By Jaelani Turner-Williams, Michelle Hyun Kim, Leah Mandel, Colin Joyce, and Peter A. Berry of Third Bridge Creative
This edition of our column showcasing five artists finding breakthrough success features a singer obsessed with the R&B of the millennium, a Tamil singer making limitless pop music, a rambunctious Atlanta rapper, an electronic artist tearing up Toronto, and a brooding singer taking Death Row’s legacy in a new direction.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 27,752
On September 29, Kenyon Dixon released his new album The R&B You Love, an homage to R&B’s 1990s and 2000s eras. As fans continue to debate whether R&B needs resuscitating, Dixon breathes new life into the genre, gaining 84.5k new Spotify monthly listeners since mid-July. With six albums under his belt and a songwriting resumé that includes Justin Timberlake and Mary J. Blige, Dixon’s momentum is steadily climbing, particularly on Spotify. Songs like “Lucky” (703k Spotify streams), “2000s R&B” featuring RL of the 90s group Next (327k), and “& Then Some” (163k) are fan favorites from the album. Under the TikTok handle Kennygotsoul, the 34-year-old connects with his 37.9k followers through his love of live performances, mashups, and singing in the rain like those before him.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 19,035
Priya Ragu makes bold, experimental pop that blends Tamil melodies, electroclash-inspired production, insurgent raps, and R&B vocals. The Tamil-Swiss artist started gaining buzz in 2021 after releasing her debut mixtape, damnshestamil, and collaborating with the British band Jungle (known for their recent hit “Back on 74”), but now she’s on the verge of a breakthrough with the arrival of her debut album, Santhosum, due out October 20 from Warner. Her recent COLORS show performance of the project’s singles “Black Goose” and the not-yet-released “Let Me Breathe” have gained 61k YouTube views in less than two weeks, contributing to a total influx of 260k new views on her own YouTube channel in the past three months.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 48,612
This young Atlanta rapper — pronounced “too solid dirtball” — is part of an exciting crew of artists pushing the sound of an iconic rap city forward. Praised by critics for his daring sonics and harsh delivery, 2Sdxrt3all is quickly establishing himself as an inveterate experimenter, and his music is connecting too. Aside from the critical acclaim from outlets like Pitchfork, he’s also attracted the attention of talented peers like Luh Tyler (with whom he made his hit “mr. skii”) and editorial playlist tastemakers. He’s already earned a placement on the popular rap playlist Taste and has over 128.6k monthly listeners on Spotify; with this groundswell of attention directed his way, that number will only continue growing.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 4,187
Nigerian-born, Montreal-raised electronic musician DEBBY FRIDAY has had something special going on since her debut EP, BITCHPUNK, in 2018. The Toronto-based artist’s fusion of synth-punk, hip-hop, and deconstructed club has led her to a signing with iconic indie label Sub Pop, collaborations with Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, and the 2023 Polaris Prize for her full-length debut GOOD LUCK. The album’s lead single, “So Hard To Tell,” even snagged Pitchfork’s coveted Best New Track. DEBBY FRIDAY is ranking in the top 5k artists on Chartmetric, and in the top 500 for Alternative, and she has an impressive near-2k radio spins. Since releasing her new single “let u in” in late September, she’s seen a 58.1k increase in Spotify monthly listeners.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 6,329
Armed with a Marvin Gaye-esque baritone and a strong command of retro aesthetics, October London's found himself in the middle of a sizable come-up. The Indiana native is signed to the new, Snoop Dogg-backed version of Death Row Records, and his latest project, The Rebirth of Marvin has seen its streams increase. He also released the official video for his sultry single, "Back to Your Place,” which has over 5.9 million YouTube views, making it his second-highest viewed visual. The song itself now has over 3.6 million Spotify streams. He's currently at 394k Spotify monthly listeners, and from February to now, his Chartmetric Score has risen from 4k to 10k. Currently, Chartmetric classifies October’s recent momentum as being in the “growth” stage.
The Method: Critical Accolades Never Hurt – But Do They Spell Success?
There’s a reason why after more than half a century, artists still dream of the Grammys as a pinnacle of success. An award from the Recording Academy, and other organizations like it, doesn’t just represent prestige, but recognition from outside one’s immediate circle: people who live and breathe music understanding why something sounds good. The same goes for critical acclaim — Pitchfork may not be as big a tastemaker as it was back in the day, but a “Best New Album/Track” designation will always make headlines. But, while these accolades fuel a wider industry awareness and personal sense of pride, do they translate into tangible results? Let’s look at a recent example: DEBBY FRIDAY’s notable Polaris Prize win in September, one of the most important Canadian music awards which is solely based on an album’s merit, and is judged by music journalists, critics, and professionals. Looking at DEBBY FRIDAY’s Chartmetric artist rank, there is a modest change in the seven days after she received the prestigious award—her rank climbed from 111,942 to 87,791, a 20% increase. But this change is small compared to the 93% increase in her rank the week after, when she dropped the new single, “let u in.” Professional appraisal is always welcome, but if you want short-term gains, there’s no urgent need to chase after the press — the audience you already have will probably do a better job supporting you.
Graphics by Nicki Camberg and cover image by Crasianne Tirado; data as of Oct. 18, 2023.