Best Of 2012: Best Breakout Artists

It has been a remarkable year for newcomer acts. Our airwaves, stereos and clubs were filled with music by artists who, until recently, didn’t have much name recognition. Thanks to the help of social media such as YouTube and Twitter, many more artists have been able to break national an even international ground with their music.

Here’s to 2012’s brightest new acts. Shine on superstars!


1.One Direction

True that X Factor runner up acts almost always become more successful than the winning act itself but no one expected the English boy band, One Direction, to blow up this year as much as they have. With the release of  two million-selling albums in 2012 (Up All Night and Take Me Home), they are the most successful ban to ever come out of X factor yet. Given their massive Twitter influence and millions of screaming female fans, I think their success will carry over into 2013.


2.Kendrick Lamar

This is one of my personal favourites of the year. Kendrick Lamar created the best hip-hop album of the year with good kid, m.A.A.d city, which effortlessly blends popular radio singles “Swimming Pools (Drank)” into a complex, somewhat autobiographical concept. The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, selling almost 250,000 copies in its first week. 


3. Grimes

  Born Claire Boucher, Canadian native Grimes is the alternative breakout star of the year. She  told an interviewer that she wrote her breakout album Visions after several days of self-imposed isolation: “I started to feel like I was channelling spirits. I was convinced my music was a gift from God.” Divine intervention or not, the album was a complete critical success.


4. Elle Varner

Elle’s debut single was released in August 2011 but she became a household name in 2012. She reminds me of a young Jill Scott. Elle’s ‘Refill’ has been been Grammy nominated for Best R&B song. The show will take place in January 2013. Seems like she’s only going uphill from here. 


5. Carly Rae Jepsen

The 27 year old Canadian met with exceptional popular success after fellow Canadian teen hearthrob Justin Bieber sent out a tweet urging fans to check out her song ‘Call Me Maybe’. ‘Call Me Maybe’ YouTube video gained over 300 million views and reached the number one spot on both the US Billboard and Canadian Hot 100. She’s released a handful of catchy hits since then.


6. Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean joined the Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA) in 2010 and has been a mixtape star for a few years now, it was in 2012 that he established himself as one of the finest songwriters of our time with his debut studio album Channel ORANGE. A stunning work of heartbreaking honesty, the album was easily the most universally lauded major release of the year.


7. Friends

Friends, originally named Perpetual Crush, is a band from Brooklyn, New York. I first stumbled ipon one of their tracks while shopping at a vintage store. This track was playing in the background and I just couldn’t help myself but Shazam it! Found out it was their popular hit, I’m His Girl. They have gained critical acclaim since their first release as one of the most eclectic, alternative pop groups of the year.


8. Jessie Ware

Ware is the epitome of what traditional classy R&B music used to be. However, unlike predecessors Sade and Whitney, Ware is moving the direction of R&B by nudging it gently and respectfully into a new terrain. The bouncy and often times darkly laden production choices on Devotion don’t completely acquiesce to the traditional R&B tropes. Clash called the English singer and songwriter “the missing link between Adele, SBTRKT and Sade” and hailed it as “a strong and accomplished debut”.


9. Purity Ring

If you’ve had an ear to the ground and an eye to the blogs since late last year, then you can’t have missed the hype building around Canadian electro/dream-pop act Purity Ring. With the release of their much anticipated debut Shrines, they’ve proven that they are more than capable of delivering on that early promise. They inhabit a beautifully conflicted musical landscape that feels joyous, ethereal and unnerving all at once. There have been many bands trying to capture the musical zeitgeist of 2012, but few have got the balance so right, as when Corrin Roddick’s shimmering electronic ambiance interweaves with Morgan James seductive and ghostly vocals. Their music blurs and buzzes with wondrous, glossy, danceable melodies, whilst beautifully dark lyrics (part nursery rhyme, part nightmare) unfold to reveal this duo’s deep and unfathomable centre. (Tom Fenwick)


10. Miguel

 BET and Soul Train award-winning writer/artist Miguel found a unique way to roll out his new RCA album Kaleidoscope Dream, the follow-up to his 2010 debut All I Want Is You. He gained some serious recognition this year with a Grammy nomination and records sales. He is often compared to Prince, which I must say is not a bad thing.


11. Fun.

When you call your band Fun. people expect a lot from you. Well, they seem to be having a hell load a fun. Top charting singles, 6 Grammy nominations, international recognition…what more could a band want? Given that Fun. was lead singer’s, Nate Ruess, second attempt at forming a band after the dissolution of his first group; it only goes to show never give up your dreams.


Who has wowed your musical senses this year? 

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  • MsAidyl
    December 27, 2012

    Cool list!!! my only moan would be OneDirection at number 1?! They are just a manufactured plastic Xfactor product right? Anyway kudos to Grimes , shes so unique and has cool fashion!!

  • Chanele
    January 1, 2013

    Great post 🙂