If 2019 was the year that louche trap, hyper-emotional pop and “Old Town Road” came home to roost, what can we expect from 2020? More of the same or a lurch in an exciting new direction? Well, perhaps a bit of both. Anyone who lived through the decade will be baffled by the return of super-earnest 1990s sounds – two of our shortlist are reappraising the opposing genres of R&B and grunge – while back in the new millennium genres continue to seep into one another. Next year we’ll all be lining up for soul singers who dip their toes in the pop waters and indie bands who try their hand at experimental jazz and even, bear with us, rap. Plus, you’ll be happy to hear, reggae is back. We’ve picked out the acts you should be streaming now so this time next year you can loudly proclaim that, really, you preferred their earlier stuff.

1. Bree Runway

We live in the golden age of female rap, but Bree Runway brings something that can often be missing from the party. She manages to blend the zeitgeist-y lyricism of LeiKeli47 with the humour of Missy Elliott, and yet she is entirely her own artist: her music is full of life and 1990s throwbacks that make you smile as soon as you hear her. Whether it’s “Damn Daniel” featuring Yung Baby Tate or her stellar guest verse on the remix of Rina Sawayama’s “XS”, Bree is an evocative, hilarious artist.

2. Sammy Virji

© Instagram / SammyVirji

When garage was synonymous with British music, it was easy to feel apathetic about just how genius it was as a musical genre: thank God, then, for artists like Sammy Virji coming in and keeping one of Britain’s great musical genres alive while also keeping it fresh. Virji’s first album, Spice Up My Life, dropped a week or two ago and it is the perfect thing to play when work is over and you pour that first drink on a Friday night. Sleek and naughty at once, prepare to find your song of the summer somewhere on this record.

3. Josie Man

© Matilda Hill-Jenkins

Some days, all you need is a sweet songstress to soothe your stress and, for times like that, you should check out Josie Man. The South London native’s particular brand of daydream pop is readymade for lounging in the sun and forgetting your cares, as her airy vocals unravel the themes that weigh on all our minds: loving yourself and loving others. Confessional and relatable, there’s something for everyone in her music, particularly at a time when the world is constantly in flux. We’re just figuring things out, but at least we have Man’s music to soundtrack it.

4. Park Hye Jin

© Instagram / ParkHyyeJin

If you don’t want to listen to music that makes you yearn for the club while we can’t go to them, keep away from Park Hye Jin: her ambient, luscious shoegaze-y techno will make you crave smoking areas like it’s nobody’s business. How Can I is the second EP from the South Korean DJ and goes slightly harder than her first. Tracks such as “No” have all the murk and hard beats of 4am at Bloc, but then there’s the laconic “Like This”, which hits just right even in lockdown.

5. R.A.E

As she says in her track “Who Is She?”, rapper R.A.E (Rise Above Everything) is a “1990s queen”, who has a musical style to rival the decade’s brightest talents. From her retro beats to the playful storytelling in her lyrics, R.A.E’s music is packed full of nostalgic references to the golden age of hip-hop, only reaffirming what we already knew to be true: we’re already in the midst of a second one. The best part? This time women like R.A.E are at the forefront.

6. Lous And The Yakuza

All you need to do is look at Lous And The Yakuza to be enchanted, but once you hear her music, you’ll fall even deeper under her spell. It probably helps that the Belgian-Congolese artist predominantly raps and sings in French, but her melodic flow and breathy harmonies communicate all you need to know if you’ve forgotten everything you learned at GCSE. Currently working on an album with Rosalía’s producer, El Guincho, you should expect nothing but big things from this one-of-a-kind talent.

7. Roddy Ricch


Roddy Ricch entered 2020 as one of the most played artists on YouTube, securing his first US No1 with “The Box” and coming close to repeating his feat in the UK at the end of January. His success should come as no surprise to those who have been following him for a while – after all, he won his first Grammy last year after featuring on the late Nipsey Hussle’s “Racks In The Middle” – and with a sound that masterfully blends trap and drill with West Coast hip-hop, the 21-year-old rapper is poised to carve out a new space in rap that transcends sub-genres. If that’s not enough to convince you to give Ricch a listen, then let us tempt you with the title of his debut album, Excuse Me For Being Antisocial. Your self-isolation has already been soundtracked.

