The Annual Forecast: Meet 20 Australian artists to watch in 2022
Our yearly ones to watch list returns, highlighting artists from all corners of Australia that we’re tipping for big things in the year ahead.
Across the last few years, our annual ‘ones to watch’ predictions have become one of our favourite pieces to piece together, providing an opportunity to reflect on the newcomers of the year prior, and elevate those that we think will be sticking around for a long while; the artists that we think have it in them to become Australia’s next big breakthrough artist. Every year, it’s a reminder of the brilliance of Australia’s next generation, and the depth of talent that soars far beyond the heavy-hitters that often find themselves at the top of the charts or festival line-ups, regardless of whether it’s a neo-soul favourite from central Melbourne or an emerging group from regional Tasmania or the Northern Territory.
As it turns out, our predictions are often pretty on the money too. Looking back, our 2021 list saw names including ASHWARYA, BARKAA, Budjerah, Ghost Care, Liyah Knight, MAY-A, Nick Ward, Siobhan Cotchin and Teenage Joans added to alumni that includes everyone from The Kid LAROI and Genesis Owusu to Cry Club, flowerkid, Miiesha, Sycco, Haiku Hands and tonnes more. Since we looked into our crystal ball of the future, some of these acts have gone on to become international favourites, spotted across festival line-ups in the US and beyond - and we couldn’t be so stoked to be so right once upon a time.
In 2022, we have a feeling things aren’t going to change. It’s been a strange and chaotic year on reflection, with international touring and plus-sized events continuing to be marred by restrictions and lockdowns throughout the year. However, one positive of that is that the country’s inwards-facing look into what’s going on back home has continued, and events that often dip their toes into interstate or international acts have had to adapt and continue to grow and elevate more local artists, leading to these acts being further established than they would’ve perhaps been in a more ‘normal’ musical ecosystem.
Our artists to watch in 2022 list feels like the creme of the crop of these names; the artists that we think have gone above and beyond to show that they’re the ones worth looking out for in the year ahead. As always, it plucks from all sounds and shapes across the musical spectrum, from the hard-hitting rap of Korean-Australian crew 1300 right through to the striving pop of Charley. There are acts from across Western Sydney to Western Australia; those that learnt the tools of the trade at prestigious music schools to just toying around in their bedroom, as a means to pass the time as the world revolves around them.
It’s a list we couldn’t be more stoked with, so without further ado, here are Pilerats’ predictions for the big acts to watch in the year ahead:
Korean-Australian rap crew 1300 took the local hip-hop scene by storm in 2021, breaking boundaries and creating eclectic sounds Australia had not heard the likes of yet. Hailing from Sydney’s west, the project fell into place through amalgamations of solo projects and the meeting of like-minded individuals forging a community. With undeniable chemistry, the group of multi-talented individuals sing, rap, and produce their craft into effortlessly energetic and at times even chaotic compositions. Signature strong beats and bilingual lyricism shining through as bright as ever from their debut release in early 2021, to their most recent raw and expressive track Smashmouth, from August 2021.
Last year saw this K-pop boy band dip their toe into both the Aussie and Korean scene, and there’s no telling how big the splash will be when they jump in with a national tour and more flawless flows in 2022.
R&B melodies and political raps that are infectiously catchy are what Zimbabwe-born, Boorloo/Perth raised musician, producer, and DJ Anesu does best. Falling somewhere in and around the genres of hip-hop, electronic and soul, this musician highlights versatility as a creative. Identifying as a non-binary person of colour, Anesu unpacks themes of race and gender in their music, advocating for change in the local community through hosting, running and performing events such as DECOLONISE Pride in 2020, and dropping singles such as Black Girl, and October’s Crown, both being impactful meaningful tracks that demand your attention, and move you metaphorically and literally.
2021 has seen this powerhouse singer-songwriter-producer interlace within the local Boorloo music community, amassing solid shows and meaningful releases all in a short period of time. With unmatched passion and fire, there are undeniably more stories and grooves from Anesu to be felt this coming year.
