The San Diego-raised singer-songwriter appeared seemingly out of nowhere last June with "OctaHate," a remarkably catchy pop single that gathered 2.6 million Soundcloud plays and piqued the blogosphere's curiosity. When "OctaHate" was released, Weaver was only partly unknown: she had already worked with Top 40 maestro Benny Blanco, Passion Pit mastermind Michael Angelakos and rising dance producer Cashmere Cat, who all had a hand in her debut EP, Promises. Weaver is friends with Jessie Ware, working on top-secret songwriting projects with Charli XCX and readying a hotly anticipated debut album for the top half of 2015. "Where she was lyrically on the EP, and where's going to be on the LP, I think it's really going to impress people," Angelakos told Billboard in October. If there's anything on the album close to the soaring heights of "OctaHate," the project will be extremely hard to hate.
One of the stars of Atlanta's new class of hip-hop renaissance men alongside ILoveMakonnen and OG Maco, Raury was turning heads before graduating high school and gained a devoted following with the release of his first independent album, Indigo Child. Singles like "God's Whisper" have earned co-signs by Lorde, who asked him to contribute to the Hunger Games: Mockingjay soundtrack, and Andre 3000, who had Raury open for Outkast at one of their Atlanta homecoming show in September. With a forward-thinking approach and a ton of confidence ("I'm going to say it, I'm going to be one of the greatest lyricists out here," he told Billboard in March), Raury will get a leg up in 2015 through a fresh Columbia Records deal and (hopefully) deliver an eclectic major-label debut.
London noise-rockers Wolf Alice dropped one of the most compelling EPs of 2014 with Creature Songs, a four-song collection that showcased the group's snarling sound and Ellie Rowsell's reverberating vocals; imagine a modern-day Hole or a slightly less heavy Savages, and you'll understand the grungy appeal of this quartet. Wolf Alice will open 2015 with a bang, as the group, which made BBC's Sound of 2015 long list, will open for Alt-J at London's O2 Arena in January before heading over to New York for a pair of shows. If the band's debut album, slated for sometime in 2015, can match the fury of their previous releases, Wolf Alice could be the hot rock group of the year.
Up until about a month ago, ZHU was a complete unknown, a dance producer who wished to remain anonymous while the EDM world pored over his whereabouts. When Steven Zhu finally performed for the first time at HARD Day of the Dead in November, ZHU had already notched a genre smash in "Faded," a slinky groove that has earned over 20 million YouTube views since March; soon after, the producer scored a best dance recording Grammy nomination for the song. "Faded" fits into the downbeat dance trend currently dominating the scene -- the single could slide in on radio next to Mr. Probz's "Waves," David Guetta's "Dangerous" or Lillywood & Robin Schulz's "Prayer In C" -- and although ZHU is not a festival superstar yet, chances are good that he will be by year's end.
At only 15 years old, Bea Miller has already accomplished more than most artists twice her age: after lending her voice to films like Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Toy Story 3, the New Jersey native placed as a finalist on the U.S. X Factor in 2012, signed a deal with Hollywood Records, opened for Demi Lovato on tour and accrued half a million Twitter followers. 2015 is the year Miller follows through with her musical aspirations and releases the debut album she has had finished for quite some time; if the 2014 Young Blood EP is any indication, Miller's first full-length will feature Kelly Clarkson-esque pop-rock with huge hooks and unflinching emotion. With artists like Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus recently leaving the Disney-owned Hollywood Records, a fresh crop of teen stars is ready to emerge, and Miller is the best bet from the new class.
If 2014 was all about that bass, then Tink wants to reset the focus. Not since Lauryn Hill has a female rapper/singer so deftly rewired the conventions of hip-hop, pairing thought-provoking rhymes with music that boldly tempers its sonic boundaries. Over the past few years, the 19-year-old has been feeding the hype machine with album-quality mixtapes (Alter Ego, Winter's Diary 2) that made her a marquee star in her native Chicago. But it wasn't until her wave crashed into super-producer Timbaland that she graduated to the next level. After releasing snippets of collaborative tracks like "Dinero," she signed to Epic Records in October via Tim's Mosley Music Group, soon earning accolades from Justin Timberlake and Missy Elliott. Only recently did she firm her grip on the greater listening public. In November, Tim released an alternate version of Jay Z and Rick Ross' "Movin' Bass" that featured Tink, making #thinktink a trending topic. Her official debut single "Ratchet Commandments" arrives later this month and her Timbaland-produced major label debut will follow soon after, but this is only the beginning for rap music's most voracious new voice. -- Steven J. Horowitz
Two years after Ella Henderson finished in sixth place on the U.K. X Factor and was signed by Simon Cowell's SYCO label, her single "Ghost" debuted at No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart in June 2014, and became a hit in Belgium, Germany and Australia soon after. For Henderson, turning "Ghost" and debut album Chapter One (due out in the States on Jan. 13 through Columbia) into U.S. hits would represent a major achievement, but is not the be-all and end-all of her career. "When a U.K. artist attempts to come to America, it's always like, 'Oh, are they gonna crack it or not?,' and you can feel that pressure," says Henderson, who has performed on Good Morning America, The TODAY Show and Ellen in recent months. "With me, I'm taking my time and enjoying it, because I'm only 18 years old … I'm gonna treat it like a marathon, not a sprint." As for the Adele comparisons that "Ghost," which was co-written by Ryan Tedder, has garnered the 18-year-old, Henderson says, "It's the biggest compliment in the world! I'm not here to step on anybody's toes, and I'm not here to be Adele. But of course I admire her for her work … To get compared to someone like that, I could only dream of having half her success."
Over the course of 10 years and four albums, Arcade Fire has transitioned from playing tiny club shows to becoming a festival-topping, arena-rocking behemoth… and Will Butler, the group's resident multi-instrumentalist, is ready to go back to square one as a solo artist. Policy, Butler's debut album, is due out Mar. 10, and lead track "Take My Side" hints at a sinewy guitar sound that simplifies Arcade Fire's electro-rock extravagance and introduces a voice that had been hidden behind Butler's brother/Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler. With a bunch of South By Southwest performances locked and loaded, and a headlining tour across North America this spring, Butler hopes to step out of the shadows and show off an album he recorded in two weeks' time while Arcade Fire takes a breather.
Maddie + Tae
Peaking in the Top 5 of the Hot Country Songs chart, "Girl in a Country Song" served as both an undeniable breakout moment for Madison "Maddie" Marlow and Taylor "Tae" Dye, as well as a response to the bro-country trend that relegates females in the genre to video vixens and pinup models. Maddie & Tae -- two teenagers, one from Texas and the other from Oklahoma -- made major waves in the country community with "Girl in a Country Song," and appeared on the TODAY Show and the Late Show with David Letterman. Next up is a full-length debut, which follows a self-titled EP that came out in November, and a follow-up single, the bittersweet "Fly," that was featured on the four-song release. Expect a continued push for the young duo by Dot Records, a classic country label recently revived by Big Machine Records.
"Yes yes I'm the best, fuck what you heard/Anything less is obviously absurd," Shamir Bailey innocently spits in the first verse of wall-rattling single "On The Regular." It's a cocky conclusion, but "On The Regular" and the rest of Shamir's modest output suggest that the Las Vegas singer-songwriter knows what he's talking about. Combining house, funk, hip-hop and techno with a gentle delivery and a indefatigable grin, Shamir was scooped up by the prestigious XL Recordings in 2014 and was a big winner of last fall's CMJ Music Marathon festival in New York. Debut EP Northtown caused a fair amount of Internet buzz, and a proper full-length could break Shamir to the masses in 2015.