8. Doja Cat

We’re yet to hear a Doja Cat song that we don’t like and, with two albums and an EP already under her belt, that’s a pretty impressive achievement for an artist who originally went viral by rapping “Bitch, I’m a cow” with chips shoved up her nostrils on YouTube. Remarkably, that song actually slaps, as do her culinary musings on “Waffles Are Better Than Pancakes”, but it was her second album, Hot Pink, that really solidified her as a force to be reckoned with. Whether she’s riding the beat with assured swagger on “Rules”, serving disco realness on viral TikTok hit “Say So” or sampling Blink-182 on “Bottom Bitch”, her versatility and prowess as a rapper shines through on every track. The only other thing we want to hear from her is more.

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9. Piers James

© Mark Hilton

You don’t get much better than an endorsement from Ed Sheeran, one of the many reasons why the world is waking up to Piers James’ talent. The London-based rapper-producer was, after all, handpicked by Sheeran to play support at his 45,000-capacity homecoming show last year, having also been tapped by Adidas to write and perform a track for the recent Predator boots campaign. James has real range, with a style that oscillates comfortably between old-school sunny hip hop (he cites influences such as Tribe Called Quest) and the grit of London’s streets. He’s a true chameleon, with credits ranging from modelling for Napapijri to producing the instrumental for a recent Flannels campaign starring AJ Tracey and Raye. Start with James’ latest track, “Garden Of Eden”, taken from his upcoming two-part project A Dying Breed.

10. Abi Ocia

© Prexa Shrestha

Image may contain: Face, Human, Person, Hair, Head, and Skin

West Londoner Abi Ocia has the kind of voice that transports you to another world, one you literally can’t help but fall in love with. Her esoteric brand of R&B fuses soul, 1980s atmospherics and alternative pop with the celestial vibe you might associate with artists such as Nao, Solange and Sampha. Clearly, the 25-year-old’s deeply reflective, referential writing style has resonated: her first single, “Running”, has racked up more than five million streams on Spotify. Ocia’s rich storytelling extends to her extraordinary visuals, too. Just see the Vero-backed “Offering” for proof. We recommend starting with her incredible debut EP, Where Are You?, released in November last year, right before she graced one of our GQ events with a breathtaking performance. Above all, Ocia delivers one hell of a live show, where unabashed star power and spine tingles are guaranteed.

11. JGrrey

If neo-soul is your genre of choice, then you’re in luck: JGrrey is one of the hottest talents on the scene in London right now and her silky vocals paired with the relaxed funk beats in her music make for a winning combination. Having supported Billie Eilish on her European tour and headlined the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury last summer, her star is rising at rocket speed and, with new music on the way, it’s only going to reach new heights in 2020. We suggest starting your JGrrey journey with her upbeat tracks “Better Off” and “For Keeps” for a guaranteed rush of uplifting endorphins.

12. Mae Muller

Gen Z’s answer to Lily Allen, Mae Muller’s witty and brutally honest lyrics set her apart from her peers – note this killer line from “Anticlimax” for evidence: “All my friends say I’m better than that, ‘Cause you don’t have a job, And you’re shit in the sack.” And while pop’s megastars have fandoms that go by cute names such as Beliebers or Arianators, Muller’s fans call themselves Mullshitters, indicating that she’s already amassed a loyal legion of empowered followers who, quite frankly, give zero f**ks. We’re here for the attitude and we’re staying for the music.

13. Ari Lennox

Having released her first EP in 2013, Ari Lennox’s rise to success has been a longtime coming, but her debut studio album Shae Butter Baby shifted her career into overdrive last year. Why? Well, it could be her old-school soul vocals, full of emotion and vulnerability, or it could be her playful hooks, such as “BMO”’s sample of “gitchi gitchi yaya” from “Lady Marmalade”. The fact that she went on the road with Lizzo last year and is signed to J Cole’s record label also probably helps, but Lennox has the kind of talent that makes it clear she was always destined to be a star anyway.

14. Joy Crookes

At 21, Joy Crookes may be young, but her voice sounds well beyond her years, while her poetic lyricism earned her spot on the shortlist for the Rising Star Award at this year’s Brit Awards. From the bluesy “Mother May I Sleep With Danger?” to tracks such as “Hurts”, which is reminiscent of Kelis’ “Millionaire”, once you dive into Crookes’ already full repertoire you’ll find it hard to climb back out. The good news is that you don’t have to. Her debut studio album is set to be released this year, making 2020 just that little bit brighter.

