Who to Watch: 2021

So, here we are, staring at each other, both having gotten through 2020; whatever the hell that was. Now we’re on to 2021; a year in which everything that happened in 2020 is still happening but now lack of awareness is voluntary.

Anyways, you’re not here for a soap box, you’re here for exquisite music taste (and you’re in luck because I can provide both.) 2020 was most definitely a mess but the music? Insert oprahsayingletscelebratethat.gif.

Between new Glass Animals, Doja Cat’s “cancellation” that eventually became TikTok domination and even a dash of Ariana&B with an album none of us expected Ariana Grande to drop; 2020 because the physical embodiment of that “The world is burning but the music at least the music is good” tweet.

However, the past is the past and we’re here, in 2021, and I don’t think the good music is going anywhere. Today I am here to tell you all about all the artists you need to be on the look out for; and let’s not lie, my track record is, uh, yeah it’s pretty good; let’s get into it.

Rina Sayawama – Honestly, I don’t know which robbery was worse; The Great Train Robbery of 1963, or Sawayama at the 2021 Grammys. Spoiler alert: it’s Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network at the 2010 Academy Awards.

I first came across Rina Sawayama when her song, Cyber Stockholm Syndrome, was featured in a YouTube video I was watching and she’s been on my radar ever since. Yes, like all the greats, I get my best music recommendations from social media content.

Now, if you’re a frequent visitor of ThisIsHowYouMusic, you’re probably already familiar with Rina Sawayama because you clearly have taste; but for those who are newer, allow me to inform you. Rina Sawayama, to put it simply, is the moment. Her debut album, SAWAYAMA was met with critical acclaim, making multiple Best Of lists at the end of 2020 as well as scoring Sawayama a Rising Star nomination at the 2021 BRIT Awards.

SAWAYAMA was an album that showed us Sawayama’s talent to incorporate Electropop, R&B and Nu Metal (yes I said NU METAL) and also her artistic way to touch on themes of exploitation of the working class, friendship, identity and mental health. Rina Sawayama is a name we’ll be seeing everywhere (as we should) in the near future and she deserves it. Don’t believe me, just read any of my other Who To Watch posts and get back to me.

Songs I Recommend:

XS

Akasaka Sad

Cyber Stockholm Syndrome

BENEE – “This is it” is a phrase that I normally reserve for when I come across a really good soup, but can also be applied to literally any BENEE song; literally any of them. From her cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” to her single, “Plain feat. Lily Allen & Flo Milli” that was one of my most listened to songs of all year. Number 16, actually.

As mentioned before, all the greats find their music on social media and BENEE was no different for me. What was it, early quarantine, I believe, when I heard Supalonely all over TikTok and it is genuinely serotonin in 4 minutes or less. After that I found myself listening to her entire discography and let me tell you, the girl makes BOPS. Her EPs Fire on Marzz and Stella & Steve make me want to both dance in the kitchen and cry in the shower. Last year she released her debut album, “Hey u x” and it showed not only her versatility but her ear for a great collaboration (seriously, listen to Plain.)

I’m not the only who’s noticed of course; at the time of me writing this, BENEE has been nominated for 13 awards within the last two years along, among those being the Best Solo Artist and Best Pop Artist at the New Zealand Music Awards. I think she has the potential to be as big as Billie Eilish and we all know how right I was about Billie Eilish.

Songs I Recommend:

Glitter

Supalonely

Plain (feat. Lily Allen & Flo Milli)

Photo by: Erica Hernadez

Omar Apollo – So, technically, he was supposed to be on my Who to Watch for 2020, so if you found out about him last year, you’re welcome.

In all seriousness, Omar Apollo is another case of Glass Animals, by which I mean that you’ve probably heard of him already but I suspect his well known popularity might gain even more traction this year.

Ugotme was my first time stumbling upon Apollo’s music and even now, over two years later, I walk around my apartment in a singing in a high falsetto, “You say you don’t smoke you do; here’s something I wrote for you.” The three Bath and Body Works candles in my apartment are really a great audience.

