – who has already confirmed herself as a fan – there’s a rebellious undercurrent to Deakin’s dance-pop.
Key track: ‘I got bored’ (JW)

LustSickPuppy

Terrifyingly brilliant dance music with a bloodlust for life

NME 100 lust sick puppy

 

From: New York, USA
For fans of: Alice Glass, Rina Sawayama
USP: Hyperactive rave music that trades the bubblegum for barbed wire.
Why you’re going to love them: Warped and unpredictable, LustSickPuppy pulls ghouls, goblins, classic TV themes and glitching synths into her energetic, empowering clubland. Equal parts glitter and blood – flitting from cute fun to something far more warped and unsettling – the songs are sheer chaos.
What Nova Twins say: “They are fresh and unapologetic, serving up rave, rap, punk tunes and a vibrant aesthetic.”
Key track: ‘Goatmeal’ (AS)

Lynks

Avant-garde queercore made club-ready

NME 100 lynks

 

From: Bristol, UK
For fans of: Fischerspooner, Le Tigre
USP: To describe a Lynks live show as an “experience” is something of an understatement – expect neon balaclavas, smeared make-up and abundant chaos.
Why you’re going to love them: Seizing on the tradition of queercore – see Le Tigre, Hunx & His Punx – and setting campy provocation to juddering dance beats, Lynks doesn’t just have razor-sharp wit. Beneath the giddy, kitschy mayhem there’s also emotional heft: take a track like ‘Desperate and Lovely, in Desperate Need of Love’ as a prime example.
Key track: ‘Str8 Acting’ (EH)

Malady

Topical bangers that’ll sit right at the top of your house party playlist

NME 100 malady

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Shame, King Krule
USP: They’ve given indie the dub/IDM makeover you never knew it needed.
Why you’re going to love them: Think that after chamber-psych and melodic metalcore that we’ve exhausted genre tags by now? No chance: welcome to post-rave IDM indie. Malady’s debut single ‘London, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’ pays homage to the love/hate relationship many hold for the Big Smoke while wrapping together shoegaze-y synths with hard-lined percussion – it’s a refreshing take on what the capital usually delivers.
Key track: ‘London, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’ (BR)

Marijannah

Stoner rock and doom metal play puff-puff-pass

NME 100 marijannah

 

From: Singapore
For fans of: Electric Wizard, Bongripper
USP: From a notoriously anti-drug country wafts in this four-piece and their psychedelic vocal harmonies, bludgeoning guitars and glorious high fantasy paraphernalia.
Why you’re gonna love them: Marijannah hit like a punch to the gut before sending you down an abyss where colossal riffs and time signatures are alternately stretched and squeezed – like the distance between the first and final bong rip. Subtlety is not the band’s strength, but in case you’re wondering, besides the obvious 4/20 reference, the name means “come to paradise” in Malay.
Key track: ‘Pluto’ (IO)

Martha Skye Murphy

Cinematic ambition from Nick Cave collaborator

NME 100 martha skye murphy

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Björk, Benjamin Clementine
USP: A spindly, ASMR-worthy vocal that releases enough whispers and crackles to raise hairs and tingle spines.
Why you’re going to love them: The more avid Nick Cave fans amongst us may already be familiar with the name Martha Skye Murphy. At just 9 years old, she traded vocals with Cave and Warren Ellis on a track for The Proposition film soundtrack and continued this winning partnership with a contribution to 2013’s ‘Push The Sky’. Augmented by spooky chord progressions, Murphy possesses a voice that can hypnotise and startle in equal measure, and one that’d give her friend and collaborator – the goth-rock overlord himself – a run for his money.
Key track: ‘Self Tape’ (SW)

Martyn Bootyspoon

Montréal’s finest purveyor of horny house

NME 100 martyn bootyspoon

 

From: Montréal, Canada
For fans of: Cajmere, DJ Funk
USP: Only Martyn Bootyspoon could make a lyric like “what’s in the Amazon wishlist?” (‘Lickety Spit’) sound so hot under the collar.
Why you’re going to love them: Seizing on the filthy spirit of Chicago G-House and fusing it with a generous sprinkling of campy Parisian sleaze, the producer’s gravelly voice puts Barry White to shame – this is gaudy, grimy dance music with that all-important playfulness at its core.
Key track: ‘Icecream Mane’ (EH)

