From Dylan Sinclair and Pip Millett to notfortheo, CJ Flemings, and more.
by Stella He & Gabby Sgherri Publishing date: Jan, 11, 2023
It’s 2023 and whether you subscribe to the whole “new year, new me” ideology, the calendar reset marks the slate clean for you to measure whatever you please—resolutions, relationships, personal goals…etc. For the musically inclined, this means a new year of releases and opportunities for burgeoning artists to rise from the crevices of Spotify and Apple Music’s catalog depths and make their way into conversations with your not-so-musically inclined friends. So in the spirit of out with the old and in with the new, we rounded up 11 artists destined to have a great year and deserving of a spot on your music queue. If you’re an R&B stan, then Toronto native Dylan Sinclair will satisfy your refined palette. If you’re looking for alternative chillwave sounds that make you stop your study session and double-take the song that’s playing, look no further than notfortheo. As genres become increasingly outdated, and many artists we’ve highlighted straddle more than one, we assure you you’ll find artists whose music is as sonically soothing as it is lyrically stimulating.
After breaking out with the self-released, deeply personal album, Proverb, in 2020, the Filipino-Guyanese singer, Dylan Sinclair, found himself with a JUNO nomination for Traditional R&B/Soul Record of the Year and a glimpse of what’s to come. The gospel-influenced EP has remnants of Sinclair’s beginnings, he grew up singing in the church choir and was inspired by the work of Gospel singer, Fred Hammond and his musical group, Commissioned. Sinclair equally credits the contemporary work of Frank Ocean and Daniel Caesar for instilling hope that he could see success in an alternative R&B lane. As his musical talent and ambition expanded, the 20-year-old outgrew his hometown of Thornhill, Ontario, and decided to move into the city of Toronto. The shift in his environment resulted in his newest album, No Longer in the Suburbs, where he details the freedoms, temptations, and torments that come on the cusp of fame in a city full of distractions. Instrumented by soulful, meditative R&B tracks, Dylan works through moral trials as he enters adulthood and tensions between familiar and foreign. Now with millions of streams under his belt, he earns the title of Toronto’s next R&B sensation, and it is only a matter of time before this one-of-a-kind talent takes it to the global stage.
Cool, calm, and collected is how you will feel listening to the hallucinatory psychedelic sounds of Chiiild. With extensive experience in producing and co-writing, think Jennifer Lopez, Chole x Halle, and Usher, Chiiild developed his distinct rhythm and otherworldly auditory aesthetics that make him one to watch. Coined “synthetic soul,” Chiiild weaves modern R&B, psychedelia, and smooth retro soul to pioneer a pinging listening experience that consummates the likes of D’Angelo, Tame Impala, and Marvin Gaye. But it doesn’t stop there; the singer speaks harsh truths about life, love, and social justice in his lyricism, elevating his work beyond sound. Listen to “Pirouette,” “Count Me Out,” and “Sleepwalking” and see if the ghostly calming vocals overtopping electronically funk-ridden beats don’t soothe your inner turmoil. His use of striking synths and water guitar riffs also reminds us of the soulful and calming undertone we could all take into the new year ahead.
BRB, currently crying to Reneé Rapp’s debut EP, Everything to Everyone. If the name sounds familiar, Rapp starred in Broadway’s Mean Girls as Regina George and currently stars in HBO Max’s The Sex Lives of College Girls as Leighton Murray. After years of portraying fictional characters and subsequently telling their stories, Rapp is ready to write her own as a singer-songwriter. Her debut EP brims with self-reflection, proving she has something to say. Depicting her roles beyond the screen, the up-and-comer recalls moments in her personal life: as a lover, daughter, and trusted confidante. The record comprises seven R&B cuts and pop ballads, each emotionally charged yet addictively melodic. Her songs are for anyone who needs to cry over some truths from failed relationships and growing pains à la Olivia Rodrigo. Currently in our Reneé Rapp era, and we can’t wait to see what Rapp has to unwrap for us in the rest of 2023.
Montréal native, CJ Flemings, has become known as the soft-spoken prince because of his ability to spit smooth bars and tight flows over post-trap drums and pop-inflected hip-hop beats. Having started his career in his early teens, he became accustomed to mixing and mastering his projects alone which refined his ability to know exactly what he wants when working with other creatives. JUNO award-winning hip-hop producer, Michael Lantz, produced his second album, Mascara Tears, resulting in a polished offering of melodic flows, poignant lyricism, and earworm beats. He explores universal themes of romantic turmoil, existentialist doubts, and benevolence vs ego. He displays versatility on recent singles like “Feelings In A Tuck”, which favors a bouncy and melodic rap flow, and “Dirty Sprite Toast Freestyle” where he spits classic hip-hop bars. We can only hope 2023 is the year CJ Flemings expands his existing universe and lets us take a trip inside his melodic mind.
