“Here” was our first introduction to Alessia Cara, and the introverted-stoner anthem was as bullshit-free as debut records come. Over the course of her debut EP and LP, she never quite reaches the heights of her great debut single, but with “Here” she’ll always have a place to rest her head.
Sample-based electronic artist Dylan Stark released Heartland in the spring to minimal fanfare, but those who stuck around to hear Stark’s debut LP were rewarded with electronic music that carried with it a pulse.
I warned you about Fetty Wap. The Patterson, NJ artist joins the Weeknd, Adele and Justin Bieber as the year’s biggest musical winners. From “Trap Queen” to “679,” Fetty Wap had radio lapping up his every move. His huge success in 2015 recalled the heyday of R&B and rap consuming the mainstream, and after years of being relegated to the margins, those genres made big moves these past twelve months. Was Fetty Wap before or after the cart? Either way, 2015 will always be remembered as the year we fell in love with Fetty Wap.
While seemingly a blessing, being a collaborator of Kendrick Lamar’s could be a detriment. Lamar’s visionary outlook on To Pimp a Butterfly set a benchmark for music to try to pass over in 2015. It must have been obvious to his group of collaborators that whatever else they would put out in 2015 would undoubtedly be compared to Lamar’s excellent work. Perhaps the only way to not be overshadowed by such an accomplished piece of work is to title your own project The Epic and have that album feature three sides, and its first three songs getting you through and episode and a half of Nathan For You. That’s precisely what Kamasi Washington did in 2015, creating an album epic in scope that helped bring jazz into the 21st century.
It wouldn’t be hard to overlook Leon Bridges’ debut album, Coming Home. It is a decidedly retro-soul album, begging listeners to yearn for those great old Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson records. From “Lisa Sawyer” to “River” to “Coming Home,” Bridges sounds as comfortable reliving the past as he does living in the present. Put together, it makes for a compelling future for the budding talent.
Working under Matthew E. White’s Spacebomb imprint, Natalie Prass showcases her beautiful vocals against a lush, velvety soundscape that is as cinematic as it is authentic.
No one understood the inherent playfulness (and ultimately, how fun) making music can be in 2015 than Rae Sremmurd. “This Could Be Us” is as great an entry point as “No Flex Zone,” and it features the duo as carefree (not careless) as we’ve heard them.
“On The Regular” showed that Shamir was not your ordinary singer-songwriter. Operating in a lane fully his own, Shamir put 2015 on notice with his excellent debut Ratchet. The album is chock-full of songs that would be hits if not for the DIY-charm that emanates the recordings. It’s hard to find an artist in 2015 with as much personality as this one.
Armed with a crucial Max Martin cosign, Tori Kelly’s Unbreakable Smile should have been the year’s biggest breakthrough pop record. “Should’ve Been Us” and “Nobody Love” were as great as pop music got in 2015, yet both singles stalled within the top 20 on pop radio. Kelly is gifted with powerful vocals, yet she doesn’t allow her strength to overwhelm her top 40 fodder. “Love” and “Us” give us glimpses of Kelly’s vocal strengths, yet both are smart enough to give the listeners what they want without giving up everything.
Check out playlist featuring all of 2015’s best new artists below, via Spotify.