Meet Me @ The Altar

Fueled By Ramen’s new signing bringing a much-needed shake-up to the pop punk scene

NME 100 meet me @ the altar

 

From: Florida/New Jersey/Georgia, USA
For fans of: A Day To Remember, State Champs
USP: They’re shaking things up in a genre dominated by white men that’s in real danger of growing oh-so-stale.
Why you’re going to love them: Originally forming over the internet before signing to pop punk gold-standard label Fueled By Ramen (Paramore, Panic! At The Disco), Meet Me @ The Altar may have unbridled confidence but they also possess a strong sense of self-awareness. The band want to be role models for girls and women of colour who have never seen themselves represented in the pop punk scene and, in keeping with that, their songs are inspiring, uplifting anthems. A welcome change from the angst and brooding of many of their peers.
Key track: ‘Garden’ (MH)

merci, mercy

Gen Z’s new super-relatable poster girl

NME 100 merci mercy

 

From: Sydney, Australia
For fans of: G Flip, Julia Michaels
USP: This candid chronicler of modern-day anxieties makes alt-pop bops that really lodge in your brain.
Why you’re going to love her: Born Mercedes Thorne and raised in Thailand, China and Australia, the 20-year-old singer-songwriter packs her catchy alt-pop tunes with startlingly candid lyrics about mental health, self-doubt and messy romantic entanglements. Her breakthrough song ‘I Fucked Up’ does this so infectiously that it’s racked up millions of streams. And there’s plenty more to come – get ready to say “merci beaucoup” for the tunes.
Key track: ‘Fucked Myself Up’ (NL)

Michelle

Warm, genre-spanning songs that should come with an SPF requirement

NME 100 michelle

 

From: New York, USA
For fans of: Solange, Crumb
USP: Bottling sticky summer NYC nights in crisp R&B with a bright indie flourish.
Why you’re going to love them: There’s a ton of ways to capture the sound of New York and this six-friend collective tap into the concrete jungle come its sweatier months. Their songs, which bend and twist out of the boxes you might try to pin them in, boast skyscraper synth dazzle, languid rhythms to lounge in the shade to, and lush harmonies. In other words, musical serotonin you’ll want to bathe in for hours.
Key track: ‘Unbound’ (RD)

NAYANA IZ

A culture-blending queen of the UK hip-hop scene

NME 100 nayana iz

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: MF Doom, Missy Elliott
USP: IZ blends rap attitude with her Indian heritage like few artists before her.
Why you’re going to love her: This stunningly gifted singer, rapper and multi-instrumentalist describes herself as “born in London, made in India”. A member of west London collective NiNE8 alongside fellow rising stars (and NME 100 alumni) Biig Piig and Lava La Rue, 20-year-old IZ distils her dual heritage into vibey yet biting jams which offer a box-fresh perspective on identity, spirituality and female autonomy.
Key track: ‘Growing Pains’ (NL)

NewDad

Nostalgia-infused dream pop from rural Ireland

NME 100 new dad

 

From: Galway, Ireland
For fans of: Beabadoobee, Sorry
USP: Being the sort of kids who are just as likely to take inspiration from a BBC Four documentary as they are a TikTok craze.
Why you’re going to love them: Taking their shoegaze with a sprinkling of dark pop sugar, NewDad’s moody, hip-swinging guitarwork is the product of a group of pals who are allowing themselves to follow their musical nose without paying too much attention to trends. It’ll be to their benefit – this sort of effortless cool can’t be bought.
Key Track: ‘Blue’ (JW)

NOISY

Excitable skate park hip-hop that comes to life when the sun goes down

NME 100 noisy

 

From: Worthing, UK
For fans of: Twenty One Pilots, Yungblud
USP: Grimy pirate radio hits that make the everyday sound revolutionary.
Why you’re going to love them: Indie kids who spent every pill-popping weekend at drum‘n’bass clubs, NOISY have no time for being bored or stripping things back. Welcome to their ambitious, energetic world where it’s always Friday night and anything could happen.
Key track: ‘Put A Record On’ (AS)

Odeal

Fusion star mixing Afroswing with something a little more soulful

NME 100 odeal

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: NSG, Darkoo
USP: Odeal’s blessed vocals are as buttery as can be.
Why you’re going to love them: Odeal has a magnetism that makes him stand out from your typical Afroswing star. With his style of production (which he often handles himself) not veering towards the kind of predictable pop you may find in the charts, he instead creates endless vibes that suit both those lonely nights and the ones shared (more of the latter in 2021, please).
Key track: ‘Sage’ (KSW)

