Text and reporting by Justino Aguila, Jon Blistein, Leila Cobo, Jason Lipshutz, Devon Maloney, Kerri Mason, Benjamin Meadows-Ingram, Gail Mitchell, Deborah Evans-Price
2012's Biggest Debuts
Meet 17 New Artists Whose Time is Now
Jacob Latimore | "All of Me" Date: early 2012 Twitter:@jacoblatimore Genre: R&B
Fifteen-year-old Jacob Latimore is a singer/dancer/actor who first appeared on Billboard's R&B/hip-hop charts in 2007 with viral single "Superstar" (released by Crown World/Face2Face, the track peaked at No. 84) and whose RCA debut is slated for early 2012. The Teddy Riley-produced radio version of first single "Like 'Em All" (featuring Issa) has sold 76,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and peaked at No. 55 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs last year. It was preceded last February by a version featuring Diggy Simmons that peaked in the top five at Radio Disney.
Giovanna Pessi | "If Grief Could Wait" Date: Feb. 7 Genre: jazz
Swiss harpist Giovanna Pessi, whose previous recordings have been with baroque and contemporary music ensembles, blends the folk music of Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake and collaborator Susanna Wallumrod with 17th-century pieces by Henry Purcell on her solo debut, "If Grief Could Wait," arriving Feb. 7 on ECM. Produced by Manfred Eicher and recorded in Lugano, Switzerland, the album uses early-music instrumentation of harp, viola da gamba and nyckelharpa to complement Wallumrod's understated vocals. Pessi met Wallumrod while recording with Wallumrod's brother Christian in 2006, which led to Pessi playing harp on Susanna's Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos. Eicher then asked Pessi to deliver a proposal for an ECM album, prompting a year of rehearsing before the project expanded to a quartet. Wallumrod, a Norwegian, has performed as Susanna & the Magical Orchestra since 2000.
Meek Mill | TBA Date: spring Twitter:@meekmill Genre: hip-hop
Maybach Music Group, Rick Ross' imprint on Warner Bros. Records, scored big in November when Wale's sophomore album, "Ambition," debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Next up for MMG is the proper debut from Meek Mill, a star on the Philadelphia mixtape scene who broke out in 2011 with "Ima Boss," the scorching street anthem that appeared on "Maybach Music Group Presents: Self Made Vol. 1" and peaked at No. 20 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs tally. Warner Bros. executive VP/head of urban music Joie Manda says that Mill has completed four songs for his still-untitled debut, which is due in the spring, and that, like "Ambition, "will be executive-produced by Ross. "You're going to get those high-energy club records, and you're also going to get a few introspective records . . . He wants to describe who he is and his story about where he comes from," Manda says, adding that Mill is planning on a headlining tour in 2012.
Fun. | "Some Nights" Date: Feb. 21 Twitter:@ournameisfun Genre: pop
With a baroque pop sound that recalls Queen and a youthful exuberance that's in tune with its new label, Fueled by Ramen, New York-based band Fun. is just that. Almost three years after releasing its first LP, the group will make its major-label debut when new album "Some Nights" arrives Feb. 21. The set, produced by Kanye West collaborator Jeff Bhasker - who "gave the album the shot in the arm I was hoping it would have," fun. frontman Nate Ruess says-showcases the act's growth into a band able to channel its massive sound and singalong choruses into concise tracks. "Sometimes we felt the need to go overboard," Ruess adds, "and then we realized we wanted everything to be heard."
Dustin Lynch | TBA Date: TBA Twitter:@dustinlynch Genre: country
Broken Bow Records newcomer Dustin Lynch honed his songwriting skills penning more than 200 songs in less than two years. The Tullahoma, Tenn., native earned the respect of Music Row's songwriting elite and his collaborators include Dallas Davidson ("Just a Kiss"), Tim Nichols ("Live Like You Were Dying") and Casey Beathard. His debut single, "Cowboys and Angels," is gaining traction at country radio and he's a savvy social media operative: He documents his travels on his radio-tour Tumblr ( dlradiotour.tumblr.com) and connects with fans through his weekly YouTube Web series, "Tuesdays on the DL." On Jan. 17, Country Weekly will launch CW on the DL, featuring a new song from Lynch and a webisode each week leading up to street date.
Feed Me | TBA Date: mid-year Twitter:@feedme Genre: dance
In addition to being respected drum'n'bass producer Spor, U.K.-born Jon Gooch is also feed me, a toxic green, rectangle-shaped cartoon monster with a fang-filled Cheshire grin who just happens to produce song-based electro-house. An animated character fronting a dance music project? Just tell Feed Me's label boss Deadmau5 that it's crazy. A full album on Mau5trap, and a headlining North American tour-heavy with visuals and effects, supports TBA-are planned for midyear.
Nena Guzman | "Te Declaro La Guerra/I Declare War on You" Date: Feb. 28 Twitter:@nena_guzman1 Genre: latin
Downey, Calif.-based Del Records founder Angel Del Villar discovered Mexican-born Nena Guzman last year after seeing her belt out heartfelt corridos and romantic ballads online. On Feb. 28, Del Records/Sony will release her debut, "Te Declaro La Guerra/I Declare War on You." Produced by regional Mexican music vets Giovanni Cabrera and Daniel Niebla, the project will mark the 21-year-old Guzman, who has already racked up 2 million-plus YouTube views, as one of the youngest artists in her genre to emerge with a strong fan base.
For King & Country | "Crave" Date: Feb. 28 Twitter:@4kingandcountry Genre: Christian
Boasting a vibrant pop/rock sound that echoes a mix of influences ranging from Coldplay and Amy Grant to Aqualung, For King & Country bows Feb. 28 with its Fervent Records debut, "Crave." Born in Sydney, siblings Joel and Luke Smallbone moved to Nashville during elementary school when their concert promoter father relocated the family. "We are opposites, but we really function well together," Joel says of the brothers' dynamic. The duo's first single, "Busted Heart (Hold On to Me)" is climbing Billboard's Christian Songs chart. Album cuts "People Change" and "Love's to Blame" have aired on the CW show "Vampire Diaries," and the song "Light It Up" was tapped for Lifetime's "Drop Dead Diva." The brothers will kick off 2012 joining Skillet, Sanctus Real and other acts on the Winter Jam tour.
Brad Oberhofer | TBA Date: March 15 Twitter:@oberhofermusic Genre: independent, pop
Before Glassnote Records signed him last summer, one-man band Brad Oberhofer already had a sizable fan base. A former student at New York University, the Tacoma, Wash., native spent years performing in Manhattan and Brooklyn at established and DIY venues alike, and today, within many online and local indie circles, Oberhofer is already a household name. Now with Glassnote onboard, the artist has been able to fully realize what he has called a two-year-long "labor of love." The result? A sparkly pop debut, due March 15, that fits well beside works by labelmate Phoenix. As for what to expect from it, Glassnote CEO Daniel Glass suggests the tracks will be best-digested on the move. "We were driving in California recently," he says, "and we just blasted it, over and over."