BIG SKEEZ (NSW)
Sydney based producer, engineer and artist Big Skeez is a creator who combines afrobeat, dancehall, reggae and R&B influence from his African heritage with influence from his Western Sydney upbringing to create smooth and rich sounding tracks, complete with infectious beats and killer flows. Independently releasing music since 2016, the last twelve months saw some major growth for this artist, including signing to NLV records, collaborating with FOURA, Strict Face, and Gold Fang, and racking up hundreds of thousands of streams online.
His latest single Up released in early December, sees Big Skeez’ refine his sound and aura with an effortlessly stylish track, being well received by national and global audiences alike. Producing great music, with the genuine motive of setting an encouraging example for the African-Australian youth, what this melody-driven Afro Swing creator does next is sure not to disappoint.
CAROLINE & CLAUDE (NSW / SA)
Brother-sister indie-pop act Caroline & Claude are young creatives that come from a musical bloodline, sharing the passion from a very young age but only joining forces in the uncertainty of 2020. Self-described as polar opposites in a poem on the duo’s website, the siblings put their differences aside and fabricate a product that comes straight from the heart. 2021 saw the debut musical release from the outfit, a sweet and playful, catchy pop tune titled Stir the Pot, that has won over the hearts of many nationally.
From the small taste of insightful songwriting, snappy melodies, and soothing voices that Stir the Pot has given, the duo have begun to collect a fanbase engaging with a trendy-young and unfeigned online presence across Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, and their ‘dear diary’ blog-style section of their website, with wholesome content that makes it hard not to fall in love with them. Sydney born, and Adelaide bred, Caroline & Claude have launched their musical career with exciting prospects of what this year will hold.
From the slow-burn that comes from years of songwriting and musicianship, comes Sydney-based musician Charley, who debuted her pop star material in 2021 with singles Hard For Me and Arizona. Signed to EMI Music Australia and making her first live appearance supporting CXLOE, the year that has passed allowed the whole-hearted songwriter to emerge into Australia’s growing pop music community as a new, adaptive, bold and dynamic breed of musician. With being a new kind of pop star, comes keeping up with new trends, the singer gaining popularity on her Tiktok account engaging with over 24,000 followers, and starting a steadily growing Youtube series.
2022 is already promising to be a big year for the singer-songwriter, announcing online that she is one of the candidates to potentially represent Australia in Eurovision, the winner to be decided later next month. That coupled with EMI teasing that Charley is moving towards a debut EP, and the hope this year might see live music happening again nationally, suggest Australia is going to be feeling a brighter glow from this superstar.
Proud First Nations artist Djanaba started off 2021 with the announcement that she was one of the lucky winners of triple j's ‘Collab Comp’ giving the young singer-songwriter the opportunity to spend some time with Nick Littlemore (PNAU, Empire Of The Sun) to write, record, and release a single. The Wiradjuri and Bundjalung woman from Newcastle started writing music from the age of thirteen, with singles I Miss You and Belly getting us ready for the highly charged knock-out release Big Titties.
The result of the collaboration with Littlemore, Big Titties was released on his and PNAU bandmate Peter Mayes’ label Lab78 last year. Making use of the opportunity to explore the topic of female empowerment, gender judgement, and passive control, in a way that is as captivating as the pop riddled hooks and electronic buzz that Big Titties offers was no coincidence. Djanaba expressed that she aims to continue creating music that can inspire and make a positive difference.
There are reports from the Newcastle Herald that the young artist is working on a “larger collaboration” with Littermore after the success of the last release. Let's hope 2022 sees another release come into fruition, because who doesn't need an empowering hype track?
FREAK CLUB (VIC)
Melbourne based collective FREAKCLUB are a group of vocalists, producers and creatives, complete with a designer and photographer. Their initial release Perfect came our way in the second half of last year, premiering on Pilerats as a ‘genre-less’ style of tune, accredited to the group's approach of creating a “collage” by combining members musical tastes. Creating captivating and intriguing sounds, coupled with aesthetic appealing imagery from their photos to their music videos, the six-piece have hit the ground running appealing to those who enjoy pop, rap, hip-hop, electronica, indie, and everything that lies in between.