ONEFOUR

Aussie rap collective proving drill’s globe-conquering appeal

NME 100 onefour

 

From: Sydney, Australia
For fans of: Smoke Boys, Headie One
USP: We’ve already seen drill migrate from the Chicago suburbs to the UK streets, and now ONEFOUR are showing how the genre still packs an almighty punch and resonates with listeners whatever your location.
Why you’re going to love them: They’re already massive Down Under – they’ve had Top Ten albums in their native Australia and neighbouring New Zealand – and after some left-field team-ups with huge transatlantic stars like Stormzy and A$AP Ferg, they’re beginning to expand their sonic palette and push their twist on drill even further.
Key track: ‘Spot The Difference’ (LMB)

Orion Sun

Silky smooth melodies from an otherworldly realm

NME 100 orion sun

 

For fans of: Omar Apollo, Arlo Parks
USP: Cosmic raps and rhapsodies perfect for whiling away social isolation
Why you’re going to love them: Orion Sun’s buttery, neo-jazz songs are a sonic plaster for life’s sharp edges. From the sound of neighbours fighting on ‘Sailing’ to her own experience of homelessness on ‘Lightning’, her debut ‘Hold Space For Me’ excels at spinning hardship into lo-fi goodness. The Philadelphia-based multi-instrumentalist and beat-maker finds equal inspiration in Kanye West 808s and Billie Holiday nostalgia, narrating her coming of age through a dream-like, interstellar lens.
What Arlo Parks says: “Her music reminds me of the sun setting and being with loved ones. They’re portraits of young love and just driving through the city, but her music – those crunchy drums – and that sample-based gooeyness that I always gravitate to.”
Key track: ‘Coffee For Dinner’ (COR)

Pa Salieu

Deservedly hyped as the UK’s next big star

NME 100 pa salieu

 

From: Coventry, UK
For fans of: J Hus, Burna Boy
USP: Blending Afrobeat and Afroswing with the ice-cold menace of drill and road rap, Pa Salieu has created a sound that is wholly his own.
Why you’re going to love them: In the bleak year that was 2020, every Pa Salieu drop felt like a light in the darkness. It’s a privilege being able to witness a star’s ascension, and Pa’s ability to surpass all expectations with each single – and then an excellent debut mixtape – has further cemented the notion that his career path has only just begun.
Key track: ‘Betty’ (DB)

박혜진 Park Hye Jin

Dreamy electronic lullabies with escapist power

NME 100 park hye jin

 

From: Seoul, South Korea
For fans of: Vegyn, Jayda G
USP: Dreamy vocals layered over thumping techno, vibey footwork and hypnotic house.
Why you’re going to love them: Equally known for her tough techno sets and carefree dance videos (see the beaming TikTok clip for FIFA-soundtracking house groover ‘Like This’), the LA-based rapper, singer, DJ and producer already counts Jamie xx, Annie Mac and Dev Hynes among her fans. Her recent ‘How Can I’ EP – which glides between multiple genres within each track – showcased an artist refusing to be pigeonholed into any particular box.
Key track: ‘Like this’ (BDJ)

Pixey

Liverpudlian producer crafting open-hearted alt-pop

NME 100 pixey

 

From: Liverpool, UK
For fans of: Hayley Williams, Julia Jacklin
USP: Charming with her sleek, alternative pop-rock nous, Pixey makes exactly the sort of tunes you want to hear as you’re leaving the indie club night at sunrise.
Why you’re going to love them: Pixey’s dogged ambition is something to behold. Having battled a near-fatal viral illness in 2016, the Liverpudlian mapped out her recovery by turning to music, and taught herself to write, record and produce in the process. The result is cathartic and embracing, with big, endearing tunes that combine her swinging vocals with woozy guitars and skittering drum beats.
Key track: ‘Free To Live In Colour’ (SW)

Powfu

Beabadoobee-sampling TikTok star providing warped soundtracks of growing pains

NME 100 powfu

 

