The Year in Tomorrow’s Hits: Hozier, MAGIC!, Bobby Shmurda, Meghan Trainor & More
A look back at 14 breakout acts of 2014 whose chart action Billboard heralded early on.
What do acts like Hozier, MAGIC!, Bobby Shmurda, Tove Lo and Meghan Trainor have in common? Were they all all about that bass? Perhaps, although we can only confirm one.
More to the point, all these newcomers stormed the Billboard Hot 100’s top 10 in 2014 … and long before they became chart fixtures, Billboard covered them first in our weekly “Tomorrow’s Hits” spotlight.
As 2014 wraps, here’s a look back at 14 acts that you first read about in “Tomorrow’s Hits.” Their lofty achievements reinforce that the feature has become a valuable, and dependable, gauge of eventual chart success.
What we said on Feb. 8:
Having grown its fanbase through incessant touring – including a key opening slot for Linkin Park in South Africa in 2012 – sibling quintet Kongos make its Billboard chart debut, as “Come With Me Now” soars onto Alternative Songs at No. 32. The band plays the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Del., in June.
“Now” topped Alternative Songs for five weeks and is the No. 10 track of the year on Hot Rock Songs. “When it didn’t seem like things were getting going, we really lost heart. We were ready to move on to new material,” said Jesse Kongos in March. “We’re just happy we’re finally getting recognition.”
What we said on March 1:
Singer/songwriter Sam Hunt’s debut single “Raised On It” simmers beneath the Country Airplay chart, but music was Hunt’s second career choice. He was a star football player at Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Although he signed with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, he ultimately found success as a songwriter, co-penning Kenny Chesney’s “Come Over,” Billy Currington’s “We Are Tonight” and Keith Urban’s new “Cop Car.”
“Raised” ultimately fell shy of Country Airplay, but, in June, “Leave the Night On” became his debut entry. It topped the Nov. 15 tally. “I’ve really realized how powerful country radio is this summer,” Hunt reflected in October. “People all over the country have heard ‘Night’ and you can really tell at the live shows. People are coming out and singing it … enthusiastically.”
What we said on March 8:
After drawing notice last fall with his video for “Take Me to Church” (1.8 million views and counting), Irish singer/songwriter Hozier (real name: Andrew Hozier-Byrne) is now flirting with a debut on Billboard‘s Adult Alternative Songs chart. Hozier will make his live U.S. debut on March 10 at the Slipper Room in New York and play SXSW in Austin, Texas, on March 14.
“Church” has been the Hot 100’s No. 2 song for three weeks running and become an anthem for religious freedom, while Taylor Swift and OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder have professed their fandom. “When I heard ‘Church,’ I was like, ‘You got to be kidding me,’ ” Tedder said in March. “This dude can outsing anybody.”
What we said on March 15:
Manchester, U.K., boy band Rixton makes waves stateside with “Me and My Broken Heart,” its reggae-tinged pop track. The quartet has grown its following via numerous YouTube covers and last year’s original single “Make Out.”
“Heart” reached No. 6 on Pop Songs – besting the No. 9 peak of the track on which it’s based, Rob Thomas’ “Lonely No More” (2005). “We’ve been a huge fan of his, so we took a lot of inspiration from him and wanted to give him a tip of the hat,” lead singer Jake Roche said in April of Thomas, who was reportedly “flattered” by the tribute.
What we said on March 22:
One of Europe’s biggest recent hits is on the prowl here, as Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be,” featuring Jess Glynne, jumps 23-18 on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs. The song, which recalls early ’90s pop/dance jams by the likes of Cathy Dennis and Crystal Waters, topped the Official U.K. Singles chart for four weeks beginning with the Feb. 8 tally.
American audiences were likewise enthralled, as the single ruled Hot Dance/Electronic Songs for three weeks in November. “We try not to see boundaries between genres,” Clean Bandit multi-instrumentalist Jack Patterson said in June of the track, which mixes dance beats with classical strings. “We believe you can just do whatever you want.”
Nico & Vinz
What we said on April 12:
After scoring success with its single “Am I Wrong” in Europe, Norwegian duo Nico & Vinz (Nico Sereba and Vincent Dery; formerly known as Envy) is breaking through in the U.S. The melodic cut bullets at No. 37 on the Adult Pop Songs chart.
“Wrong” reigned on Adult Contemporary for five weeks, Adult Pop Songs for three and Pop Songs for two, while reaching No. 4 on the Hot 100. Follow-up “In Your Arms” scaled the Pop Songs and Adult Pop Songs top 25. In their early days, “We would write these hooks and be like, ‘Wouldn’t it be dope if we got R. Kelly or some big star to sing this?’ ” Dery said in June. “But yeah … R. Kelly wasn’t coming to Norway.”
What we said on April 26:
Canadian reggae/pop quartet MAGIC! is crossing to U.S. pop radio with the sunny, summery “Rude.” The song has scored success in the group’s home country, as well as Australia and New Zealand. Aiding the band’s profile: a recent appearance at South by Southwest and a featured turn on Shakira’s new album on the set’s “Cut Me Deep.”
“Rude” ruled the Hot 100 for six weeks beginning in July and is the year’s No. 7 song. “We were just like, ‘Let’s start a band that sounds kind of like the Police and the Wailers,’ ” MAGIC! guitarist Mark Pellizzer recalled in July.
