24 Breakout Stars In Music In 2014
The year’s best new singers, songwriters, and producers. In no particular order.
By the time Sam Smith stood onstage at Saturday Night Live in March, he already had you hooked. You may not have recognized his face then or known his name, but you'd certainly heard his angelic voice anchoring Disclosure's dance hit “Latch.” Now he's obviously a giant star, and his haunting, gospel-tinged breakup lament “Stay With Me” is one of the undisputed biggest hits of the year. It was first played on Zane Lowe's BBC radio show on March 25, and it hasn't been done with our ears since. We're not complaining.
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Ed Sheeran bolstered his songwriting career with credits on songs for One Direction and Taylor Swift, but he made a triumphant return to his primary gig with his latest chart-topping album, X. Sheeran went beyond his voice and his guitar on X, flirting with Justin Timberlake-styled pop 'n B on lead single “Sing” and rapping on “Don't.” What’s next for Ed Sheeran in 2015? He’ll continue his X tour, which will take him to Europe, Oceania, Asia, and the Americas. Not bad for a guy who came to L.A. in 2010 with no Hollywood connections.
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The 24-year-old super producer's signature sound grew from a hip-hop subgenre (“ratchet”) to radio ubiquity via hits including but not limited to Tinashe's “2 On,” Big Sean's “I Don't Fuck With You,” and Fergie's “L.A. Love (La La).” But the real sign that DJ Mustard was the producer to beat in 2014? Even the hits he didn't produce (Iggy Azalea's “Fancy,” Migos' “Fight Night”) bore his unmistakable influence.
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It seems inconceivable now, but Meghan Trainor and writing partner Kevin Kadish spent months trying to shop around her summer smash “All About That Bass” to no avail. Trainor was working as a songwriter in Nashville at the time and hadn’t considered cutting the song herself. All that changed when legendary record exec L.A. Reid heard the song and knew immediately that “Bass” would be a hit and Trainor a star. The doo-wop-inspired ode to booty ultimately spent eight weeks at No. 1 in the U.S. and topped the charts in an astounding 58 countries. While the prospect of being a one-hit wonder loomed large, Trainor’s cheery follow-up single “Lips Are Movin” is climbing up the charts and the genre-bending singer-songwriter is poised for genuine pop stardom.
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