From: Vancouver, Canada
For fans of: Joji, Mac Miller
USP: The 21-year-old combines an effortless flow with a keen ear for turning off-kilter samples into viral earworms in a way very few others can.
Why you’re going to love them: You’ve probably already heard his internet-dominating mega-smash ‘Death Bed’, or at least seen a TikTok soundtracked by it. If that hasn’t already won you over, then you definitely will be by his irresistibly languid production and universal tales of isolation and feeling burnt out (very relatable whatever your age).
Key track: ‘Death Bed’ (LMB)

Priya Ragu

Experimental electro-pop that defies borders and genres

NME 100 priya ragu

 

From: Zurich, Switzerland
For fans of: Kaytranada, Amber Mark
USP: Priya’s international fusion, which blends modern soul with Tamil folk music.
Why you’re going to love them: There’s a lot of hype surrounding Priya Ragu’s wonky funk single ‘Good Love 2.0’, and for good reason. The Tamil-Swiss musician’s debut single swiftly transitions between Snoh Aalegra-style vocals and tight hip-hop flows before diving into a mystical outro of south Indian beats and Krishna chants. Co-created with her rapper brother Japhna Gold, it’s a compelling taste of their ‘Raguwavy’ sound, which honours ‘90s legends The Fugees as much as the pair’s Sri Lankan heritage.
Key Track: ‘Good Love 2.0’ (COR)

PVA

Gritty dancefloor fillers dredged up from London’s underground

NME 100 pva

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: LCD Soundsystem, Daft Punk
USP: Dance music with the rough-and-ready aesthetic and sardonic voice of the DIY rock scene.
Why you’re going to love them: The scene around the Speedy Wunderground label has brought us a conveyor belt of exciting, boundary-pushing guitar bands in recent years – and now their first great dance act is here. PVA borrow from the funky dance-rock of Talking Heads, the thrust of techno and the euphoria of disco to land in a dirty, sweaty sweet spot. It’s perfect for those that want both the grit of the DIY scene and the joyous call of the dancefloor.
Key track: ‘Talks’ (WR)

Pyra

Dystopian pop full of lessons to make the world a better place

NME 100 pyra

 

From: Bangkok, Thailand
For fans of: Grimes, Ashnikko
USP: Her hip-hop and alt-pop indebted sound is given a unique twist, thanks to its nods to Thai music and culture.
Why you’re going to love them: Peeralada Sukawat’s – aka Thai “dystopian pop” artist Pyra – music makes you think, but doesn’t compromise on a catchy spark. Her latest release ‘Plastic World’ deals with consumerism and its impact on global warming, while her back catalogue tackles topics as broad as religion, mental health and social justice without ever overstepping into preaching.
Key track: ‘Plastic World’ (RD)

R.A.E

Feel-good ‘90s rap from Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition winner

NME 100 rae

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Ray BLK, Princess Nokia
USP: Rap battle rhymes, flawless choreography and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air humour from the previous winner of Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent Competition.
Why you’re going to love them: R.A.E (which stands for ‘Rising Above Everything’) is the serotonin shot that your 2021 playlist needs. Determined to take us back to the heady days of ‘90s R&B and hip-hop, the MC’s uplifting flows and nostalgic videos land somewhere between a UK version of Nickelodeon’s Kenan & Kel and Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Push It’. As she says on the catchy hook of ‘The Coolest’, don’t be surprised if this year “everybody finna know about” R.A.E.
Key Track: ‘Damn Jermaine’ (COR)

Raheaven

The no-nonsense singer preaching honesty and empowerment

NME 100 raheaven

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Nao, Mahalia
USP: Providing “dump him, sis” pre-drink anthems through and through.
Why you’re going to love them: The sweetly vocalled British-Eritrean singer is bringing a fresh and distinctly London lens to ‘00s R&B both sonically and visually. Unafraid to speak her mind and state her case with candid, situational songwriting to the running thread of self-worth, self-love and just doing better, she’s a welcome addition to the scene and a necessary voice in the industry.
Key track: ‘7AM’ (NK)

Remi Wolf

Rainbow-brite funk-pop with mood-making power

NME 100 remi wolf

 

From: California, USA
For fans of: Parliament, Little Dragon
USP: An eclectic and eccentric sensibility that’s incredibly pure and impossible to replicate.
Why you’re going to love them: Remi Wolf makes vibrant technicolour pop that nods to the past (think Prince, The Jackson 5) with hints of funk and soul, but is undeniably now and completely its own thing. There’s also so much serotonin packed into each brilliantly inventive and unpredictable track, they should come prescribed on the NHS for those moments you need to get out of the blues.
Key track: ‘Photo ID’ (RD)

