10 Male Artists to Watch
Welcome to round two of the informally named – musicians that need to be on your playlist as soon as humanly possible – series. Today let’s discuss 10 male artists to watch, listen and fall in love with. Last time I discussed 10 killer ladies that are making waves and rising in their own right and I’m glad that a few of you found a couple new faves along the way.
As I started to put this list together I noticed that there was a theme developing that wasn’t present in the last female roundup. This time around the singers and musicians that made the list all have a distinctly R&B sensibility to their sound in one way or another. With that being said if R&B, or in some cases Alternative R&B isn’t your scene then this one might not be for you.
Even so, I think it’s good to stretch our ears musically and test out different sounds to see what we like. A lot of the music styles that I like today didn’t even exist a few decades ago. Music is fluid. It’s always changing and evolving and blending into something new.
A few years ago R&B would just have been “R&B” but now genres are mixing and melding like never before. Now you can take what’s great about a few different styles to create fresh new sounds ripe for your listening pleasure. It’s actually pretty exciting and today I hope you find a few new artists to be excited about too!
“Walk” is what Kwabs is known for but there is a lot more talent where this came from! Kwabs, short for Kwabena, is Ghanaian-British and got his big break after one of his YouTube covers went viral. He signed with Atlantic Records and his debut album Love + War came out this year and has a consistent sound throughout. Each song blends into the next and it’s always a great experience when you can mostly let an album play itself out without having to skip through to the handful of songs you actually like.
Jarryd James is an act I’m really excited about. He’s opening for Broods this summer at Webster Hall and I absolutely can’t wait to see him as well as, Broods, my favorite New Zealand-based brother + sister band. I saw Broods in 2015 for free and share my thoughts here.
Jarryd James is an Australian singer-songwriter, producer and all around rising talent! His self-titled EP was released in 2015 and is a solid introduction and worthy of any and all praise that he’s bound to get while touring this summer. When listening to this record you’re in for smooth vocals and sounds that put you in a steady groove.
Mura Masa aka Alex Crossan is a British (my music library is chock full of accents) electro producer. He’s been active for quite a few years now but has not yet garnered mass appeal. Why? I couldn’t tell you but he’s collaborated on songs with singers that are also gaining steam like Shura, shown above, and Nao who was featured in my rising female artists to watch post. With his ear for talented songstresses, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on to Mura Masa too.
Totem is a New York City based singer. For those of you who have been with me for a while, you might remember him from my CMJ Music Festival coverage last October. You can check out my thoughts on his live performance and a few of the other artists from that night here.
He just released a brand new EP called Picture Perfect and there probably aren’t enough fire emojis out there to describe this record! The new songs are simply more proof of his smooth voice making magic with danceable beats. Off the new release “Addicted” is the highlight but you should also check out his older song “Shame” too.
What another British act? Don’t worry Zak Abel and all the other Brits on Violet Roots are well worth the hype! Zak’s voice has a really cool quality to it where you can feel the soulful influences but you can also tell that his sound is distinctly of the moment.
He has the musical ear of a self-taught pianist and guitarist but his music retains the impact of his old school soul inspirations. Zak takes those influences and, once paired with modern backing tracks, makes magic.
SG Lewis is a producer that, after signing with PMR, has made connections with Pharrell, Justin Timberlake, Disclosure and more and is bound to make waves. If you ask me, the approval of Pharrell alone is enough to land a spot on this male artists to watch list!
The song that led me to fall for SG Lewis was “No Less” which features another artist from this list, Louis Mattrs. Discovering this track was a happy accident that got me really excited to write this piece. I’m always a bit giddy when I’m able to bring new music into my life and, as of late, sharing these musical gems with you makes the rush even sweeter.
Can we talk about Gallant? GALLANT is one of my favorite male artists to watch from this list! His debut record Ology is definitely going to make my end of the year best albums list (see 2015’s tops albums)! I’m here for anyone who can sing with Seal and not get outshined or vocally demolished.
I think Gallant, based in Washington D.C., is a great example of the renaissance going on with R&B music at the moment. The radio might play the same five male singers but if you look past that you’ll find real emerging talent that pushes boundaries, experiments with sound and adds new blood to the industry.
There is more to R&B than bedroom jams and overtly sexual lyrics and Gallant’s Ology shows you what’s possible.
Louis Mattrs is someone I can listen to no matter what mood I’m in. He’s one of the British male artists to watch on this list that have ample amounts of versatility. The two songs featured in the above video showcase his ability to go from laid back everyday vibes to late night beats in an instant. When you put his musical influences – Rihanna, Timbaland, Usher, Jeremih, Musiq Soulchild – into perspective it makes perfect sense.
At this point in the list, I’m sure it’s clear what kind of sound I tend to gravitate toward when it comes to rising male talent. Louis Mattrs has smooth vocals, interesting lyrics, and the ability to take you from midday to party and back again!
He has songs that get a little deep, and bangers that are entirely for fun but the through line is that his music is his. All of the musicians highlighted in this male artists to watch list have a relatively heavy hand in the music they create. They’re writers and producers and the songs they sing have undeniable chemistry because of it.
There was this little ole’ album that came out not too long ago that blew everyone’s mind. You might have heard of it – LEMONADE? Well unless you’ve been under a rock the beverage probably means more to you than just a refreshing treat. Kevin Garrett is the (writing/producing) brains behind the album opener “Pray You Catch Me.”
I’ll let that sink in for a minute . . .
Yeah, if you don’t know Kevin yet I think now is as good a time as any to get acquainted with him now. Kevin hails from Pittsburg but is currently based in Brooklyn and signed to Roc Nation under Management/Publishing. He kicked off his tour earlier this month and it making the rounds to major U.S. cities as well as Paris, London and more. If he’s in your neck of the woods definitely check him out!
A couple of weeks ago when I covered Aurora’s live music performance at the Bowery Ballroom I briefly mentioned her opener, Tor Miller. Tor was a fantastic opening act and stood out to me as not only a great singer and musician, he played the keyboard and the guitar, but someone with stage presence. If you male artists to watch
Being an opener can be really tough. You have to not just appease but entertain a crowd of people who mostly want you to disappear and the headliner to appear. If you can get the audience to clap and acknowledge you when you speak then you’ve had a successful set.
Tor and his band mates were able to get the crowd dancing and to keep them engaged. I mentioned how amazing I thought Aurora’s sold out concert was and, to me, the true sign of a rising starlet is their ability to hold their own. Tor Miller was able to just that and earned a spot on this male artists to watch list because of it!
Zayn may already be a household name if you happen to be on the younger side of life and were a One Direction fan (1Ders, One Directioners? Help me out here!). I have to admit that the 1D craze happened after I had grown past the boy band susceptibility age range.
If this were 1999 I’m sure my 9-year-old self would have been all over that but alas I had *NSYNC instead and I have zero regrets about that.
Before Zayn, famous (or infamously depending on your stance) left 1D to pursue his solo career I didn’t have much of an opinion on him but his releases as a solo artist won me over. His songs are legit! If you have any misgivings I suggest you put them aside and let the sensual goodness takeover. At the very least listen to “Pillowtalk” & “Like I Would” because . . .#earbliss!
Find any new faves? Who is on your list of male artists to watch?