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15. Carter Ace

There’s a delightful dichotomy LA’s Carter Ace, layering honest and slightly dark lyrics over eclectic, soulful beats that have a poppy, hip-hop twist. “I Think I’m Normal” is a brilliant example of this, a track that has the air of Tame Impala and MGMT, while musing on what it means to be “normal”. Spoiler alert, Ace admits towards the end that his “brain is kinda fucked”, but if it can keep producing bops of this calibre then there’s clearly genius to be found within the madness. If Carter Ace isn’t normal, then we don’t want to be either.

16. Beam

YouTube channel A Colors Show has quickly become the place for new artists to flex their talents  and none have made quite so big of an impression recently as Beam, whose performance of “2X2” showed the world why he’s become a go-to producer for megastars such as 2 Chainz. According to his father, who just so happens to be dancehall legend Papa San, Beam has been producing since the tender age of ten and, at 25, he already has a Grammy win on his CV for his work on Lecrae’s Gravity. But the release of his debut album, 95, last year saw him publicly step into the limelight. Merging reggae, dancehall, trap and hip-hop, while flitting between the patois of his home country, Jamaica, and English, Beam’s music seamlessly blends the sounds that have dominated the charts over the past few years with unparalleled authenticity.

17. Tones And I

There are few voices out there at the moment that are as distinctive as Tones And I’s, which explains last year’s hit single “Dance Monkey”, which shot to No1 in nine countries. Hailing from Australia, where her single spent 24 weeks at No1 last year, Tones And I’s debut EP, The Kids Are Coming, flits between Billie Eilish’s dark pop and the power pop of Sia.

18. Rema


Arguably the first and most important thing you need to know about Nigerian artist Rema is that he’s already been endorsed by Barack Obama, who featured his track “Iron Man” on his 2019 playlist. The 20-year-old Afro-pop wunderkind broke through with his single “Dumebi” – which became a viral dance sensation – and has established himself as one of the most important voices to come out of the continent’s music boom. Industry expectations for Benin City-native Rema, who was discovered after he posted a freestyle to Afro-pop singer D’Prince’s “Gucci Gang” featuring Don Jazzy and Davido, are sky-high, not just because of his sound but because he has an amazing story of resilience, self-worth and hard work too.

19. Lola Young

South Londoner Lola Young has been on our radar since she dropped her debut single “6 Feet Under” in November 2019. The 19-year-old is a Brit School alumni (fellow graduates include Adele, Amy Winehouse, Jessie J, Loyle Carner and Ella Eyre) who’s already something of a veteran on the London scene, having won a national open mic competition at the age of 13. Young has been writing songs since she was eleven, citing influences from Joni Mitchell to Frank Ocean. On tracks such as “3rd Of Jan” she sounds like a new-wave Lily Allen or Kate Nash and on “Pick Me Up”, a smoky jazz queen, while “6 Feet Under” echoes smooth, electro-driven R&B. It has us wishing Young’s April EP, Renaissance, could come even sooner.

20. Jessie Reyez

Canadian singer-songwriter Jessie Reyez has already earned herself a reputation as one of the leading songwriters currently, having penned hits for everyone from Sam Smith to Calvin Harris (she wrote “One Kiss”, the biggest selling song in the UK in 2018). Now, though, the 28-year-old is making waves as a solo artist in her own right, with her debut album, Love Came To Kill Us, arriving this March, getting shoutouts from the likes of Drake, not to mention rave reviews from critics and fans alike. Her brand of trippy R&B is fierce, soulful and sweary enough to rival any rapper, tempered by a celestial voice that sounds like pure liquid gold.

21. Celeste

© Mike Marsland

There’s one name topping every one-to-watch list this year and it’s Celeste. She seems a very safe bet given that she has one of those timeless, generation-spanning voices, as appealing to your ageing dad as to your hypebeast cousin who’s just discovering nu-jazz. It’s a voice that channels Aretha Franklin and takes a cinematic approach to emotion – the more sweeping, the better. Most of the songs she’s released so far have been on the melancholy side of things, but 2020 will bring with it a bigger, more upbeat pop sound that is almost certain to elevate her to ubiquitous status. Get ready to be sick of Celeste, basically.