Romero

Bold power-pop straddling emotional drama and riotous fun

NME 100 romero

 

From: Melbourne, Australia
For fans of: Sheer Mag, Public Practice
USP: Breakneck tunes that could make even the cleanest of spaces feel like a grimy dive bar made for moshing in.
Why you’re going to love them: Their riffs might be front and centre and turned up loud, but this Aussie bunch can’t hide their big pop hooks. Frontwoman Alanna Oliver possesses a voice that’s rich and subtly theatrical, adding both an air of class and urgency to the walls of sound that have already scored Romero a hefty slice of attention, despite only having shared three songs so far. Spoiler: they’re all ridiculously infectious and ready to rock out to.
Key track: ‘Troublemaker’ (RD)

Rose Gray

The rave-lovin’ wordsmith making euphoric soul-pop

NME 100 rose gray

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Saint Etienne, Georgia
USP: Infusing dreamy soul-pop with a ‘90s rave feel.
Why you’re going to love them: Noting Primal Scream, Massive Attack and Saint Etienne as key influences, East London’s rave-pop queen Rose Gray is making carefree music for the downtrodden. Blending her entrancing, soulful vocals with dancefloor melodies and catchy pop hooks, Gray injects a breezy optimism into tracks like ‘Same Cloud’ and ‘Save Your Tears’. Playful and liberating, it lifts above all the noise and makes clear that she has no intention of conforming to the standard popstar mould.
Key song: ‘Same Cloud’ (KH)

Scalping

Raucous techno meets blackened punk in a fresh, thunderous cocktail

NME 100 scalping

 

From: Bristol, UK
For fans of: Daniel Avery, Giant Swan
USP: Sounding as much like a DJ collective as a rock band, they blur boundaries with glee.
Why you’re going to love them: To listen to a Scalping song is to be possessed by a desperate need to either headbang or rave like a maniac, but embarrassing yourself with a terrible mix of the two. Creating a new but already signature sound after only three singles, this is music with which to let out your inner beast in the darkest of basements.
Key track: ‘Chamber’ (WR)

Shaybo

Fierce rapper and self-proclaimed ‘Queen of the South’

NME 100 shaybo

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Ms Banks, Shygirl
USP: Ever thought it was possible to drop references to everything from wrestling to Cyndi Lauper in a single track? Fast-emerging MC Shaybo managed just that in her recent Daily Duppy freestyle, announcing her place on the scene in slick style.
Why you’re going to love them: The Lewisham native only has a handful of songs out, but has so far delivered bass-heavy bangers with bar after bar of self-assurance and sure-fire punchlines that have shown she’s capable of great things to come.
Key track: ‘Dobale’ (LMB)

Skullcrusher

Captivatingly atmospheric folk tunes with new-wave horror tropes

NME 100 skullcrusher

 

From: California, USA
For fans of: Faye Webster, Angel Olsen
USP: Soothingly vulnerable folk songs that tug at the heartstrings through the use of minimal instrumentation, lush vocals and detailed lyricism.
Why you’re going to love them: Skullcrusher – aka Helen Ballentine – finds beauty in solitude, with lush acoustics and painstakingly introspective lyrics making up her musical repertoire. Her ghostly yet hypnotic melodies interweave with touches of new-wave horror to create a Brontë-esque aesthetic. The result? An arrestingly fascinating style of musical production with the visuals to match.
Key track: ‘Places/Plans’ (GE)

Smoothboi Ezra

Bedroom producer with a knack for shaking up the classic love song

NME 100 smoothboi ezra

 

From: County Wicklow, Ireland
For fans of: Snail Mail, mxmtoon
USP: Latest single ‘My Own Person’ is a thoughtful and lo-fi musing on Ezra’s non-binary identity – and a story that rarely gets a look-in in indie. “I wanna blend into the background, I wanna be nobody and never make a sound,” they sing. “But I wanna start feeling like I can be myself.
Why you’re going to love them: When it comes to the unique ache of yearning, nobody nails it quite like Ezra. Writing and producing out of their poster-tattered bedroom in the sleepy and scenic town of Greystones, the 18-year-old delves into the specifics of unrequited lust with disarming accuracy. Stick on some Smoothboi and prepare to feel ‘seen’.
Key track: ‘My Own Person’ (EH)