Before 2021 was through, FREAKCLUB brought out another track Bambi, a slower doleful jam that further demonstrates the collective's genre diversity, as well as their diversity as songwriters and producers. With some live shows already lined up for this year, including their ‘Freakclub Club Night’ at Yah Yahs on Feb 11, and a slot at the final day of the St Kilda Festival 2022 also in February, the year is off to a fiery hot start for these young up and comers. In our premiere from earlier, the group expressed that we are going to see/hear a lot more of them, and we don’t doubt that that will be the case for the year ahead.
HARLEY ALASKA (NSW)
Harley Alaska is a Sydney based singer-songwriter creating indie-pop tunes that come from the heart. With a knack for catchy melodies, this multi-instrumentalist uses inspiration from relationships and his surroundings to craft songs that aim to provide some support to others. Harley dropped his first release late last year, a single by the name of Lose You Too, that was well received by the artist's substantial online following across Instagram, Tiktok, and Youtube.
Writing music for years now, the self-confessed perfectionist has made huge strides with a single release, the track racking up over three million streams in the four months it’s been out. Sitting comfortably in spaces such as Spotify’s ‘Get Popped’ playlist, alongside the likes of The Weeknd, Katy Perry, Adele, and Ed Sheeran, the crisp and polished nature of Harley’s style holds this newcomer up as one of Australia's most promising indie/ bedroom-pop stars. With a great deal of potential, and a hungry audience online awaiting for what comes next, we predict it’ll be a great year for Harley Alaska.
HECTOR MORLET (WA)
Every now and again, an artist seems to appear out of thin air and makes you wonder how more people haven't stumbled across this yet. Hector Morlet is one of these hidden gems, performing in Jack Davies' Bush Chook band for the last couple of years, and now stepping into the centre stage to share lo-fi pop songs that are delightful and fun. 2021 saw Hector's wholesome stylings output two singles Picture Frame and Surprise! which have earned tens of thousands of streams, and got a bit of love from the triple j crew.
Recently being taken on by Anybody Management (Spacey Jane), 2022 has seen this Boorloo (Perth) based artist be included on Spotify's ‘Fuzzy’ playlist with October's track Surprise!, helping the deserving track be heard by the masses. With the prospect of new music, and the hope that WA will soon be able to tour the rest of the nation, expect to see and hear a lot more Hector Morlet in the coming twelve months.
Earlier in 2021, we introduced a Chilean-Australian artist by the name of Jalmar, whose focus is spreading one of the world's most popular musical genres - Reggaeton - to Australia, who is a bit behind on the trend. The Melbourne based artist draws inspiration for his style from his family roots, spending some time in South America to create Latin trap and Reggaeton tunes that are authentic to his heritage. The last twelve months have been impactful for this up and comer, releasing a handful of well-received singles, with features coming from Joanny, Jaecy, and Young Franco.
Producing tracks that have a flare of hip-hop and trap, something that we in Australia are familiar with and love, the artist is helping to drag Latin-influenced music over to our continent, giving just a taste of the rich heritage and culture which is associated. Next month sees Jalmar performing at St Kilda Festival 2022, a huge way to start the year after the lack of live music events Victoria has seen over the past couple years. With a growing team behind him, including management from Astral People (Winstron Surfshirt, Young Franco) we can foresee some great things happening for Jalmas before the year is through.
JEWEL OWUSU (WA)
Singer-songwriter and producer Jewel Owusu has had a busy 12 months. The Boorloo/Perth based artist releasing a string of singles and a six-track EP, all while hitting the local live shows hard, playing alongside the likes of Adrian Dzvuke, Superthick, and Grace Sanders. Identifying as half Filipino and half Ghanaian; born in Hong Kong, and growing up in New Zealand, the genre-mixing sensation draws inspiration for her songwriting from a diverse background. Touching on themes of spirituality, culture, and relationships in her musical style and lyricism, Jewel seamlessly combines R&B, hip-hop, and indie to fashion playful poppy tunes.
So what is next for this up and comer? Recently winning the opportunity to collaborate with Methyl Ethel in Triple J’s ‘collab comp’ alongside Anesu and Hector Morlet (also on this list) we can expect some big things rolling in this year.
