In some ways, 2022 felt like one of the most unpredictable years for music in recent memory. Sure, there were some obvious bets: Kendrick would drop a universally acclaimed album, Taylor would dominate the charts, Beyoncé and Drake would own the attention of the world. But outside of the elite class of superstars, everything is up in the air. Who would’ve thought that Steve Lacy would land the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 or that Yung Lean would end up with the most popular song on TikTok?
And then on the ground level of emerging artists and aspiring at-home musicians, it’s an absolute free-for-all. Fans are segmented into ultra-niche pockets scattered across the internet and the world, and it seems as if, at any given moment, some bedroom producer in Idaho could create a new subgenre of a subgenre and wind up with a billion streams in a week.
The unpredictability of it all is exciting, but it can also be frustrating. With over 100,000 songs released on DSPs every day, it can feel impossible to filter through it all, so most fans are left relying on algorithms and leaving music discovery up to computer calculations and chance. And for artists, it’s disheartening to put in years of work in exchange for a modest following, then to see some newcomer with a solid demo and a knack for 15-second videos getting all the opportunities this industry can offer.
But that’s the music world in 2023, and it could be worse. In addition to witnessing Steve Lacy’s rise to fame and Yung Lean’s unlikely TikTok explosion, we get an endless supply of new artists with unlimited potential, and they’ve got more tools at their disposal than any other time in history. The instant hits will come and go with greater speed and numbers than ever, but in the long run, the really great artists will leave a lasting mark, whether it happens overnight or not.
Here are some artists we hope will do just that.
When you’re done, revisit 2022’s Artists to Watch list featuring Paris Texas, Bakar, PinkPantheress, SoFaygo, Wallice, SSGKobe, Terry Presume, Yeat, Dora Jar, and more here.