The Snuts

Scottish rockers creating an arsenal of anthems for festival season’s return

NME 100 the snuts

 

From: West Lothian, UK
For fans of: Primal Scream, Foals
USP: Their ability to switch between stadium-slaying choruses and ‘60s style funk in a heartbeat.
Why you’re going to love them: It’s testament to the sheer power of The Snuts that they’ve managed to sell several nights at Glasgow’s iconic Barrowlands before they’ve even released their debut album. But give the band one quick listen and you’ll soon realise that the Scottish lads are already experts at crafting everyman anthems that combine love, loss and the mundanity of everyday life with killer choruses. When that album arrives in early 2021, expect those shows to get even bigger.
Key track: ‘Juan Belmonte’ (NR)

Sofia Kourtesis

Sample-heavy disco house quirkiness from a musical magpie

NME 100 sofia kourtesis

 

From: Berlin, Germany
For fans of: Bella Boo, DJ Seinfeld
USP: Masterfully chopped-up sounds combine to form a gleefully danceable whole.
Why you’re going to love them: The tinkering audiophile turns unusual samples and sounds from her habitat into fuzzy dancefloor-ready house diamonds. The distinctive drum-led percussion of ‘Sarita Colonia’ and ‘Akariku’ (from her second squelchy house EP for Studio Barnhus) even led to her first crossover moment when she remixed Georgia’s ‘24 Hours’.
Key track: ‘Sarita Colonia’ (BDJ)

Spill Tab

Wilful experimentation with a sensual je ne sais quoi

NME 100 spill tab

 

From: California, USA
For fans of: Nilüfer Yanya, Bartees Strange
USP: Summoning up the hazy, lazy days of summer all year round.
Why you’re going to love them: It’s pretty much impossible to predict exactly where multi-instrumentalist Claire Chicha is going to go – and therein lies the joy. Flitting between late-night rendezvous R&B and swooning ukulele ballads at the same speed as she does languages, everything is tied together with a distinct focus on capturing the mood through elegant metaphor. J’adore.
Key Track: ‘Name’ (JW)

Sprints

Dublin’s next snarling guitar heroes refusing to take any shit

NME 100 sprints

 

From: Dublin, Ireland
For fans of: Shame, Fontaines DC
USP: Sprints’ singer Karla Chubb sounds like she’s about to give someone a black eye on thunderous anthem ‘The Cheek’ – this is venomous and versatile rock’n’roll.
Why you’re going to love them: Much like their fellow Dubliners Girl Band and Silverbacks, Sprints are also fully committed to their craft through their blood, sweat and tears approach. ‘The Cheek’ attacks dated attitudes around sexuality while ‘Drones’ looks inwardly at feelings of imposter syndrome. The constant is that they continue to deliver pure and riveting statements, setting them well on course towards future raucous, beer-soaked headline festival sets.
Key track: ‘The Cheek’ (RB)

Tate McRae

The alt-pop wunderkind about to break out far beyond her TikTok masses

NME 100 tate mcrae

 

From: Calgary, Canada
For fans of: Sigrid, Billie Eilish
USP: At 17, she perfectly captures the pitfalls of partying and pressure in the modern age.
Why you’re going to love them: She’s already worked with Billie Eilish and brother Finneas, has had a Top Five single and looks destined to one day perform in arenas – but there’s a dark subtlety and cutting honesty that makes McRae’s music feel intimate.
Key track: ‘You Broke Me First’ (AT)

Tayo Sound

Guitar strumming teen poised to be the voice of Gen Z heartbreak

NME 100 tayo sound

 

From: Reading, UK
For fans of: Rex Orange County, Rejjie Snow
USP: Tayo’s received acclaim for his refined approach to bedroom alt-pop – even the sketches on his recently-released demo collection appear fully realised.
Why you’re going to love them: At only 18 years old, the Nigerian-Scottish musician has already mastered the art of songwriting. Tayo’s emotive lyricism shines through in his woozy vocals, backed by an indie-adjacent production style. Laying all his cards on the table, Tayo chronicles the thrill, pain and melancholy that encapsulates navigating love as a young teen today.
Key track: Cold Feet (Timi Sotire)