KANADA THE LOOP (SA)
A new kind of quirky hip-hop, indie, pop, electronica-esque artist emerged from Adelaide during 2021, with two tracks that somehow sounded so modern and rooted in the year that was, yet unlike anything Australia had heard so far. Keeping it real with their music, the project draws inspiration from “weird things and weird people”, talking about issues in the world, as well as relationships whether romantic or platonic. An approach that appears to be working in favour of this up and coming sensation.
The last 12 months have seen some exciting progression across streaming numbers, and online presence for Kanda the Loop, their undeniable trendy style leaning into internet subcultures to create a new interesting face in Australia’s musical landscape. With only a small sample size from this artist, they pack a full punch and we cannot wait to see what 2022 holds for them. So far a tour to Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Melbourne is announced for early April presented by the projects management/label Seven Seven, and booking agency Select Music, what a fun year ahead for this genre-bending singer-songwriter.
KEN PAOLO (WA)
Western Australia was one of the luckier states in 2021, and saw quite a bit of live music events go ahead unhindered by restrictions and cancellations. One of those events that blessed the stage in late February, was the band launch of Ken Paolo and The Space Cadets. From there, the year saw the group grow into their own, playing a string of shows alongside the likes of Siobhan Cotchin, Your Girl Pho, and Queency, as well as securing a spot at Boorloo (Perth) iconic winter event the RTRFM Winter Music Festival. We also saw the release of two soulful R&B tracks that featured hints of poppy goodness: $4 Pizza and Dance with a Broken Heart, the latter featuring the group's backing vocalist Persia come forward to create a delightful blend of dueling vocals.
With an interesting couple of months ahead for the state of Western Australia (with border openings and so on), Ken Paolo and The Space Cadets are armed and ready for an exciting 12 months, squeezing in a bunch of local gigs from the city to Fremantle, as well as featuring on the iconic all-ages music festival Hyper, playing alongside headliner Spacey Jane. Be sure to keep your ears open, because we know your going to hear more great stuff from this smooth sounding group in 2022.
We fell in love with this neo-soul goddess earlier in 2021 when we were introduced to her through the single Sometimes, which followed 2019’s single Good Company, and a feature on Billy Davis’ Headspace alongside Jordan Dennis. Self-described as sounding “pop with heavy R&B, Soul and Neo-soul influence”, the Melbourne based, Zimbabwe-born, and London-raised singer-songwriter has created a network consisting of some of the most promising young producers such as; Fossa Beats (FKI 1st, Allen Ritter), Billy Davis (Denzel Curry, Van Jess), Tentendo (Majestic Casual) and Simba Andrews, combining forcer to curate a five-track EP titled Good Company, which was released in November via Sony Music Australia.
With the east coast finally seeing live music coming back, 2022 holds lots of touring for this up and comer. In addition to her own headline tour that covers Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, and Melbourne, KYE also joins Young Franco on his national tour, and plays the Lock Hart Music Festival in Victoria's South. When we introduced the singer-songwriter she told us that she’ll be releasing plenty more music, and we can’t wait to move our feet along to what comes next.
MOLLY MILLINGTON (NSW)
2020 brought a lot of things that we wish it didn’t… Luckily, however, through all the tough times shone trippy-indie-pop singer-songwriter Molly Millington with her debut release Circus Animal. Reigning from the Central Coast of New South Wales, the young artist was first introduced to us in mid-2021 when her follow up single Ring Master said hello to the world, and she had recently visited Western Australia joining Thelma Plum on her Homecoming Queen tour.
Already achieving so much in such a short period of time, collecting hundreds of thousands of streams across both Ring Master and her most recent release October, Molly knew from a young age her love for song when her parents took her to her first music festival. The artist, now in her early twenties and with limitless potential ahead of her, emerges into the new generation of Australian pop stars. Signed to AWAL for her forthcoming release, an EP titled Circus Animal, and an upcoming live show with Client Liaison in March, this year is already looking propitious for Molly Millington. We can't wait to see how it evolves.
