In the world of the Charts, it's easy to get stuck on the here and now; on the acts that have dominated conversation and Number 1 spots for the past 12 months.
But the most exciting thing about music is that it keeps moving, forever looking forward to what (and who) is next.
Our Ones To Watch for 2021 included future Mercury Prize winning Arlo Parks and we're hoping for similar successes for the Class of 2022 as well.
Arabella Lathum may hail from South Africa, but her music feels distinctly British. Riffing on the alt-pop of The 1975 and the pure-pop hooks of acts like Griff, she's released an eclectic range of singles in 2020, culminating in her mixtape project The Yearbook. That record saw her dabble with various different 'personalities,' all resulting in different shades of pop - from the rock-edged (These Drugs) to the melancholic synths of Dover Beach. Her debut album is set for release next year.
For fans of: The 1975, Maisie Peters, Griff
Essential Track: Dover Beach - a burst of dissociative electronic pop. A candy-coated layer with a dark beating heart.
Self-confessed Global Celebrity Teen Pop Sensation, Cmat is just as much a comedienne as she is pop star. Despite hailing from Dublin, she's made herself very comfortable in the genre of country, churning out several irreverent, biting commentaries of modern society and relationships, all the while retaining that essential air of glitz, glam and slick choruses we come to expect from any emerging pop talent. Her debut album, If My Wife New I'd Be Dead, is set for release February 25 via indie distributor AWAL.
For fans of: Kacey Musgraves, Dolly Parton, the solo career of Paris Hilton
Essential Track: I Really Don't Care For You - "Oh the Marian Keyes of it all!"
Ayra Starr's 2021 debut album was called 19 & Dangerous, and she really means it. Exploding with confidence, Ayra Starr's ultra-determined persona shines through on her music; mixing Afrobeats styles with the undeniable grace and charisma of some of the very best pop stars. "My music is powerful, emotional and free," she told NME this year. "You should feel a sense of freedom when you listen because you’ve tapped into a part of yourself you never knew was there." You feel everything.”
For fans of: Ray BLK, Pa Salieu, Burna Boy
Essential Track: Breakout banger Bloody Samaritan is quick, slick and addictive.
Riley Davies scored three UK Top 10 singles in 2021 - in less than six months! After being discovered on a viral remix of Russ Million and Tion Wayne's Number 2 smash Body, ArrDee used that attention to funnel into his own music. Interviewing him this month, ArrDee told us that his plans for 2022 domination are going to start with a single release that is "going to make a lot of artists sh*t themselves." Watch this space!
For fans of: Aitch, AJ Tracey, Eminem
Essential Track: Flowers (Say My Name) - a perfect example of how to engineer a commercial breakthrough, without losing any of your identity in the process.
It's nice to know that lockdown was actually helpful for some people. Take PinkPantheress, who used her time in 2021 well, posting a series of demos to her TikTok account that resulted in her signing a major label record deal and releasing her debut project, To Hell With It. The enigmatic singer-songwriter (a uni student who doesn't want her real name revealed) names Lily Allen has one of her primary influences, and there's a huge injection of Alright, Still's DIY approach to pop in her work so far.
For fans of: Lily Allen, Lana Del Rey, Let's Eat Grandma
Essential Track: Just For Me - a mixture of garage and sugar-sweet pop that is the very definition of short but sweet.
Wet Leg emerged from relative obscurity in 2021 with a post-punk delight of a debut single. Chaise Longue caught certain corners of the internet on fire because of its hyper-specificity; taking the self-seriousness of artists like Phoebe Bridgers' approach to indie-leaning guitar music, but threading it with gauche cultural references ("is your muffin buttered?") and a very British approach to sarcasm. 2022 is already shaping up to be a breakthrough moment for Isle of Wight duo Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, whose self-titled debut album drops April 8 via Domino.
For fans of: Snail Mail, Phoebe Bridgers, Lorde
Essential Track: Chaise Longue - Mean Girls and post-punk pop, what more could you need?
"I'm stubborn, if you tell me I can't do something, that's not going to work well for anybody," Gayle told us about expectations on her career following her meteoric rise to the UK Top 10 with vitriolic breakup anthem, abcdefu. It seems now that sky is limit for her in 2022 - and that follow-up single? "It has f*ck in the title. It's a love song. I talk about wanting to kill somebody."
For fans of: Avril Lavigne, Julia Michaels, Olivia Rodrigo
Essential Track: ABCDEFU - the surprise breakout track that will soundtrack your break-ups for years to come
Another artist forged by the flames of the pandemic, Thomas Headon was already making waves with his self-written, self-produced indie-pop before moving to the UK just in time for the first lockdown. But what many saw as creatively stifling, Thomas has clearly turned to his advantage; his music is reassuring yet familiar, taking in the lighter-shades of Yungblud and the pin-up showmanship of Harry Styles (you have to say they look a *little* similar...). Thomas' next EP Victoria is out March 11, via Such A Good Company/Warner.
For fans of: Yungblud, Harry Styles, Sam Fender
Essential Track: The gigantic melodies of Strawberry Kisses hint at larger pop ambitions on the horizon.