10 Artists To Watch In 2017

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10 Artists To Watch In 2017

Words by Mr Dan Cairns

28 December 2016

Our roundup of the best new music to listen to next year.

Ten artists, all of them hailing from very different places, geographically and artistically. And each of them making music of fierce individuality and creative purpose. The past 12 months have been a rich period in pop, from acts both established and fresh out of the box. To judge by the work of the musicians below, and the excitement that work is generating, we are in for another remarkable year.

Ms Alexandra Savior

The Oregon-born singer, full name Ms Alexandra Savior McDermott, has taken the increasingly fruitful YouTube route to success. Posting cover versions online, she picked up rave reviews from the likes of Ms Courtney Love and Ms Linda Perry, before joining forces with Arctic Monkeys’ Mr Alex Turner and his The Last Shadow Puppets cohort Mr James Ford. Her releases to date – which include “Shades”, “Mystery Girl”, “M.T.M.E.” and the True Detective-soundtracking “Risk”– teem with pop-noir atmospherics and shard-filled lyrics about doomed romance and millennial ennui.

Key track: “Shades”

Mr Isaac Gracie

A former choirboy, whose first release – the forlorn, Mr Jeff Buckley-channelling “Last Words” – ignited a frenzied major-label bidding war earlier this year, Londoner Mr Gracie wears his hair Laurel Canyon long, and his heart on his sleeve. Spare, lo-fi and up close, his songs are like exquisite miniatures painted in uniformly sombre hues, and imbued with anguish, pain and trepidation.

Key track: “Terrified”

Mr AJ Tracey

Long-listed for the BBC’s Sound Of 2017 poll, this west-Londoner skews UK grime’s traditional axis away from the east of the capital. Two previous EPs – The Front and Alex Moran, the latter featuring the trap stormer “Spirit Bomb” – raised his profile, and his new EP, Lil Tracey, confirms him as one of grime’s most compelling and distinctive new voices.

Key track: “Spirit Bomb”

Mr Joe Fox

Discovered by A$AP Rocky busking on a street in Soho, London, at 4.00am, Mr Joe Fox was whisked into the studio by the American rapper, and ended up featuring on five of At.Long.Last.A$AP’s 18 tracks. His own songs, such as “Like Jesus” and “Radio”, showcase his lilting, Mr Bob Marley-like voice, his born-dreamer, straight-from-the-heart lyrics and his scuffed acoustica – qualities that caught the ear of Island Records, which will release Mr Fox’s debut album in the new year.

Key track: “Like Jesus”

Ms Jorja Smith

The Dizzee Rascal-sampling “Blue Lights”, released at the beginning of the year, blasted this Walsall singer into contention, and her name has been on tipsters’ lips ever since. Subsequent releases, including Ms Smith’s recent Project 11 EP, have positioned her as the natural heir to Sade and Ms Amy Winehouse. There is a bruised beauty to her catch-in-the-throat singing voice, and her lyrics thrum with the same wounded candour and hard-won realism that helped take Sade’s albums into millions of homes.

Key track: “Imperfect Circle”

Ms Kadhja Bonet

A not-of-her-time artist every bit as singular and arresting as Ms Janelle Monae, this LA-based singer and multi-instrumentalist released her appropriately named debut album, The Visitor, in November, to reviews that were characterised as much by delighted bafflement as unfettered enthusiasm. Chucking influences as diverse as Mr Burt Bacharach, Ms Roberta Flack, The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Sherman brothers’ score for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang into the mix, Ms Bonet emerged with a jazz-soul-psychedelia hybrid that, for pure originality and audacity, left most of the year’s other debuts for dust.

Key track: “Honeycomb”

Mondo Cozmo

Mondo Cozmo’s Mr Joshua Ostrander, formerly of the American indie band Eastern Conference Champions, unveiled his new project last spring, with the song “Hold On To Me”. A ramshackle, declamatory, Mr Bob Dylan-indebted call to arms for inclusiveness and community spirit, it is spoken of in hushed tones by its small army of fans, who believe it is one of the greatest smash-hit singles that never was. Subsequent songs “Shine” and “Plastic Soul” (the latter initially only available, owing to problems with sample clearance, if you emailed the singer’s lawyer) confirmed the impression of a maverick songwriter who is just one lucky break away from crossing over to ubiquity.

Key track: “Hold On To Me”

Rag'n'Bone Man

It is tempting to describe Mr Rory Graham, the Sussex singer who trades under the name Rag’n’Bone Man, as a gentle giant. In person, the towering, hirsute and heavily tattooed musician is charm itself, for all that he looks like a particularly unyielding nightclub bouncer. But there is nothing gentle about Mr Graham’s voice. A bellowing, gravelly blues holler, it brooks no opposition – as confirmed by his single “Human” reaching number one in four European countries. Now, having just scooped the 2017 Brits Critics’ Choice award (previous winners include Adele, Ms Emeli Sandé and Ms Ellie Goulding), Mr Graham looks set to go stratospheric.

Key track: “Human”


The Swedish singer, who grew up in the woods on a folk commune and was only exposed to pop music in her late teens, released “Porcelain”, her debut single, earlier this year, and caused a minor stir. It was “Amelia”, Porcelain’s extraordinary follow-up, that gave Skott real traction: a song that nods to the experimentalism of Ms Kate Bush, with a side order of dubstep and dashes of Queen-like rock bombast, it was by a country mile one of the most bracingly original songs of 2016. Judging by the new material we’ve heard, there is more of the same to come.

Key track: “Amelia”


The Baltimore-born 6LACK (pronounced “black”), aka Mr Ricardo Valentine, is part of the Atlanta collection LVRN, which also spawned Raury. His recently released debut album, Free 6LACK, followed the huge success of the single PRBLMS. Both showcase his engrossing, wildly eclectic approach to music-making, here chilling alt-RnB, there bass-heavy trap, with narrative-rich lyrics rapped or sung, and hitting hard in either iteration. Parallels have been drawn with The Weeknd’s navel-gazing, inventory-taking solipsism; given Mr Abel Tesfaye’s chart-crushing stats, such comparisons are unlikely to trouble Mr Valentine.

Key track: PRBLMS