5 New Musicians Challenging the Status Quo


The Rocker

Impostor syndrome. Harassment and misogyny. Anxiety. As conversations around these topics grow louder, Courtney Barnett provides a fitting soundtrack with her second album, Tell Me How You Really Feel. The Australian indie-rock sensation, 30, experienced it all after her 2015 debut earned her a Best New Artist Grammy nod and comparisons to Bob Dylan, thanks to her lyrics’ riveting character studies. (The face-melting guitar riffs didn’t hurt either.) Coping with that pressure wasn’t easy. But she dealt by writing unflinching songs like “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Self-Confidence” and “Nameless, Faceless,” whose chorus paraphrases Margaret Atwood’s adage, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them; women are afraid that men will kill them.” Says Barnett, “So much of good songwriting is vulnerability, so when I was feeling myself shying away from it was when something good came up.” She doesn’t profess to have easy answers for overcoming your darkest moments. But her music does offer something just as powerful—a gentle hand on your shoulder that says, “I don’t know how to get through this, but I’m with you.”


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The Rapper

Kodie Shane says she can’t name a single song that’s topping the charts right now—which is deliberate. Despite growing up surrounded by musicians (her dad was a singer; her sister, a member of the girl group Blaque), the 19-year-old rapper isn’t interested in chasing what’s cool by mainstream standards. “I try to block it out and just do me,” says Shane, who’s best known as the sole female member of Lil Yachty’s exuberant Sailing Team crew. For the self-described tomboy from Atlanta, there’s nothing more important than being herself, whether she’s defying gender roles (she first made music under the macho moniker “The Don”) or exploring her sexuality (she’s rapped about both men and women as objects of her affection). “Gender doesn’t really matter [anymore],” Shane says with a laugh. Considering hip-hop’s dearth of female superstars, let alone queer ones, that fluid identity might be considered groundbreaking. Yet for today’s open-minded generation of teens, that’s just life. “You gotta be you—all the way,” she says. “I don’t think that anything would be as much fun if I weren’t all the way myself.”


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Nordic Noise

Alma

The only thing brighter than the Finnish talent’s Day-Glo–hued locks are her bold, tropical-tinged party jams. After getting rejected from her dream schools as a teen, the 22-year-old forged her own path to success, competing on Finland’s equivalent to Idol and collaborating with pals like Dua Lipa and Charli XCX.


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Tove Styrke

The Swedish singer’s quirky, minimalist electro-pop tunes and understated vocals are a far cry from the weapons-grade club-bangers her country is famous for. On her new album, Sway, the 25-year-old sneaks her politics and values into playful, fluttery songs about crushes and early-stage infatuation.


Seinabo Sey

Beyoncé’s Lemonade has inspired plenty of artists, but nothing will quench your thirst for more like this Swedish-Gambian singer’s sweeping hip-hop soul. Though she battled self-doubt in her 2015 debut, Pretend, the 27-year-old now tackles feminism, racism, and body positivity on a confident new EP, due in June.

This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of ELLE.

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