21 Awesome Artists to Watch in 2021

Who’s going to top the music charts or get a career peak in 2021? We have absolutely no idea, but here’s a humble guess and a playlist of talented female artists to watch this year.

Bree Runway by Lusha Alic
Bree Runway by Lusha Alic

Hey there! You’ve heard of #DryJanuary, right? Well, we’re switching it up and celebrating #TryJanuary – a month to dig deeper into some of the amazing creations that girls and womxn are putting into the world! Each week we’ll feature a different universe for you to explore, and today’s is music. Try adding a few of these incredible artists to your favorite playlists – you’ll be happy you did!

The last miserable year taught us a lot things – and one of them is that music never lets us down. So who’s going to be the next generation of artists keeping our heads up when things are shit? When all we wanna do is dance? When we feel like crying? When we wanna empower ourselves? When we just wanna feel good?

We’ve tried our best to follow what’s happening in music around the world and narrowed a field of so many amazing new acts down to 21 artists we really believe have the potential to make people talk in 2021.

One thing that’s really present in the landscape of popular music right now is that genres are more fluid than ever. Our brain likes to put things in boxes – especially the things we hear so we know if we like it or not. But 2021 seems to be a year where we keep challenging that and make our brain muscles work a little bit harder. That’s probably healthy. We hope you’ll find joy in these 21 acts as much as we do. Please take a moment to check out the rest of the amazing artists added to this playlist of music to kick off 2021 with, since obviously there’re way more than 21 women in music who’s going to make an impact this coming year.

ASHWARYA

From: Born in India. Based in Melbourne, Australia.
Why? The Australian music scene has gifted us with a bunch of great talents lately, and ASHWARYA has the potential to be the next Aussie to blow up. She already gained attention from several acclaimed medias when she released her debut track “PSYCHO HOLE” in the summer of 2020: An energetic melting pot of pop influences from different corners of the world. From Billie Eilish’ dark and minimalistic productions to the Bollywood music she grew up listening to (which is even more present in her follow-up single “BIRYANI”). ASHWARYA still has a quite limited amount of songs out but they all show different sides of a young artist who knows what she’s doing and which direction she’s going, though we have a feeling that she’ll never tell us. ASHWARYA seems like an artist who wants to surprise with every step she takes. But who doesn’t like a bit of unpredictability in pop music?

Audrey Nuna

From: New Jersey, US.
Why?
The Korean-American artist, previously known as Audrey, was discovered by Roc Nation producer Anwar Sawyer at the tender age of 16, and she’s been releasing singles since 2018. In 2020, she added ‘Nuna’ to her stage name (Korean for “older sister”) and it feels like the beginning of a new era for the rising star who is so smoothly blending soulful R&B with sassy hip hop and trap influences making it absolutely impossible to put any label on her music. Audrey Nuna is a creative powerhouse and if creating amazing music wasn’t enough, she’s also credited as co-directer of the music videos to both “Paper” and “Comic Sans”. Her latest single “damn Right” (and “damn Right Pt. 2”) is the first taste of her debut-EP that we have still to hear.

Baby Queen

From: Durban, South Africa. Based in London.
Why?
When Bella Latham aka Baby Queen moved from South Africa to London as a teenager, she not only found a new place to call home, but also the inspiration for a musical career, that is very likely to blow up in 2021. With a satirical point of view, Baby Queen has found a pretty amazing way to describe and document life of Gen Z pictured through the fancy parties and Instagram influencers she witnessed in the pulsating, British capital. Rather than just pointing fingers at teenagers absorbed by SoMe and life in the digital sphere, she’s placing herself in the middle of it and crafting catchy alternative pop songs with equal room left for reflection, deep sighs and a good laugh. With her brilliant debut-EP Medicine, released through Polydor Records (Billie Eilish, Lana Del Rey, Tove Lo and more), she’s manifested why she’s one to watch.

Bree Runway

From: London, UK
Why?
Expressive, unpredictable and extremely captivating. These are just a few of the qualities that lay ground for our recent obsession with London’s pop powerhouse Bree Runway. With her mixtape 2000AND4EVA, the genre breaking artist shows that pop music can be anything you want it to be. Growing up on a MTV diet of Missy Elliott, Madonna and all the other icons of the 2000s, Bree Runway describes herself as the love child of Lady Gaga and Lil Kim which is quite fitting. Being just as skilled in writing powerful pop hooks as in laying a perfect rap verse, Bree Runway is on the rise with a fundamental mission of breaking with the music industry’s typical assumptions about Black musicians and the label as “pop stars”.

