A storybook breakthrough year in music goes something like this: Streaming numbers explode, a fan base grows and a world tour commences. But this year was less of a storybook and more of a Webster-length chapter book written in invisible ink and set on fire. It was impossible to get a read on, seemingly never-ending, and burned a lot of us while we were just trying our best. Still, for a handful of young musicians, some chapters had more than just doom and gloom.

For Jelani Aryeh, a year destined for passport filling and festival hopping became a pit-stop for family. 

For glaive, a trip to the mall and an initial taste of recognition even with a facemask on became a realization of an after-school hobby becoming a career.

And for BENEE, a perfectly timed single became the companionless anthem for a year spent indoors. 

Beabadoobee, Jenevieve, BENEE, Jelani Aryeh, and glaive—like all of us—entered 2020 unable to anticipate the schedule-destructing pandemic that would interrupt their everyday lives. And as the world became dimmer, they couldn’t have predicted how bright their futures would end up looking throughout it all. 

Now, as they reflect on their last 12 months, whether they were spent remotely schooling while they watched their music take flight online, touring New Zealand where COVID cases are at a record zero, or quarantining with their significant others as they put out one of the year’s most critically acclaimed debuts, one thing remains true: blowing up in 2020, like doing literally anything else cool in 2020, was bittersweet. And bittersweet or not, all five artists are still celebrating what they can of the most unconventional breakthrough year in the history of modern music. Spotify provided some data highlights and we spoke to each artist to hear how they coped.

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