Ones to watch 2024: 10 musicians to look out for

It’s usually no trouble to find at least 10 emerging musicians we’re excited about going into the new year, but The Independent’s class of 2024 was harder to assemble. Recently, we found ourselves discussing just how relevant polls of “ones to watch” are anymore, when fans can just as easily find new music on streaming services, social media or at live shows.

But this isn’t a list of artists we’re predicting will “blow up” in the next 12 months or even the next few years. Instead, they’re ones we believe stand out, for various reasons, and whom we plan on backing for the foreseeable future.

From multilingual, Afrofuturistic rap to Irish rock, soul and pop-punk, our 10 Ones to Watch of 2024 have something for everyone.

It seems risky to try and identify any one “trend” in new music for 2024, but from this list alone we’ve noticed that emerging artists seem particularly enamoured by a darker, rock-leaning sound. Among them is Aziya, a London-born singer and producer whose single “atomic” thrives on a Cure and Killing Joke-indebted bass line and sullen vocals that question the existence of love in the modern age. You might have spotted her among the dubiously crowned “English Roses” in a profile by Tatler back in 2017. Make no mistake, though: Aziya’s no wallflower. Roisin O’Connor

Listening to a Brazy song is like stepping into a thumping club bathroom chock full of your best friends. The London-based Nigerian artist has described her genre as “afro-sexy-afro-future”, which pretty much sums it up. An artist with borderless vision, Brazy spits bars (in English, Yoruba, French, and Mandarin, mind you) over hypnotic, hip-snaking production as on her trap-inflected debut “Siren” and the gloriously maximalist “Attends”. It feels a long way away, but come May next year, Brazy’s bouncy beats will be the sound of the summer. Annabel Nugent

Irish band Cardinals

Standing apart from their Irish post-punk peers (while earning their admiration at the same time) are the Cork-formed six-piece Cardinals. Fronted by Euan Manning, they conjure a sound that nods to Eighties indie, celtic shoegaze and goth-glam. Single “Roseland”, inspired by Manning’s desire to write a folk song about his hometown, is all muddy guitars and the singer’s weary, Lou Reed huff:  “I went down to MacCurtain Street Station/ Where I first said my last goodbye/ If love was there, it was thin in the air/ It only came here to die.” They’ve only got a few (excellent) songs to their name so far, but a new EP is on the way. ROC

It’s been four years since Gia Ford’s first single “Turbo Dreams” arrived amid a flurry of superlatives from indie music mags – but while that hazy breakout track has since mysteriously vanished from all streaming platforms, she has kept busy elsewhere. The Sheffield musician, born Molly McCormick, creates darkly atmospheric dream pop. Her best songwriting is both dreamlike and pedestrian. Unblinking character studies, her tracks often turn outwards to the fictional faces she finds in books and films. McCormick sets her stories to understated guitar lines and throaty vocals as in the brilliantly brooding “Sleeping In Your Garden”. Her debut album is due for release later this year. AN

Hannah Grae

Hannah Grae

If the title of her debut album, Hell Is A Teenage Girl, doesn’t tip you off, Hannah Grae makes music about that terrible time in every woman’s life – one that she herself only exited relatively recently. Grae, now 21, reflects on growing pains with arresting immediacy over spiky, yearning pop-punk beats. With kiss-off titles like “Well I Hope Ur Happy” and wry lyrics such as “I never understood the phrase, it’s just a phrase”, it’s easy to compare Grae to Gen Z girl-of-the-moment Olivia Rodrigo, but doing so ignores the singular voice the Port Talbot-born musician brings to the table. AN

Highlyy’s story is the stuff of Gen Z dreams. When the Essex artist uploaded a 15-second clip of her delectable Afrobeats song “Soldier” to TikTok earlier this year, she hadn’t expected much – not least hundreds of thousands of strangers begging her, pleading her to release a full-length version of the track, which features rapper Tion Wayne, and has since racked up more than 18.3 million streams on Spotify. It’s mind-boggling numbers for an artist with only three singles to her name, but Highlyy and her mood-forward music are here to stay: at the beginning of what will likely be a steady climb to stardom. AN

HotWax are the UK’s most thrilling new live act, bar none. Formed in Hastings by singer/guitarist Tallulah Sim-Savage and bassist Lola Sam when they were 15 (later joined by drummer Alfie Sayers), they are everything a great rock band should be. Sim-Savage howls and snaps like the lovechild of Karen O and Courtney Love; her lyrics are about doubt, guilt and infatuation. There are guitar solos aplenty, sludgy bass lines and thrashing drums galore. They’ve already opened for The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs – now they need their own, bigger stages to match that stadium-sized sound. ROC

Indie-folk band Kingfishr perform latest single ‘Anyway’ for Music Box Session #76

Formed while their members were studying at university in Limerick, this Irish trio lean into their heritage with traditional instruments and evocative, poetic songwriting. Yet their sound has a distinctly pop feel, soaring with anthemic choruses and frontman Eddie Keough’s distinctive, barrel-chested burr. Kingfishr are about as salt-of-the-earth as it gets, carving out a devoted fanbase with relentless touring and a steady stream of memorable singles. These include the rousing “Vancouver”, and “Shot in the Dark”, a stirring acoustic ballad that brings to mind James Taylor or Neil Young. ROC

Watch Irish singer Luz perform single ‘sustain’ on Music Box

Irish singer Luz first gained international attention with a cover of “Lose My Mind” by Dean Lewis back in 2019, then with her spectacular single “The Author”, a hushed, reverential paean to a lover delivered over muffled piano notes. After some time away, she returned in 2023 with a cluster of sublime tracks that put her vulnerable lilt to best use. “Sustain” wrestles with feelings of self-doubt, while the devastating “I Shouldn’t Be Here” reflects on her struggles with mental health and the people who helped her through it. For anyone experiencing the same, Luz’s songs are a bright-burning candle in the dark. ROC

Watch MEGA perform song ‘If Not My Heart’ on Music Box

Mega is a vocalist steeped in soul, a songwriter with an ear for R&B and pop universals. Her voice, multi-textured and malleable, matured as part of the gospel choir at the esteemed St Mary’s youth club she attended growing up in north London – a club that counts fellow vocal powerhouses Leona Lewis and Little Simz among its alumni. Now, her voice shapeshifts across neo-soul tracks like “Chariot” and “Let Me Let You Go”, which have racked up more than 43 million streams between them. Suffice to say, Mega is an apt name for a musician of this magnitude. AN

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