What we said on May 24:
Tove Lo makes her first appearances on Billboard airplay charts as a lead artist, as the hypnotic “Habits (Stay High)” enters Rock Airplay (No. 34) and Alternative Songs (No. 36). The track reached the U.K. top 10 earlier this month.
What started as a rock radio hit took over pop airwaves, crowning Pop Songs for two weeks and soaring to No. 3 on the Hot 100. It also led to Tove Lo landing a spot opening for Katy Perry on her Prismatic World Tour. “It’s hard for me to talk or sing about it without any filter,” the Swedish singer/songwriter said in March of the breakup that inspired the song. “At first I didn’t want to write something bad. But, when it was all over, being in that state of mind … I need to use that when I write. I can’t not.”
What we said on June 21:
“Stolen Dance,” the debut single from German duo Milky Chance, aka vocalist Clemens Rehbeinand and DJ Philipp Dausch, debuts on Hot Rock Songs at No. 36. Available for more than a year, the folk/pop/electronic mélange has already won over international audiences, reaching No. 1 in Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland and France.
The track led Alternative Songs for 10 weeks and, just last week, reached the Hot 100’s top 40 in its 22nd frame. How are the twosome’s members celebrating? Not in the way you might think. As they recently revealed, “We don’t like the taste of beer.”
What we said on July 5:
Kiesza has gone from code breaker for the Royal Canadian Navy (yes, really) to breaking on Billboard charts with “Hideaway.” The 25-year-old’s early-’90s-inspired house track hits the top 10 on Dance Club Songs and the top 15 on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs and is bubbling under at pop radio. The cut sailed to No. 1 on the Official U.K. Singles chart in May, with its success surely fueled in part by its eye-catching one-take music video.
The cut reached Nos. 5 and 7 on the above charts, respectively, and crossed to the top 20 on Pop Songs. As for her naval dreams? The thought of training a weapon on a human being torpedoed them. “It’s fun when you’re a kid to try to shoot a target,” Kiesza said in October. “But, then reality sets in and it’s not a pretty business.”
What we said on July 26:
Meghan Trainor makes her Hot 100 entrance at No. 84 with her catchy, doo-wop throwback single “All About That Bass.” The song from the 20-year-old Massachusetts native (more specifically, the island of Nantucket) emphasizes positive body image, with its celebratory lyric, “It’s pretty clear I ain’t no size two / But I can shake it, shake it like I’m supposed to do!”
The track topped the Hot 100 for eight weeks – keeping Swift’s “Shake It Off” at No. 2 – and became a pop culture phenomenon (even prompting NASA’s cover, “All About That Space”). Follow-up “Lips Are Movin” has hit No. 4 on the Hot 100 so far. Said Trainor in July of “Bass,” “I remember when [Kevin Kadish and I] pitched it as songwriters, everyone was like, ‘The chorus isn’t a big chorus.’ You know how every pop song has that huge chorus? We were like, ‘No, that’s the catchiest part of the song! That’s our chorus and we don’t want to change it.’ So we kept it, and that’s everyone’s favorite part.”
What we said on Aug. 2:
Twenty-year-old Brooklyn native Bobby Shmurda is heating up with “Hot Boy.” The song rises 4-1 on the Billboard + Twitter Emerging Artists chart thanks to sharing activity spurred by its infectious accompanying “Shmoney Dance.” Shmurda’s moves in the song’s official video have caused such viral buzz that Jay Z and Beyonce have even given it a nod on their On the Run Tour.
“Hot Boy” hit No. 6 on the Hot 100 and topped Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for two weeks. “I’m doing this ’til I die,” Shmurda said of his music in August. “I’m going out like Michael Jackson.”
What we said on Sept. 13:
After Ryan Tedder named George Ezra’s “Budapest” his personal song of the summer (“It doesn’t sound like anything else out,” Billboard, Aug. 23) the track is bubbling under at adult alternative radio. It first became a hit throughout Europe and in Australia and New Zealand.
Tedder isn’t alone: “Budapest” has led Adult Alternative Songs for six weeks and counting. “I used to hate having to call myself a singer/songwriter,” Ezra said this month. “Because I picture what I saw so much of at open mic nights: that breed of melancholic folk, kind of shut-your-eyes, strum-your-guitar and everything-is-said-for-you, one cliché after the other. “I realized it wasn’t me. I’m really quite a happy guy. I needed some rhythm and energy. And, when I started writing for myself and putting in the bluesy licks, that’s when it became exciting. And, that’s when people started getting interested.”
Lillywood & Robin Schulz
What we said on Oct. 18:
French duo Lillywood and German DJ Robin Schulz’s hypnotic “Prayer in C” is beginning its rise stateside after topping charts in 15 countries, including the Official U.K. Singles chart for two weeks in September. First released by the former in 2010, Schulz’s remix has spurred its global growth. The track enters its first domestic airplay chart, starting on Dance/Mix Show Airplay at No. 25.
The track, whose beat belies its darker lyrics, is still on the way up, now at No. 7 on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs. It’s also No. 24 on Pop Songs. “The music is easy to listen to and like,” Lillywood vocalist Nili Hadida mused in October. “[Partner] Ben [Cotto] symbolizes the happy side of our music. I’m not a very happy person. I’m not very good at life. It’s funny because our songs always sound happy, then you listen to the lyrics and it’s like, ‘Oh my God, this girl is really depressed.’ “
Reporting by Keith Caulfield, William Gruger, Wade Jessen, Amaya Mendizabal, Gordon Murray, Gary Trust and Emily White of the Billboard charts department