Whether or not you’re ready for it, 2018 is here, and with the new year comes the chance for new talent to make a splash. From Norway to Atlanta, these are the artists we’re expecting to make a big impact in the pop world in 2018.
MAX’s breakout 2017 hit “Lights Down Low” not only entered the Hot 100, but it got him married (it was the song he proposed to his now-wife with). It’s easy to see why she said yes: That song is the strangely successful ‘sexy folk jam,’ toeing the line between confessional acoustic and pop soundscapes. Most importantly, his expressive vocals emote deep love and of-the-moment seduction at the same time, a trick most can’t pull off.
Yes, the Pharrell co-sign helped Maggie Rogers’ career, but her effortless, impeccable songcraft and detailed production work are truly the best weapons in her arsenal. Stunning folk-tinged electronic bops like “Alaska” and hypnotic, sample-heavy tracks such as “On + Off” are tantalizing previews of a 23-year-old talent who’s just coming into her own.
One of Norway’s most reliable exports is pop music, and Dagny is one of the most promising singers to make a Stateside splash in recent memory. Aside from delivering a fun update on the underappreciated disco classic “More More More” in 2017, the 27 year old gave us her own Bleachers-esque “Love You Like That” -- a throbbing, heart-pumping anthem that demonstrates, to quote the chorus, she’s “got the real thing.”
It’s the 2010s, so naturally a list of 10 Pop Stars to Watch is going to include not one but two pop singers from Norway. Aside from Dagny, Sigrid is budding talent who has just revealed the tip of her talent so far. Her moody, pulsating synth-pop is the kind of music that can appeal equally to dancefloor denizens and laptop listeners. “Strangers” is an undeniable low-key banger that shows off her ability to go from a restrained coo to a rapid-fire sing-speak without sounding out of her element for one nanosecond.
With an idiosyncratic voice that sounds like a cross between Amy Winehouse and Macy Gray, Jessie Reyez made Stateside waves with her gently insistent “Figures” and seems to be on course for a breakthrough 2018. Like fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Alessia Cara, Reyez’s delivery and lyrics boast a no-bullshit directness that grabs you immediately -- certainly enough that Calvin Harris made her the only non-superstar feature on his celebrity-laden Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 album.
The 25-year-old German pop singer is budding master of laid-back, summery bops that sound like they come from Katy Perry’s cool European cousin -- just check out “Faded,” one of 2017’s best under-the-radar pop songs. While some have accused her of being problematic for working with Dr. Luke, it’s hard not to root for a confident, bubbly transgender singer who sounds like she’s having the time of her life every time she gets behind the mic.
As his standout track “Daddy” demonstrates, electro-tinged R&B crooner Sakima isn’t afraid to make queerness -- particularly queer sexuality -- part of his music, which is refreshing in a world where most gay male pop stars still shy away from using male pronouns. Of course, that’s not why you should listen to him: His masterful knack for crooning an emotionally nuanced, sensual pop&B jam is undeniable, and each aching late-night anthem leaves you wanting more.
Considering she’s an 18-year-old whose nascent career traces back to a Justin Bieber tweet, you can be forgiven for sleeping on Madison Beer -- but 2018 should be the year that ends. Beer is a versatile, strong vocalist who’s as at home singing Shawn Mendes-esque strummers (“Say It To My Face”) as she is delivering seductive, gooey late night R&B numbers (check out the irresistible “Dead,” which asks the question cynical romantics have been pondering for centuries -- “if you say you can’t live without me, then why aren’t you dead yet?”).
True to her name, VERITE has a penchant for emotional honesty. And like Lorde before her, it’s not hard to see the Brooklyn alt-pop singer expanding beyond indie kid appreciation and into mainstream success with the right pairing -- her moody, synth-y covers of The 1975’s “Somebody Else” and Sufjan Stevens’ “John My Beloved” are gorgeous, and standouts like “Nothing” and “Phase Me Out” from 2017’s Somewhere In Between make the case that she should be on any DJ/producer’s speed dial.
There’s no shortage of exciting music coming out of Atlanta, but even so, Kodie Shane stands out: There are few 19-year-old rapper/singers who sound like they breathe music this easily, and her fresh-yet-familiar blend of trap, pop and R&B makes it seem she’s just one inescapable hit away from being the next Fetty Wap.