22. Beabadoobee

© Johnny Louis

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With song titles like “I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus”, London-based Beabadoobee isn’t being coy about her influences. Having only picked up a guitar for the first time two years ago, the 19-year-old has made it her own with a series of deeply Nineties-indebted EPs that examine everything from young, starry-eyed love to the deep insecurities that come with anxiety and mental health issues. The aforementioned Pavement frontman gave her grungy, adolescent vignettes the thumbs up recently and he’s far from alone. With an army of Gen-Z fans already backing her and a new contract with The 1975’s Dirty Hit label, her debut album is one of our most anticipated of the year.

23. Easy Life

© David M. Benett

If you like your guitars with a side of swagger and choruses from the Jamie T school of lyricism, Easy Life are going to be all over your playlists in 2020. At first glance, they’re your average parka-wearing lager louts, but the Leicester band aren’t your regular everyday indie lads. Their latest single, “Sangria”, is an intriguing mix of laid-back rhymes and funk motifs that have been slowed down and sprinkled with reverb. It’s smokey LA jazz club meets East Midlands accents delivering songs with titles such as “Houseplants” and “Spaghetti Hoops” – and it’s real good.

24. Normani

© Kevin Mazur

OK, we know you already know Normani: one fifth of turbulent X Factor US finalists Fifth Harmony and the singer behind “Motivation”, one of this year’s greatest songs. She bounced a basketball off her butt in the video… You know the one. Even if you’ve spent 2019 living under a rock (and who can blame you), Normani is going to dominate your 2020. “Motivation” was roundly adored for its modern take on millennium-era R&B (think Aaliyah, Alicia Keys, Destiny’s Child), keeping all the hooks and the sly sexiness but removing all of the cheese. She’s been working with a host of top collaborators including Ariana Grande’s BFF Victoria Monét, so no wonder, with an album slated for 2020, we’re thirsty for more.

25. SuperM

© Randy Holmes

SuperM’s first mini album, imaginatively titled The 1st Mini Album, opens with a crowd cheering wildly. We’d advise you to get ready to join those masses in 2020. The K-Pop supergroup lands somewhere between the stadium rocking One Direction and the multitasking Brockhampton. Its seven members are already established stars in three other groups and their mix of gang vocals, rock guitars, industrial electro and excitable rap would be huge even if it wasn’t irresistibly moreish. Which, luckily, it is. Check out their biggest song, “Jopping”, which somehow manages to mix everything into a pop-rock bouillabaisse that sounds on paper like it ought to be an almighty racket but, somehow, against all natural laws of music, works.

26. Shygirl

© Burak Cingi

Landing somewhere between a dank basement MC and a super-club DJ, Shygirl is equally at home on the mic and the decks. Her effortless flow takes no prisoners and her beats are sometimes overlaid with shudder-inducing screeches, other times with gentle beach club sounds that lull you into a false sense of security. She’s not interested in making anyone feel comfortable. Take “MSRY” from her 2017 EP: it builds from a chill-out sesh into a full-blown meltdown and back again. The 25-year-old sounds good in headphones and truly mind-blowing on the dance floor.

27. Koffee

© Joseph Okpako

Mikayla Simpson earned the nickname “Koffee” when she ordered a hot cup of joe on a sweltering summer’s day but it’s serving her well. Hailing from Spanish Town, Jamaica, she’s ushering in a new age of reggae. Songs range from calling out gun violence and bigging up Usain Bolt – the latter was what sent her viral on Instagram and led to her signing with Columbia last year. On everyone’s shortlist of artists to work with, she’s opening for some of Harry Styles’ North American tour dates in 2020. It’s definitely worth getting on the Koffee train before then.

As two platforms looking to showcase emerging talent, GQ and Vero are on the hunt for exciting new artists to connect with the community in-app in order to be in with a chance of being spotlighted on both of our channels. All you need to do is upload one of your songs or videos to Vero with the hashtag #GQspotlights. Join GQ on Vero for all the latest music lifestyle news and insider access into the GQ world, from behind-the-scenes insight to recommendations from our editors and high-profile talent.

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