Tiana Major9

Alluring vocalist capturing the spirit of UK soul

NME 100 tiana major9

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Lianne La Havas, Ari Lennox
USP: Tiana’s music is a sonic melting pot of soul, jazz, R&B and reggae.
Why you’re going to love them: Her powerhouse vocals hark back to the days when R&B singers were made in the church. Her smooth vocals are layered over a classical jazz sound that’s blended with futuristic, genre-defying beats. Approaching vulnerable themes through her music in a candid manner, Tiana’s music speaks to that part of us we are too afraid to put out there. Unlike most, Tiana is straightforward with how she feels.
Key track: ‘Same Space?’ (Timi Sotire)

Wargasm

Anti-social nu-metal anthems that make Slipknot look timid

NME 100 wargasm

 

From: London, UK
For fans of: Limp Bizkit, Poppy
USP: The duo are the hyperactive, abrasive playlist to a world on fire.
Why you’re going to love them: It doesn’t matter how many artists try to inspire hope, we all know things are fucked, and won’t be getting any better any time soon. Rather than inspire a revolution, Wargasm feel your furious pain and they’re here to soundtrack that rage with giddy, genre-splicing glee.
What Yungblud says: “They’re bringing an energy to metal I can’t even describe. Milkie’s just a fucking superstar in my opinion. She reminds me of a metal Gwen Stefani, blurring the lines of gender. I love the songs, they make me want to rage. I believe it. They’re telling the truth.”
Key track: ‘Spit’ (AS)

Witch Fever

Gothy grunge-punk for those who Halloween all year round

NME 100 witch fever

 

From: Manchester, UK
For fans of: Kim Gordon, Black Sabbath
USP: They’re bringing the horror-show back to rock without any gimmickry because real life is scary enough after all.
Why you’re going to love them: They look cool as fuck, they sound like a reckoning and they really mean it. Repent and rock out with Witch Fever when they tour with IDLES in 2021.
Key track: ‘Berserk(h)er’ (AT)

Yard Act

Political no-wave bangers with a hilariously cutting deadpan delivery

NME 100 yard act

 

From: Leeds, UK
For fans of: Do Nothing, John Cooper Clarke
USP: Yard Act will have you in stitches with their fiercely humorous lyricism which they couple with the catchiest post-punk grooves around.
Why you’re going to love them:We’re gonna knock through the kitchen wall though, even though it is a lovely bit of Tudor”, Yard Act frontman James Smith stabs on one of 2020’s greatest indie singles ‘Fixer Upper’, it’s comedic genius as he assumes the role of a proud two homeowner disgruntled with the world around him. Going by the incisive and equally impacting other airings so far, this band are reinvigorating modern post-punk with a much-needed sense of humour.
Key track: Fixer Upper (RB)

Yung Raja

Bright-haired and bold Singaporean rapper who’s not afraid to take the piss

NME 100 yung raja

 

From: Singapore
For fans of: Brockhampton, Post Malone
USP: His music is brash and bassy, his rhymes tight and lyrics often tongue-in-cheek – but the rising star’s mix of English and Tamil in his verses truly sets him apart.
Why you’re going to love them: Signed to the south-east Asian offshoot of the iconic rap label Def Jam, Yung Raja has already proven he can do straight-up hip-hop (as shown in his recent ‘Damn Freestyle’). But it’s tracks like ‘Mad Blessings’ and ‘The Dance Song’ that have showcased his natural charisma and showmanship, adding some outlandish surrealness and dead-pan humour into the mix.
Key track: ‘The Dance Song’ (LMB)

Zsela

Stripped-back, heartfelt ballads with quietly brooding poignancy

NME 100 zsela

 

From: New York, USA
For fans of: Aldous Harding, Cat Power
USP: Sparse and sparing minimal production allows for Zsela’s truly magnetic vocals to come to the fore – it’s a voice that cuts to your core.
Why you’re going to love them: 2020 was all about things slowing down, having a moment to ponder and putting things into perspective. And with this outlook set to continue into 2021, Zsela’s solemn and soulful songs – detailing addiction and heartache – are primed to provide some form of comfort and room for reflection in the new year. It’s with good reason that she’s been compared to songwriting greats such as Joan Armatrading and Joni Mitchell.
Key track: ‘For Now’ (LMB)

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