By Michelle Hyun Kim, Kemet High, Colin Joyce, Leah Mandel, and Brandon Ousley of Third Bridge Creative
This week’s offering of emerging artists includes mellow folk, unflappable Atlanta rap, an R&B songstress who can sing about anything (even a haircut), whimsical Latin rock, and a neo-soul singer holding her own in the family business.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 66,805
Nashville-based singer-songwriter Mali Velasquez has emerged as the next indie rock star to watch with her debut album, I’m Green, released October 13 via Acrophase Records. Her acoustic guitar-based songs, which mix the intimate folk lyricism of Adrianne Lenker with a bit of edgy emo delivery, have sent her from 8.7k to 238.2k Spotify monthly listeners in three months. Bolstered by top placements of lead single “Turn Red” on playlists like Lorem and All New Indie, that number peaked on Halloween at 327.5k listeners. It’s also no small feat for the Gen-Z newcomer with only a couple hundred followers on TikTok, that their music is being discovered by popular music curators on the platform.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 12,897
Atlanta rapper Anycia put herself on the map with last year’s “Kimora Lee,” a juiced record with torpid flows, an impressive nonchalance toward relationships, and a voice that people remember. Though the song is still somewhat of a hidden gem on YouTube with 36k views, she’s shown exponential growth on the platform since summer: August’s “BRB” has earned 246k views, while “Splash Brothers,” released two months later, has garnered 525k views. Her views are impressive given that her presence on YouTube is still in the early stages at 12.3k subscribers — 8.6k of those supporters came within the last month, according to Chartmetric. With over 212.8k monthly listeners on Spotify, where she’s also seen playlist support on Most Necessary, Internet People, and No Cap, she’s sure to dominate other platforms next.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 20,135
Toronto R&B singer Aqyila garnered an amount of viral success and local acclaim in Canada (including a JUNO nomination) for her viral debut “Vibe for Me (Bob for Me).” But, her new single “Hello” seems poised to translate that TikTok success into a reputation for sentimental, striking R&B songs. This new heartwarming hit has landed on tastemaking playlists like Lowkey, R&B Right Now, and Mood Ring, powering her to over 377k Spotify monthly listeners. With this pair of rapid successes, her May EP For the Better has proven to be one of the breakout R&B projects of the year, establishing her as one of the genre’s quickest-rising talents.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 88,321
The dreamy psychedelic fivesome of Divino Niño have been stalwarts in the Chicago indie rock scene for almost a decade, and on the rise more broadly for nearly the past five years. Formed by guitarist Camilo Medina and bassist Javier Forero, who were childhood friends in Bogotà and ended up together in the Midwest, Divino Niño started out releasing music with The Native Sound, and are now with Winspear, home to fellow dream pop bands Slow Pulp and Barrie. Their latest full-length album, Last Spa On Earth, came out fall of last year, and they’ve spent this fall on tour with viral bedroom pop artist Victor Internet. At the beginning of October, the band released new versions of their single "Nos Soltamos," dreamily remixed by Heartgaze and Inner Wave; the latter’s take was placed on Spotify’s Lorem and Ultimate Latin Indie playlists. As a result, they made it to the top 200 of Chartmetric’s Latin Rock artists in October.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 4,454
With elegant vocals that have been a sonic anchor for many R&B, jazz, and hip-hop artists for over a decade, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Alex Isley’s recent joint EP with Grammy-winning producer and musician Terrace Martin, I Left My Heart in Ladera, is reclaiming her voice as her own. Released October 20, the nine-song melding of ethereal neo-soul and jazz textures is strengthened by her gliding cover of Sade’s 1988 classic, “Paradise,” which is up to 627.5k Spotify streams. Along with netting her first-ever Billboard showings when the EP debuted at No.2 and No.22 on its Contemporary Jazz Albums and Top Jazz Albums charts, the Grammy-nominated vocalist’s collaborative gifts have led to her Spotify presence growing by 214.5k monthly listeners in the past month to 2.04 million, an overall 11.73% increase.
Some might say it’s never good to dwell on the past — but what if the past is a viral TikTok hit that earned a JUNO nomination? Aqyila’s buttery smooth R&B debut EP from May 2023 includes that aforementioned hit, released two years earlier: “Vibe for Me (Bob for Me).” Why keep an old song front and center when marketing new material? The answer is deceptively simple, and it’s to get more eyes on it. Emerging artists benefit from new listeners, no matter where they’re coming from. Bundling “Vibe for Me” with a mix of new, similarly honeyed material is a way of saying to longtime fans and one-time hit chasers, “remember when you liked this? Here’s even more.” Aqyila’s strategy paid off and her newer, March 2023 single “Hello” had a 29% increase in Spotify streams in the week before and after her May EP was released, while “Vibe for Me'' had a modest 0.5% in the same time period.
Graphics by Nicki Camberg and cover image by Crasianne Tirado; data as of Nov. 15, 2023.