Watch Bree Runway absolutely killing it as part of VEVO’s DSCVR-program with her Missy Elliott-featured single “ATM”:

Dess Dior

From: Savannah, US
Why?
Despite still being in the beginning of her 20s and only having released music since 2019, Destiny Bailey aka Dess Dior already sounds like she’s been in the game since always. With a flawless flow, she drops empowering bars over high-energetic, trap-infused beats, and like other big rap stars topping the charts at the moment, she’s not afraid to write sex-positivity into her lyrics. Dess Dior started rapping at the early age of 12 and also joined a rap group when she was younger, but it’s as a solo artist, she kicked in the summer of 2020 with the highly recommended EP Definition of Dess. All the hard work seems to pay off and we can’t really picture a 2021 without Dess Dior playing a big part of it.

ENNY

From: London, UK
Why?
Some people can release less than a handful of tracks and still convince a lot of people that they’ve got the talent to make huge impact. London’s ENNY is one of them, and actually it only took one single track – her debut single “He’s Not Into You” – for the Grammy-nominated super star Jorja Smith to fall in love and take in ENNY as her first signing ever. London’s got a buzzin rap-scene, but also jazz is blooming in the British capital, and ENNY is tapping into both of these scenes with her music. Her sound is so soulful and grounded that you instantly fall calm when listening to it. With her third single “Peng Black Girls”, ENNY and fellow British-Nigerian artist Amina Brave paid homage to Black women and it became an instant hit. When Jorja Smith joined the track for a follow-up remix, the hype obviously increased. “Peng Black Girls” is hands down one of the best tracks released in 2020, and we’re thrilled to hear what’s next.

Fousheé

From: New Jersey, US
Why?
Fousheé has previously made our Friday playlist sound better with her track “single af”, but it was her airy vocals on “Deep End” that initially turned everything around for her, when the American rapper Sleepy Hallow sampled it for a freestyle on TikTok – without Fousheé being credited that is. She used the very same media to finally let everyone know that she was the artist behind, and the praise started rolling in. It’s hard not to feel touched by the honesty and soulfulness of Fousheé’s music. Not only does it sound good, it also bears an important message of self-love and female empowering smoothly served in her lyrics. Like in “Deep End” which goes out to all the Black women fighting for equal treatment in the music industry, where she raps: “pardon my tits and make up, pay her” or “She’s a boss, she’s a bitch // I take that as a compliment”.

GRACEY

From: Brighton (UK)
Why?
Grace Barker aka GRACEY is deeply rooted in songwriting. She started her career writing hits for other pop stars, but suddenly felt like the words she was writing felt too close to her personal self for her to hand them over to someone else. Her emotional debut single “Different Things” was initially written as a demo for Little Mix, but that’s hard to imagine when you hear GRACEYs honest version of the track. Since the release of “Different Things”, GRACEY has gone on to release more tracks as a performing artist and thank god for that. Her debut album The Art Of Closure, which came out in November 2020, unfolds seven different examples of strong pop songwriting just as strongly performed. From the underplayed yet majestic Ruel-collaboration “Empty Love” to the danceable Dua Lipa-sounding ’80s pop track “Like That feat. Alexander 23”. If 2021 brings anything like The Art Of Closure it’s going to be a big year for the young artist.

Holly Humberstone

From: Grantham, UK
Why?
Sometimes there’s just no doubt when you come across pure talent, and 21-year-old Holly Humberstone from Grantham, England is one of the talents sparking life to that cliché. After having uploaded some tracks to BBC Introducing, she landed a gig at their stage at Glastonbury in 2019 where destiny wanted the Scottish chart topping artist Lewis Capaldi to be listening. He asked her to join him on tour in 2020, but we all know how that went… Luckily, the year of cancelled events hasn’t forced Humberstone’s career to stop. Rather it’s left us with the feeling that everything is building up for 2021 to be the year of Humberstone. Her emotional lyrics and captivating melodies cut all the way into the bones and she has an impressive way of making a very minimalistic soundscape sound larger than life. Her 2020-EP Falling Asleep at the Wheel reminds you what goosebumps feels like if you happened to forget.

Hope Tala

From: London, UK
Why?
Press play on Hope Tala‘s latest EP Girl Eats Sun, and you’re instantly taken away to a sunny beach in Brazil or the Caribbean that you never wanna leave again. Ever. Barack Obama loved the sound of Hope Tala when he added her single “All My Girls Like To Fight” to his list of favorite music from 2020 and we get him. The way she blends the old style of Bossa Nova with modern elements of R&B and hip hop sounds like the most natural thing in the world. Like something someone should’ve done long time ago. But they didn’t in the way that Hope Tala does and that’s why she should be on your radar and in your ears if she wasn’t already.

