Olivia Rodrigo, “Drivers License”
The 17-year-old star of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series has launched her major label career with the type of debut single that aspiring artists dream of: “Drivers License” is a taut power ballad and soon-to-be smash, with Rodrigo nailing both the fragility and heightened emotion of heartbreak. The range that Rodrigo displays on the track, oscillating between the stomp-clap harmonies of the crescendo and the choked-up balladry of the bridge, hints at a promising future following this red-hot start.
Two Feet, “Fire”
The Brooklyn artist-producer follows up 2020's “Think I’m Crazy” with a touch of pretty moodiness that bares teeth on the hook. “Fire” swirls, rises and doesn’t overstay its welcome; it’s the type of track that could spend a lot of 2021 receiving spins on alternative radio.
Charlotte Lawrence, “Talk You Down”
Although the calendar has flipped over to a new year, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and a stressful moment in history. Charlotte Lawrence understands this, and on “Talk You Down,” the pop artist displays her own anxieties while championing the need for open communication within a couple of beguiling hooks.
Thank You Thank You, “K P”
Thank You Thank You mastermind Tyler Bussey cites Broken Social Scene as an influence on his latest musical project, specifically how the outfit can expand and contract contributors. “K P,” the standout on new EP Next To Nothing, harkens back to the shaggy beauty of BSS classic You Forgot It In People, but also includes an idiosyncratic pop lean that plays well alongside the spiraling guitars.
Ryan Mack, “She Wins, I Lose”
Irish artist Ryan Mack has continued a string of winning singles with “She Wins, I Lose,” a charming shot at a wider audience that sounds beamed-in from the sunny singer-songwriter pop boom in the mid-00s. After releasing his Someone Else EP in 2019, Mack has started 2021 on a high note.
Catie Turner, "Play God"
We’re voting for American Idol alum Catie Turner, who has spent the last few years honing her sound and songwriting. Her first offering after finalizing a deal with Atlantic Records in December is the deceptively upbeat “Play God,” which is about trying to get over lingering feelings for an old flame.
Kris Bowers, “Strange (feat. Hillary Smith)”
Even if you don't care about the Netflix smash Bridgerton, you should care about its stunning score, which includes orchestral covers of hits like Ariana Grande's "Thank U, Next" and Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy." Composer Kris Bowers' take on Celeste's "Strange (feat. Hillary Smith)," which soundtracks the scene where Daphne and Simon make love for the first time, is simply breathtaking.
London Grammar, "Lose Your Head"
Hannah Reid's ethereal vocals are always a welcome sound, and "Lose Your Head" -- the most promising cut thus far from London Grammar's upcoming third album Californian Soil -- sees her reach hypnotic new heights. Also, the color palette in that music video!
Aaron Frazer, "Can't Leave It Alone"
Drummer and singer Aaron Frazer's first solo album Introducing… was ushered into the world with help from Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach, who served as producer and co-writer. Frazer's falsetto on the bluesy "Can't Leave It Alone" is just begging to be heard on the most quality turntable you can find.
South Korean girl group (G)I-dle's fourth EP I Burn consists of a tight six tracks, but if you only have three minutes to spare, consider escaping into the riveting garden that is "Dahlia,” where Miyeon, Minnie, Soojin, Soyeon, Yuqi and Shuhua sing about a love that can't be tainted by outsider critics.