This year has been quite a ride for music: Nicki Minaj mania upped wig sales everywhere, M.I.A.’s anti-Google crusade fell flat, and the annoyingly adorable 20-somethings of Glee took over America’s airwaves. Between all the accomplishments and pitfalls, an array of artists began to prove themselves as interesting and appealing digressions from the typical. And since my theory is that 2011 will be the year of originality (..or something), I felt it was only appropriate to endow my readers (reader) with my personal picks for next year’s musical cream of the crop.
Toro Y Moi: Having already become hipster royalty via the power of Pitchfork and its indie blogger affiliates/minions, Chazwick Bundick’s electro-chillwave outfit has played SXSW, Poland’s OFF Festival and just about everywhere in between. As Chaz single-handedly controlled 2010′s blogosphere with songs like “Talamak” and “Blessa,” it only seems natural that 2011 will mean more of the same— and hopefully more of the different as well.
Rich Hil: The spawns of celebrities have oftentimes tried their hand in the arts—Sting’s daughter Coco Summer heads the indie-electro collective I Blame Coco, Reverend Run’s son Diggy Simmons has experienced some success as an artist, and even Will Smith’s daughter Willow has become a pop music prodigy. But Tommy Hilfiger’s son a rapper? That almost sounds like someone’s pulling a Joaquin Phoenix. But once you get past your skepticism over the rapper’s family tree, you’ll be surprised to know that he is one creatively compelling dude. Rich’s music, which features the tatted-up 20 year-old rapping and singing on tracks like “Daydream” and the Cool and Dre-produced “Purp Hard,” paints the former rehab patient as a fascinatingly depressed, neurotic visionary who’s clearly become fed up with the glamorous lifestyle he was born into. But with more and more people looking in his direction, it looks as though the talented Mr. Hil will be recognized for far more than his surname in 2011.
Jessie J: If you happen to reside in London or are one of those weird people that gets BBC America, you’re more than likely aware of the bob-sporting vocal powerhouse that is Jessie J. The 22 year-old Essex native may not be a familiar name in America, but the singer-songwriter is responsible for one of the decade’s most patriotic pop hits, salvia-toking Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The USA,” and has received the ultimate co-sign from one Justin Timberlake, who has hailed her as “the best singer in the world right now.” With her debut album Who You Are hitting digital shelves in 2011, it’s only a matter of time before Jessie J’s massive UK success heads west….or whatever direction the US would be.
Diamond Rings: When you first see Toronto resident John O., basketball player doesn’t necessarily come to mind. But the awkwardly lanky, makeup-wearing musician who goes by Diamond Rings was indeed a high-school athlete, and he doesn’t neglect to remind you in his alluringly quirky and captivating visuals for tracks like the Stratocaster-heavy “Wait and See” and the hipster High School Musical “Show Me Your Stuff.” One part dance and another part rock, Diamond Rings is slowly becoming the Canadian male counterpart to an earlier, more rock-oriented Lady Gaga. Recently landing a gig opening up for electro-pop queen Robyn during her 2011 tour, expect to see and hear more of Diamond Rings’ multi-faceted, glittery glam-pop in the new year.
Nero: Not to be confused with the dubstep producer of the same name (who is also awesome and definitely worth checking out), the New York rapper, managed by Mike Waxx of the popular hip-hop blog illRoots, is definitely one to watch. With a flow reminiscent of a young Lupe Fiasco combined with a swagger redolent of Wiz Khalifa, tracks like “Swangin and Bangin” and Casey Veggies’ “30,000” (on which Nero’s guest verse arguably steals the show) showcase the young artist’s creative lyrics and quick-witted ability. And many have taken notice: Nero With indie multi-dimensional rappers like Chip The Ripper and Curren$y reaching heights of success unseen by past contemporaries, 2011 could very well be Nero’s year.
Four Tet: Far from a typical DJ-Producer by any means of its conventional definition, Kieran Hebden’s solo project Four Tet is a musical journey that is as enjoyable to listen to as it is difficult to describe. An organized mess of clashing sounds ranging from seraphic vocal collages (“Angel Echoes“) to celestial hip-shakers (“Plastic People“), Four Tet has created some of the more intimate production of the year. Add to that some fantastic co-signs and international critical acclaim and you can bet that Four Tet will only get better with age.