Ivorian Doll

From: Flensburg, Germany. Raised in London, UK.
Why?
2020 was already a great year for the British breakout rap star Ivorian Doll, but we feel confident predicting that 2021 will be even bigger. Vanessa Mahi, the talent behind, started sharing her thoughts and experiences from going through life in videos on Youtube. That was until she started using rap as a medium to speak out her truths which she now does with a perfect flow and tongue ‘n’ cheek punchlines claiming her a well-deserved spot in the predominantly UK drill scene. In her bio on Spotify, the self-proclaimed “Queen of Drill” is quoted to say: “I want to be the female artist the boys are afraid of, because I’m better than they are,” and with singles like “Rumours”, “Body Bag” and “Daily Dupper” she should have no problem achieving that. It’s explicit, it’s intense, it’s filled with attitude, and it hits right where a heavy drill-track should hit leaving us breathless and hungry for more.

Jesswar

From: Fiji. Now based in Australia.
Why?
Jesswar has been bubbling in the Australian hip hop scene for a couple of years now, but with her 2020 single “Venom” (which also served as her debut UK single), the Fijian rapper geared up for something big to happen behind the Australian borders as well. When she demands: “get the fuck off my throne” the fundament is laid for one of the most powerful rap songs to come out of 2020. Unlike a lot of the modern hip hop we’re hearing at the moment, Jesswar has found back to the roots, and “Venom” reminds us just as much of the early Missy Elliot as it does some of the groundbreaking Dr. Dre records that shaped the sound of hiphop in the 90s and early 2000s. The track was written in 30 minutes, when the rapper felt both “fearless, unbound, and untouchable” and that confidence is channeled all the way into our bones. If Jesswar still feels fearless, unbound and untouchable in 2021 (and why shouldn’t she) we can’t wait to see what the year will bring.

KeiyaA

From: Chicago, US.
Why?
KeiyaA is a one-woman army. Only working occasionally with beats made by rapper MIKE (DJ Blackpower), everything you hear on her 2020 debut album Forever, Ya Girl is KeiyaA. And it blows our mind. Operating in an alternative R&B universe, KeiyaA’s tracks aren’t just tracks. They’re poems about longing, about feeling hurt, about feeling lonely, about living and loving. We should all feel honored to be let into KeiyaA’s personal space, where she dares singing things like “Gone for so long, I prefer to spend time alone with my pain” and “Gone for so long, I can barely recall the last my phone rang” on the almost psychedelic “Hvnli”. She’s putting feelings into words, that most of us have felt, but only few of us dares to say out loud. To KeiyaA it’s important to share her experiences living as a Black woman. It’s important to other Black women and it’s important to herself, and you can feel that in every note and word she sings. It’s so present it sometimes hurts.

KenTheMan

From: Houston, US
Why?
Houston-native KenTheMan didn’t rise to fame from one day to the other. The rapper, mother and advocate for female empowering has gone from releasing “Deserve” back in 2017 to writing her first big hit “He Be Like” in her car while delivering food for DoorDash in 2019 to now having released her debut mixtape 4 da 304’s as an independent artist in 2020. KenTheMan needed the break, that quarantine forced us to take, to write, record and release the mixtape that will most likely turn everything around for the bright rapper with the bass-heavy beats. Type “403” on a calculator, flip it over, and you’ll have the title that KenTheMan initially wanted for her mixtape, before someone reminded her that branding a curse word probably wouldn’t be easy if she dreamed of world wide success. To KenTheMan “hoe” isn’t an offence or a “bad” word, but her music definitely bears the potential to go global, so taking in the advice was probably a good decision. 4 da 304’s is a celebration of raw female power and a confidence booster for women everywhere. We feel it 100%.

Olivia Dean

From: London, UK
Why? There’s something larger-than-life over Olivia Dean‘s track “What am I Gonna Do on Sundays” – her other string of releases as well for that matter. She’s still in her early 20s, but her voice and lyrical universe sounds like it’s channeled through a person who’s lived a lifetime. The depth, the emotion, the clever observations about life and relationships; it all adds up to a cocktail of incredible sounding melodies, harmonies and calmness, that we all need right now. Though the soundscape and Deans otherworldly voice may sound sky high and heavenly, the lyrics stays relatable and grounded all the way through and that contrast is just one of many reasons why Olivia Dean and her music requires your full attention this year.

Priya Ragu

From: Zurich, Swizerland
Why?
Fan of Amber Marks uplifting mix of R&B and pop with funky notes in tracks like “Lose My Cool” and “What If”? – Well, take the joy you get from that and blend it with south Indian beats and Sri Lankan chants and you have a pretty good picture of what made the internet buzz about Tamil-Swiss artist Priya Ragu, when she released her debut single “Good Love 2.0” in October 2020. On a mission to challenge the degrading stereotypes that Sri Lankan people are often forced to deal with, Priya Ragu proudly celebrates her heritage and the fact that Tamil people can – of course – be superstars if they want to. It only took one single to prove that Priya Ragu is already on her way to be just that, and with a signing to Warner Records UK to support her we see no reason why the joyous and groundbreaking sound of Priya Ragu shouldn’t be blasting out of our speakers in 2021.

