For some artists, success takes years to find them. That’s true of Ella Mai, who finally got her moment in 2018 when irresistible single Boo’d Up made it impossible to ignore her any longer. Her debut album, released last October, confirmed she’s more than a one-hit wonder: packing classic, soulful R&B and fully justifying her co-signs from the likes of Bruno Mars and Kehlani.
There’s something so joyful about King Princess (aka Mikaela Straus), even when she’s writing sad songs. You can feel creative excitement shining through everything she does, whether that’s the incredibly romantic but tongue-in-cheek numbers or the elegant heartbreak of tracks such as Talia. She already marked herself out as one of music’s brightest new stars last year – 2019 is hers for the taking.
Born-and-bred Londoner Kojey Radical isn’t just a rapper – he’s a poet, visual artist and much more. That refusal to be limited to just one discipline comes through in his music, too, which boasts elements of grime, hip hop, R&B and beyond, while his subject matter draws precisely from all areas of life and politics.
Mahalia is a prime example of the benefits of biding your time. Signed to a major label since she was just 13, the now 20-year-old is primed to ascend from her pretty popular base right now into the star-o-sphere in 2019. Last year’s Seasons EP, with its characterful R&B, showed that fame should be a doddle for her, while she’s already made a strong start by supporting the likes of Ed Sheeran and Jorja Smith on tour.
Drake’s obsession with London might suggest it’s easy for a rapper from the city to get a big up from the household name. But Octavian has properly earned it. The 22-year-old Brit School attendee’s latest mixtape Spaceman merges grime and house in a way that seems destined to prompt more than just global superstars firing off a money gun to it.
Sadly, it’s rare that a BRITs Critics’ Choice winner tackles uncomfortable and important subjects, but Sam Fender does just that. His debut EP Dead Boys finds him singing about the woes of masculinity, all set to soaring indie anthemics that sound ready to lift the roof off any festival tent this summer.
London-based four piece Sea Girls make the kind of indie-pop that feels like it’ll never disappear, regardless of trends. Like Blossoms and The Wombats before them, Sea Girls are big, hooky and splattered with aural colour. Theirs is a kind of low-key songcraft that can worm its way into your skull until you just need to be yelling along to them in the middle of a sweaty mass of strangers.