Up-and-coming artists to watch for

By Jerome Stuart Nichols | Life Editor
Added January 11, 2012 at 7:16 pm

2011 was a fantastic year in music. Even if we ignore the blockbuster albums by Lady Gaga and Adele, we’re still left a phenomenal year of sales and performances from acts new and old.

Now that the last bottle of shampagnay has been popped, and our 2011 hangover has subsided, it’s time to look forward to the people who will keep the train rolling (in the deep) during the year of 2012.

Lana Del Ray

Indie darling Lana Del Ray is set to make a big splash with her debut album “Born To Die,” which is poised for release in late January.

Although she was a relative unknown in 2011, she managed to rack up a respectable eight-million views of her official debut single “Born To Die,” and a total of 36 million video views between her two official YouTube channels.

Del Ray, real name and original stage name Lizzie Grant, has had an odd rise to notoriety. She began performing and realizing haunting videos for some of her songs back in 2009. It wasn’t until she got a record company behind her that she really began to take off.

Some music critics find this path to be a bit disingenuous, but I disagree. From listening to early demos, you can tell the music is all hers. The image may or may not be, but you can’t see music so I’m not concerned.

Either way, Lana Del Ray is all but destined to be a breakout star in 2012, and you’d be wise to take a listen.

James Blake

James Blake is a British-born, London-based, independent singer-songwriter. In February of last year, he released his eponymous debut to rave reviews. I included that album on my list of albums that rocked my 2011. But if you ask anyone who isn’t a music snob to pick this messy-haired hipster out of a lineup, I doubt they’d be successful.

Blake’s career thus far has been an exercise in modern independent music. In just two years Blake has racked up one solo album, a second album, which is a team up with Bon Iver, four EP’s and four music videos. He was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2011 and is even signed to Polydor Records, but has remained underground and relatively unknown in the states.

In 2012, he is rumored to be headlining a tour of the U.S., which would finally bring his sleepy and slightly demented, experimental electric-soul style to the American Indie scene in a substantial way. I don’t expect that he’ll have great immediate success. He’ll definitely make some innovative and sultry moves, which should set him up for a great 2013.

Janelle Monae’

I have a confession to make. I am addicted to the pint-sized, pompadour-wearing, monochromatic alternative-rock-pop-soul songstress known as Janelle Monae’, AKA Cindy Mayweather, AKA Android #57821. Ever since a friend introduced me to the epic world of Metropollis, the “Shakespeare meets Phillip K. Dick” love story of 57821 and Anthony Green Down back in 2008, we have been inseparable. Let me regain my composure.

Janelle Monae’ is one of those artists that seems as if she can do wrong. On her first two albums, 2009’s “Metropolis – The Chase Suite” and 2010’s “The Archandroid,” she introduced Afro-Punk, a hybrid of soul, rock and punk, to the masses. She then embarked on three consecutive tours, including her 2011 Wholigans in Wonderland tour with Bruno Mars, all of which have received rave reviews from fans, the music industry and critics.

Much like Kanye West, Janelle Monae’ is one of those artists that other artists love to love. Thus far, she’s received kind words from the likes of Prince, Elton John, Karl Lagerfeld, P. Diddy, Lady Gaga and Andre 3000.

This year she plans on releasing two new albums, which are expected to wrap up the story that began on Metropolis –- “The Chase Suite” — and set her up for new things in 2013. She has also confirmed a headlining tour and a three night run at the Staples Center.

If you haven’t yet got hooked on Monae’ and her wildly inventive musical stylings, now is the time, because 2012 will be the year she breaks into the mainstream and solidifies her place among the musical elite.

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