What do a feisty R&B singer, a fierce trio of women, and a Nigerian highlife band have in common? They're just three of the newcomers that EW predicts will break out in 2017. Get to know the artists below.
When Dua Lipa was in primary school, she bombed an audition for the choir. “My voice is so low that sometimes when I try to do high notes, nothing but air comes out," she says. That didn't deter her from pursuing a music career: At age 15, she moved by herself to London (where she grew up) from Kosovo (where her family had relocated a few years earlier) to attend theater school. Now it's her rich, smoky voice, which echoes Amy Winehouse’s, that’s become an asset on her debut album, due in June. Musically, the LP covers tropical house, electro-funk, and acoustic R&B. But Lipa, 21, says the stories tie everything together: "I never want to seem weak in my songs. The second I start writing a sad song, I always change it to make it seem like I was more empowered."
"My musical ADD is all over the place," Bowman says, but you already knew that if you've listened to his SoundCloud. There, the Philly native, 23, posts his acclaimed "refixes"—inventive covers that mash up Justin Bieber with Drake or Rihanna with *NSYNC. He'll soon combine his love of TRL-era pop and cutting-edge R&B with his 22 Minutes Later EP, due early this year. "It's my musical autobiography and a confessional diary at the same time," he says. Citing Chance the Rapper's DIY career as an inspiration, Brayton will release the EP through his own label, Big Deb Inc. "I'm always going to do and say whatever the f— I want, and I have my own label because of that," he says. "I'm a feisty bitch."
3. Ibibio Sound Machine
If the United Nations’ General Assembly convened at Studio 54, Ibibio Sound Machine would easily be that night's headlining act. This octet fuses ecstatic African highlife music and pulsing disco beats with British singer Eno Williams’ folktales of her Nigerian heritage, which she delivers in the country’s native Ibibio tongue. The group isn't afraid to get political: “Give Me a Reason," from their March album Uyai, addresses the heartbreaking kidnapping of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls by the terrorist group Boko Haram in 2014. There is still a joy in Ibibio Sound Machine’s approach. "Growing up, I was around very strong and positive women,” says Williams, 43. “I wanted to write about those things. People shouldn’t be afraid or stifled."
Growing up in Hokes Bluff, Ala., Drake White was enthralled with the Delta blues. "It was about listening to acoustic guitars and storytelling," he says. So on his debut solo album, Spark, the 33-year-old fused that vintage vibe with Stax-era soul and bright country-pop. For White, music is about creating a feel-good escape. "I'm trying to help people get along," he says, "maybe make them disconnect from this crazy world or just enjoy a sunset now and then." After spending the past two summers opening for the Zac Brown Band, he's embarking on his first headlining tour this month. He's hardly nervous: "I want to turn out some badass, funky stuff and rip people’s faces off with music."
Brothers Caleb, 27, and Will Chapman, 25, who lead this quartet, were seemingly groomed for rock stardom as kids growing up in Franklin, Tenn. Their grandfather owned a music store, and their father, the prolific Christian-rock songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman, hired his sons as his backing band. "I feel kind of inadequate when I'm around those two guys," Caleb says. "It's inspiring but a little bit intimidating to have to keep up with these old fellas!" But they're deftly stepping outside those shadows with their second album, Only the Lonely, which was partly inspired by the late icon Roy Orbison. "If he was my age in this day, maybe he’d do something like this," says Caleb. "[But] it'd probably be a lot cooler."