Don’t just take my word for it; his debut album “Apolonio” was released last year and received positive reviews from NME, DIY Magazine and a 7.2 from Pitchfork. Don’t believe that’s good? Justin Bieber’s “Changes” got a 4.5 last year so, uh, yeah, do with that what you will.

Having already performed at festivals like SXSW and Lollapalooza and was even slated to perform at Coachella (until you know, the world ended); this indie R&B/Soul singer-songwriter will be everywhere soon enough.

Songs I Recommend:

Ugotme

Hijo De Su Madre

Want U Around (feat. Ruel)

Yung Baby Tate – If you’re a loyal ThisIsHowYouMusic reader, Yung Baby Tate should not be a new name to you since she was mentioned just last year in my last Who to Watch due to her performing along side Ashnikko in her single, “STUPID”. Now, Yung Baby Tate has her own viral TikTok sound which features a snippet of her single “I Am” which features Flo Milli. Ugh, I love seeing women win.

Yung Baby Tate’s music is what happens when you mix self love, manifestation, women supporting women and topical lyrics; no really, she said “If it wasn’t for corona I would pack this club” in her single Rainbow Cadillac. Which, not only has a fun music video but pays tribute to Danity Kane in the chorus what’s not to love?

The first solo song I heard by Yung Baby Tate was That Girl and it was my go to “let’s get this money” anthem I would play in the morning when I would still drive to work. Nowadays it’s just a commute from the bathroom to the living room most mornings. It’s a single that’s perfect for putting you in a bad bitch mindset but also doesn’t make you want to speed like listening to OHFR? by Rico Nasty does.

With having signed to Issa Rae’s label Raedio just last year, Yung Baby Tate is a name that you should be looking out for because it’s not only warranted but she deserves. Ugh, I love it when women.

Songs I Recommend:

That Girl

I Am

Rainbow Cadillac

Photo by: Sophie Hur

Remi Wolf – Hello Hello Hello is great because it doubles as a Remi Wolf song title and what I say to the vendor at a music festival so I can give him $14 for a watered down lemonade. Oh my gosh, remember music festivals? What I would (or wouldn’t) give to see a band in 85 degree heat while also having poor cell phone connection.

Anyways, Remi Wolf, the reason you’ve scrolled down this far. Remi Wolf is a name that I’ve started to see pop up more and more over the last few months and I couldn’t be happier about it. I came across her when she provided the vocals for a Austin Millz track titled, “Bad Behavior” and then a little later when I first her “Doctor” on my Discover Weekly. Something about Wolf’s voice reminds me of the warmness of nice sweater, made by wool, love and a sprinkling of spite.

Not only do I absolutely adore the title of her two EPs, You’re A Dog! followed by I’m Allergic To Dogs! but adore the music that comes with it as well. I don’t know what the chorus to “Down the Line” is laced with but I can’t get it out of my head! Having already worked with Who to Watch regulars Wallows, including haven co-written my favorite song by them; and having already ranked #12 on the Billboard Alternative Charts without a debut album out, Remi Wolf will be heard and you know what? She should be.

Songs I Recommend:

Doctor

Down The Line

Disco Man

Now, of course, these aren’t the only people that I think you should have on your radar this year. While quarantine has given people the time to make sourdough, get to the know their family better and realize how many of their friends would die in a zombie film because they can’t follow simple protocol; this year has allowed me to tap in to music like never before.

However, if I were to go on and on about how many artists should be more acclaimed and I think will achieve such acclaim, we would be here all day. I could go on and on about how Orville Peck makes me feel like I’m falling in love at the county fair oh WAIT I have done that.

All in all, what did you think? Was this expected, are you surprised? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you all in about 10 months again (kidding……kidding).

Don’t forget to follow me on Spotify to know who I’m keeping up with!

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