More so than ever before it seems impossible for up-and-coming artists to reach the ears of mainstream listeners. Perhaps today’s magazines are to blame, all hesitant to waste precious time and real estate on a fresh musician that can’t promise the thousands of clicks publications now need to stay in business. (Writing about Drake will always ensure a stronger ROI than featuring a promising newcomer with less than 20 devoted fans, and that’s the sad truth).
When Selena Gomez releases a single, it receives attention that’s embarrasingly comparable to an Obama-related news story, while an unearthed musician’s latest effort might as well have never happened—mere stardust in the expansive online galaxy. To combat this norm, we’ve pulled together a list of our favorite sleeper singles from 10 deserving artists all well-equipped to take over pop radio. Because there’s more to this world than Beyoncé.
“Backbeat” by DAGNY
Here we have the absolute best chorus that music’s heard in the past few months, leave (maybe) Gwen Stefani’s tearjerker “Used To Love You.” There’s simply no chance this track couldn’t ignite any dull crowd, regardless of the demographic—it shines with an immediately engaging tenor, like feeling the warm spring sun after a long winter. With its bouncy percussion and bright piano melody, DAGNY’s “Backbeat” is everything delightful about pop music, wrapped as an irresistible radio contender. Listen, below, and resist (quite literally) skipping down the sidewalk:
“NoLo” by Grace Mitchell
Lifted off Grace Mitchell’s impressive five-track EP Raceday, “NoLo” is a fairly straightforward, easy listen, packed tight with exciting subtleties that add dimension to this bright pop winner. Rumbling guitars swing happily alongside nostalgic backup vocals, as Mitchell’s earthy alto drives the song toward a smooth, passionate chorus. “How do you know what the top looks like when you’re living on the bottom?” she questions, before slipping into an unexpected autotuned bridge. Listen below, and imagine yourself cruising lakeside with a bike basket-full of daisies (It’s very that):
“Young Heart” by FREJA
To fully understand Denmark’s FREJA, you’d need to indulge in her “Young Heart” music video—a fantastic Godard-inspired clip that makes everyday backdrops—trailer and amusement parks, hotel rooms and empty beaches—feel far from mundane. The scandinavian singer’s sound is sonically charged with 80’s synth-pop luster and lyrically armed with the campy “hopeless romantic” archetype that’s in this case, simply irresistible. Listen, below, and lose yourself in a banging pop song that breathes life into a trend-driven landscape:
“Kimono” by MNDR
Having co-penned tracks with major artists like Kylie Minogue, Rita Ora and Santigold, it’s time for LA-based singer/songwriter MNDR to have a major (well-deserved) moment in the spotlight. Following her standout 2012 LP Feed Me Diamonds, including the fiery cut “Faster Horses,” MNDR has released “Kimono,” which is featured in a teaser for season 11 of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Her stylish new single is the musical equivalent of Bianca Jagger posing on a white horse in Studio 54—quietly retro and slicker than a Tom Ford runway. Listen, below, and imagine yourself strutting earnestly with a Diana Ross ‘fro and RuPaul’s highest platforms:
“Intention” by Kiiara
Despite being a staple soundcloud artist, Kiiara’s yet to cross over into the Top 40 pop playground. Her sexy single “Intention,” produced by Casper & B, is equally sophisticated as it’s prepped for the foggiest underground nightclub where all shameless 4 a.m. ventures are happily overlooked. Part of the reason why this chorus is so unbelievably infectious is that it’s coincidentally set to the same beat as TLC’s 1999 hit, “Scrubs.” Listen, below, and you’ll see what we mean:
“Loudspeaker” by MUNA
LA-based outfit MUNA—armed with an all-woman roster—is the most important on-the-rise band, right now. Lead singer Katie Gavin’s walls-down lyrics are brutally honest, while still sounding “pop”—a seamless marriage of style and substance that’s terribly difficult for most to nail. The band’s third single, “Loudspeaker,” is their strongest yet with a chorus that will have you screaming to the stars and never once questioning yourself. Listen, below, and remember the moment you first hear MUNA before they inevitably reach stadium-sized success.
“WorkX2” by Annie
Norwegian dance-pop icon Annie delivers exactly what one would expect from a Norwegian dance-pop icon. Listen to the Richard X collaboration, below, and let “WorkX2” be the reason to spend an extra 30 minutes at the gym:
“Dancing Thru It” by Mr. Hudson
After making a comeback appearance during Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreaks concert last month in Los Angeles, Yeezy’s longtime collaborator released “Dancing Thru It”—a somber, melodic cut about the singer’s “dark days” that sonically picks up where tracks like “Supernova” and “There Will Be Tears” left off. Mr. Hudson’s softly autotuned vocals strongly soar above the song’s cloudy, puttering production, making his sorrows sound beautiful, per usual. Listen, below, and bow down to UK’s most emotive crooner:
“Play It On My Radio” by Niki & The Dove
Mirroring a soundtrack to some sunset-framed finale in a fuzzy ’80s film, Niki & The Dove’s latest effort is warmly nostalgic, like the melancholic sister to Madonna’s palm tree floor-filler “Holiday.” The harmonious single finds the Swedish duo reveling in a more muted soundscape, pulling out Phil Collins-style vocals from the pop grave and pairing this with richly organic synths. Listen, below, and allow yourself to melt into this soothing stunner:
“Doors” by Cardiknox
The Cardiknox we saw open for Take Me When You Go singer Betty Who more than a year ago is not the Cardiknox we see today. A NY-based duo that once felt lost in the greater pop landscape has returned powerfully, armed with a more refined, mature sound. Happily on the outskirts of overworked trends this time around, “Doors” reads like a genuinely pensive effort, centered simply on the difficulties of life. “When I’m diving in the deep, won’t always land on my feet,” sings lead vocalist Lonnie Angle with believable intent. Listen, below, and welcome a newly refurbished Cardiknox into your life.