All we want in 2021 is live gigs – but until then at least there’s new music to discover. Here are a few of the best emerging artists generating a buzz at the beginning of the year.

Which artists made your new music list in 2021? “Ones to watch” predictions put a whole lot of pressure on emerging artists who find themselves included at the beginning of a new year.

In a way, the current disrupted world of January 2021 allows breathing space; time for plans to be made and music to be released; time to make creative decisions about how best to connect with the fans they can’t see in real life.

We’ll see what smart moves are made during lockdowns and beyond to boost the profiles of these new music acts.


There’s little question that Griff will become a household name. Her savvy bedroom pop sound saw her nominated for the Ivor Novello Rising Star award in 2020, and she begins the new year on the BBC Sound of 2021 shortlist.

Yard Act

Smart rock with the sharp teeth of satire biting down throughout. Only getting the chance to play three gigs before the first lockdown hit, when the world opens up again in 2021 Yard Act will be ready to take aim at society’s injustices with their unique brand of witty post-punk.


Just 15, Glaive only began creating music at the start of 2020. The teen explores the frantic beats and glitches of the rising genre of hyperpop in a thoughtful way.

Holly Humberstone

Second on the BBC Sound of 2021 shortlist, and already big in the US, where she’s performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Humberstone’s polished and dark indie pop is sure to be heard everywhere in 2021.

Coach Party

Tuneful, scuzzy slacker rock. The indie band released a six-track mini-album in 2020 and have confident plans for the future.

Alfie Templeman

The multi-instrumentalist pop singer-songwriter is on everyone’s one to watch list this year, from the Guardian to MTV Push. His rise seems inevitable.

Attacca Quartet

Last year the young classical string quartet won the Grammy for ‘Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance’ for their work with Pulitzer prize-winner Caroline Shaw. This year? 2021 should hold more in store for the group, who play the work of composers old and new with a fresh versatility.

Pa Salieu

Pa Salieu’s Afrobeat-referencing Gambian grime comes via Coventry. His fresh sound and sharp, perceptive lyrics earned him the top spot on the BBC Sound of 2021 list, and his debut album Send Them To Coventry oozes confidence.

Franc Moody

Franc Moody make effortless disco funk. They released their debut album in February of last year, with a record deserving of dancefloors but suiting lino kitchen floors just fine. Here’s hoping that 2021 gives us the chance to pull some shapes under a glitterball with this live onstage.


A neo-soul singer with a beautiful voice, the BRIT Award Rising Star and BBC Sound of 2020 winner made stop-start progress through what should have been her year.

Finally reaching the public consciousness through the medium of the John Lewis Christmas advert at the end of 2020, hopefully that momentum carries through to her debut album, due to be released next month.

Jany Green

Optimism shines out through Jany Green’s unique blend of hip hop, jazzy indie and RnB, with horns and positive vibes.


Emotional sonic explorations from roaring metalcore to soaring, if still menacing, vocal melodies. Racking up the views online, Spiritbox’s debut album is due to be released this year.


Deserved winner of the new Rising Star Award at the Ivor Novellos 2020, Mysie uses her rich voice to make soulful pop and RnB with colossal choruses.

Meet Me @ The Altar

Big hooks from this Florida pop punk trio. Newly signed to the Fuelled By Ramen label, the band take the angst out of the genre and replace it with boundless positive energy.


Berwyn’s soulful rap has seen him top Ones to Watch lists the internet over. Following a haunting performance for Later With Jools Holland, he came third on the BBC Sound of 2021 list. Last year’s BBC Sound of… listees included Yungblud, who released his debut album at the tail end of 2020.

Greentea Peng

Neo-soul RnB with elements of hip-hop, dub and reggae. Before making the BBC Sound of 2021 list, Greentea Peng appeared on The Streets’ latest album, and her own record is on the horizon.

The Lathums

These indie-rockers have a whiff of Arctic Monkeys about them, with spinning guitars and constantly energetic vocals that just beg to rattle a festival stage this summer.

Emma-Jean Thackray

Multi-talented jazz musician and producer Thackray makes intriguing jazz electronica grooves. 2020 saw a feature on the Blue Note Re:Imagined album.


After one of her songs found uncredited viral success through TikTok, alt-soul singer Fousheé was one of 70 artists to be signed through the platform last year. 2021 will see her broaden her sound, including an upcoming collab with James Blake.

Genesis Owusu

A rapper who dabbles in electronica, RnB, soul and funk with electrifying results. Debut album Smiling With No Teeth is out March 2021.

With vaccines rolling out, by the end of the year some sense of normalcy will give these newcomers the chance to fully show what they’re made of. And who knows what surprises established musicians will have for us in 2021?

2020 saw unexpected album drops from artists like Taylor Swift, and collaborations and remixes gave music stars new motivation to be creative. Will Rihanna finally release her long-awaited album? Prediction: Whatever else may happen over the next 12 months, new music will be an escape, whether we can enjoy it live or not.

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