If you ever need to get out of the city for a breath of fresh air, notfortheo’s got your back. Releasing their debut EP half-life, towards the end of last year, the sizzling four-track record is a dynamic offering with wavy synth chord progressions and laid-back vocals. The group’s unique musicality strikes an unlikely balance between nostalgia and catharsis. Adding on top of that, top-noting drums and fat baselines, notfortheo creates soundscapes that transcend listeners to otherwordly dimensions and pluck them out of their everyday life. Although notfortheo entered the chillwave space like a hot new bombshell, the group’s members are veterans who have long been experimenting in the Toronto production scene. The amalgamation of each member’s experience can be heard in the cohesiveness of the EP, along with the sonic experimentation fusing indie-pop, alternative, rap, and chillwave together. This genre-bending powerhouse is a group to keep an eye on in 2023, and unlike what their name suggests, notfortheo’s music is for everyone.
Lous and the Yakuza is the embodiment of duality, and we’re all here for it. Not wanting to settle for any specific genre, the Conglonese-Belgian artist combined trap, pop, and skittering R&B in her debut album Gore, and curated her personal style—melding the avant-gardeness of Margiela with the casualness of Adidas. Lous thrives on delivering the totally unexpected, take her stage name for example. “Lous” is an anagram for “Soul” and “Yakuza” is the Japanese word for “loser.” In a recent interview, she said the inception of her name, “speaks to my sense of resilience […] and my love for those who don’t conform.” Her experimentalist mentality led to her song “Dilemme” racking up more than 10 million streams. Subsequently, she was tapped by the fashion house, Louis Vuitton, to become one of their modeling muses. Honing in on her Congolese rumba rhythms and making space for her playful and “dreamy” side, she returns with her second full-length release, IOTA. The singer’s gutsy nature destines her to be defiant of norms, and she’s not stopping until her Lous universe is fully formed.
If you need a sign to listen to Preston Pablo, here it is. Riding off the success of his platinum-selling single “Flowers Need Rain,” which currently has over 46 million global streams, Preston closed out 2022 with the single “Love You Bad” showcasing his genre-crossing ability. Since his debut, he’s honed his “modern vintage style”, which draws on elements of pop and R&B elevated by his own unique twist. Its small-town roots meet the big stage with Preston starting off most songs from the classical side, using a guitar or piano, and figuring out how to evolve it from there. He’s already released his first single of 2023 titled “AY AY AY”. Merging dance-floor sounds with pop energy, he says, “this song is the fantasized world built around my wildest desires. It’s my materialistic idea of success being manifested through a song.” You can always count on Preston to deliver honest lyrics and dynamic melodies with lots more music to come this year.
Ogi has been on our radar for a minute. Her performance of her debut single, “I Got It,” at the 2022 BET Awards ratified her artistry as a force to be reckoned with. Her debut album, Monologues, is a smooth and sultry record that showcases her unique sound capabilities—bolstered by her grammy-winning production partner, No. I.D. Ogi has cultivated her own brand of music through her confessional truths, uncompromising range, and composition. Melancholy drips atop tracks like “Envy” and “Let Me Go” while grounding bass drums and crisp falsetto juxtaposes jazzy warmth with harmonizing hummings. Full of melodic laughs and sonic explorations, Monologues lays the perfect foundation for the rising star to work its way into the ranks of other modern rhythms and blues stars, and to say we’re excited is an understatement.
It’s 2023, and Pip Millett is reminding us to stop accepting the bare minimum. When Everything Is Better, I’ll Let You Know was released in late October, the singer’s no-nonsense attitude offered a firm reminder to shun our fears and embrace independence, ownership, and boundaries to things that no longer serve us. Baring it all in the effort of self-discovery and honesty, Pip brings her listeners along on her journey and does so over jazzy trumpets with dreamy, ethereal grooves. Her personal growth and embrace of womanhood are glaring in her raw lyricism, and they seem to be what we didn’t know we needed to hear. Like in “Smoking,” where she sings, “This love is broken, it’s broken / I didn’t want to let you go / Couldn’t see the light / I was in the dark.” And in “Walk Away,” where she sings, “My love is not a favor / I’m doing way too much / That’s why I have to cut you off.” Consider her songs as advice from a wise friend telling you to move on when things aren’t working out. Pip Millett, everyone, is the up-and-comer for our independent girlie anthems.
“Rebel with a cause,” also known as Crash Adams, is making us rock out with their latest single, “Caroline.” Brewing their talent in Toronto’s creative scene, the duo made its debut in 2019 and has been an unstoppable force since pumping out lighthearted, feel-good music for their fans and listeners worldwide. Despite making quite a commotion on social media, they remain rooted in Toronto and give homage to the city’s landmarks like the bustling Yonge and Dundas intersection and the bulk-buying store Bulk Barn, both in their music videos and EP covers. Through scintillating guitar riffs and uplifting drum rumbles, Crash Adams make a name for themselves as a group that doesn’t take themselves too seriously and the maker of bangers one after another.
TikTok sensation Sofia Camara devotes her music to relatability, above all else, offering up her experience so others can better understand theirs. At just 20 years old, her two singles, “Without You” and “Never Be Yours,” garnered more than 6.1 million likes on TikTok. In today’s world, virality tends to be the earliest markings of an up-and-coming star. Touching on universal themes of heartache and infatuation, Sofia gives her unique perspective which is a perfect mix of post-adolescent curiosity and a maturity that is wise beyond her years. A radio-ready pop ballad with a crunchy touch of electro-pop-inspired rock, the Toronto-raised Portugal native lays her mind bare for her listeners, and it’s only a matter of time before becoming the next breakout hit.