Ramengvrl

From: Jakarta, Indonesia
Why?
She’s been making waves as one of the most exciting names to watch on the Indonesian hip hop scene. She released her debut single “I’m Da Man” in 2016 and has been nominated for several awards in her home country. But after she signed with EMPIRE (Kendrick Lamar, Migos, Cardi B, Anderson Paak and more) the rest of the world is finally discovering the original rap-talent who released her debut album Can’t Speak English in 2020. She was raised to conservative parents in Indonesia and worked a corporate office job from 9 to 5 when she realized she was destined for something else. With titles like “Look At Me Now”, “Shine”, “I Am Me” and “Let Em Be”, Ramengvrl has set herself free and with a mix of humor and sky high ambitions, she’s inspiring other women in all parts of the world to do the same.

Remi Wolf

From: Palo Alto, US
Why?
Where to start with Remi Wolf? What makes pop music so great is its ability to always move in different directions. Some of it sounds the same (alright, a lot of pop music sounds the same), but that’s why you really pay attention, when someone comes in and changes the standards. Like Billie Eilish did and so many before her. Remi Wolf is also making her own rules for the pop formula. It’s still catchy, it’s easy to follow (in a way) and it tabs on influences we know from the past, like Prince, The Jackson 5, Jamiroquai and other artists who spiced up the radio waves with some danceable funk. Listen to “Photo ID” and you get what we’re saying. Ask Remi Wolf if you can borrow her sunglasses and you’ll probably discover they’re really kaleidoscopic, magical glasses that make you a bit more happy if you wear them than if you don’t.

Serena Isioma

From: Chicago, US
Why? There are several artists working with the R&B genre on this list, but what’s so amazing is that none of them sound the same. The first-generation Nigerian-American singer and songwriter Serena Isioma may have the smoothness of R&B running through her veins, but she also bears the ability to disrupt it completely with an anarchistic energy that we see on a track like “King”. By flavouring the sound with lo-fi productions and head-bopping hip hop beats, Serena Isioma has found a way to make herself noticeable at a time where there’s more music coming out than ever. But obviously sound isn’t the only thing making Isioma stand out. Her lyrical universe is also extremely personal and when someone manages to share personal experiences like Serena Isioma does, it’s destined to be unique because no one else could’ve told those stories.

Shaybo

From: Born in Nigeria. Raised and based in London, UK.
Why?
Shayon Brown aka fast rising rap star Shaybo resonated with Teresa Mendoza from the Netflix show The Queen of the South so much that she decided to name her forthcoming debut-EP after it: The story of a woman growing up in a dangerous environment and who’s easy to manipulate until she finds strength when she finds herself. But even if you didn’t know that story, you wouldn’t question the title, cause bringing the level of UK drill rap that she does while representing the South of London it all makes perfect sense. “Dobale”, “Anger” and some of her impressive freestyles (she’s been freestyling since she was 13) are so far her most talked-about tracks, but we’re sure it’s only a matter of time before hip hop fans get much more from Shaybo to talk about.

Tems

From: Lagos, Nigeria
Why?
Great things are happening in the Nigerian music scene at the moment. In 2020 we sat down with mega star Yemi Alade who’s been paving the way for African female pop artist the past years. While Alade and Tems might be from the same country and both parts of the African pop scene, their music is very different. Tems works with melancholic and melodic qualities when she creates her heartfelt R&B-infused pop. Growing up with her mom only playing Christian music, Tems initially got into music when she saw Beyoncé on TV. Later on she had artists like Destiny’s Child, Lil Wayne, Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill and Adele shaping her taste in music and when her music teacher noted her talent in school, her path was set for a career in music. She already has a notable fan base calling themselves The Rebel Gang after her first hit single “Mr. Rebel” and when she’s not telling stories on her own tracks, she’s lending her powerful voice to other artists like Khalid on a remix of “Know Your Worth” or the WizKid-track “Essence” which is also featured on Obama’s ‘Favorite Music of 2020′ list. Tems’ record For Broken Ears, which came out in 2020, promises great things for the future of the Nigerian rising star.

The Ultimate 2021 Playlist

Okay, so as mentioned we’ve got waaaay more than 21 artists kickin’ it at the moment. Here’s a playlist with the above 21 names and another bunch of other aspiring and inspiring female artists that you need to check out and follow in 2021!

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