OLD MERVS (WA)
From the South West of Western Australia comes a surf-rock duo that have been winning over fans nationwide in the year that has been. With their down-to-earth approaches in songwriting mixed with their country-lad charm, Old Mervs have been selling out live shows from the city, to regional WA. Combining eager energy and irresistible melodies, like we saw in 2021’s singles Wait Around and Out of Luck, the good mates have started accumulating a growing audience of indie/surf rock-loving individuals waxing their boards and waiting to catch the next wave of Old Merv goodness.
Signing to Sidequest management (Sly Withers, Ursula) in 2021, their team is seeing some exciting positive growth, along with their audiences, as they gear up for a string of shows to kick off the new year - one of those shows being April's ‘Out of the Woods’, which sees the boys share a lineup alongside some of the nation's biggest artists such as Angus and Julia Stone, Ball Park Music, and The Jungle Giants. We can't wait to see what these boys bring to the table over the next twelve months, but if it's anything like what they've been serving so far, we sure are in for a treat.
RA RA VIPER (WA)
From their alternative-indie garage rock stylings, to their sweaty live shows, Boorloo (Perth) outfit Ra Ra Viper are a name that pops up quite frequently in the local music community, building themselves up from playing friends’ house parties to selling out headline shows at the iconic Mojos Bar in Fremantle. The five-piece have been releasing music since 2019, with a string of singles including Paddy, a track that has collected over two hundred thousand streams on Spotify alone. To follow up such an epic track, the outfit released an EP in the year that has been called Kawaii, and an additional single titled Sometime.
Kicking this year off with a slot at Out & About Festival playing alongside the likes of San Cisco and Death by Denim, plus a spot at Westend Festival on the cards for next month, you best be keeping your eyes peeled for this emerging outfit over the next couple of months as they keep on their upwards trajectory.
This project from the Melbourne based Phoebe Baker started brewing back in 2018, when the lead singer from indie-pop outfit Alpine explored the possibility of creative ventures without the group. When the group disbanded in 2019, Sappho was born from Phoebe making her pop dreams a reality.
The year that has passed saw the project really come into fruition, the up and comer releasing her debut single Flex, a track we had no issue falling in love with when writing our introduction piece to Sappho earlier in 2021. Despite all the hiccups that 2021 threw towards this singer-songwriter (and the whole Australian music), this year has seen a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel sneak through, Sappho starting the year off with a follow-up release Collide, partnered with the announce of live shows in Melbourne and Sydney for May. With a knack for writing infectiously good pop tunes, we can’t wait to see audiences around the nation and the globe alike fall in love with Sappho’s artistic brilliance.
SESAME GIRL (ACT)
2020 was a ‘make or break’ year for a lot of musicians, forming in the face of adversity or fizzling as the challenges became unmanageable. Sesame Girl was one of those positive outcomes from 2020, the four-piece outfit emerging from Canberra and playing an impressive amount of live shows (considering Australia's pandemic climate) alongside the likes of Dz Deathrays, Spacey Jane, and Moaning Lisa.
With an impressive string of shows under their belt, 2021 saw the release of two well-received dreamy indie-pop singles for the group, the first titled Get Up, and the second most recent single from November titled Leave, which was accompanied by a mini tour. With a steadily growing number of listeners, Get Up reaching over sixty-thousand streams on Spotify alone, Sesame Girl are steadily building themselves as an act to follow. The next 12 months holds a spot at Yours & Owls Festival in New South Wales, as well as a rumoured EP from this bedroom-pop outfit - so be sure to keep an ear out, because you’ll be hearing a lot more Sesame Girl.
Tseba is an artist that has created a lot of mystery around themselves, the somewhat anonymous phenomenon releasing very little information, letting their music speak volumes. Described by label/management/booking agency Astral People as an artist that aims to capture house music sounds in a more approachable way, through including global pop and dance elements, Tseba’s debut in 2021 has seen them collaborate with the likes of Electric Fields, Genesis Owusu, and Methyl Ethel.
Putting out a string of releases throughout the past year across all streaming platforms to accumulate over two-hundred thousand monthly listeners, the up and comer has also been creating Tseba reworks that are accessible on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. 2022 will no doubt see more from this delightful enigma, with the announcement that they will be appearing on February’s St Kilda Festival lineup, prepare yourself for a lot more Tseba in the next twelve months.