The year 2011 is undoubtedly the year of the female pop “vocalist,” and I use that term very lightly. See, these days it seems the constant competition of who can turn more heads is, unfortunately, more important than the music itself. Whether Britney’s album boasts infectious club hits or is a total disaster, one thing is for sure: she’ll definitely hold a place in the iTunes top 10 for the majority of 2011, even if it’s just due to sheer curiosity.

But, the thing is, you don’t need me to tell you that GaGa will have a great year. In fact, I think Forbes blew that one by estimating the reigning princess of pop will bring in a cool $100 million before the year’s end. You do, however, need the facts and stats on current YouTube phenomenons, trending topics, rising stars on the club circuit and the ought-to-knows for 2011. Because, let’s be real, with a million videos going viral daily, who has the time to figure out what’s hot and what’s not this year?

So kick back, relax, and read one to find out which artists (in no particular order) should be featured on your 2011 playlist.

Oh Land

The Copenhagen native, born Nanna Øland Fabricius, is a one-woman electro-pop show whose big break came when a remarkable 2009 South by Southwest (SXSW) earned her a record deal with Epic. The singer was interested in ballet before an accident stunted her dancing career. But it seems her parents’ musical backgrounds –– her mother is an opera singer and her father is a composer –– may have inspired her to pursue a different form of art and entertainment. Her angelic and soothing voice has been compared to the likes of Fiest and 2010’s breakout band Florence and the Machine, but her tracks are much more upbeat and energetic (think Robyn). But, if that isn’t enough to intrigue you, she’s written two songs with Pharrell. Check out Oh Land’s “Son of a Gun” and “White Nights,” and make sure to catch her on tour this winter. (3/7 @ The Paradise)

Theophilus London

When you’ve impressed British hit-maker Mark Ronson, you know you’ve done something right. When you’ve teamed up to work with Ronson on a side project, well, you’re basically shot gunning your way to the top. Theophilus London put out a mix tape in 2009 mashing up The Smiths and Elvis Costello, impressing the music world beyond Ronson, but most impressively, sold out shows all over the world before ever releasing an album. The Trinidad-born, Brooklyn-raised artist will release this album “Lovers Holiday” this week on iTunes. But with a big portfolio, much of his work can be found online already. Inspired by and even sampling some Marvin Gaye on tracks, his smooth style and hip hop vibe is reminiscent of Kanye pre Twitter, Taylor and talking trash.

Neon Hitch

The ex-trapeeze artist and former member of a clan of Euro-traveling gypsies, Neon Hitch was born, well, Neon Hitch. Yes, her hippie parents actually named the south English countryside-born artist something that sounds more like a techno-band than a name. Lucky for Hitch, the name fits her music flawlessly. The dance, electro-pop sweetheart has been on British radar for a few years now, but her stateside debut will undoubtedly be this year once people realize she’s not just a brunette-Ke$ha lookalike, but a talented little thing who has helped to sing and write back up vocals for songs you already know and love. (Yes, even some Ke$ha tracks, too.) In 2010 ex-Idol judge and talent discoverer extraordinaire, Kara Dioguardi, signed Hitch following an impressive studio session. Soon after, Hitch landed a spot on the famed Lollapalooza that has launched the careers of recent pop great Lady Gaga. Now on tour with 3OH!3, Hitch is making waves  with her infectious stage presence and soon-to-be hit “Get Over U.” Her debut album “Beg, Borrow, and Steal” is expected to drop late 2011.

James Blake

This 22-year-old has been around, albeit across the pond, for quite some time, but it took a trio of EP’s for this singer-songwriter and producer to get noticed in a neighborhood other thank his own. His music is R&B, reminiscent of Marvin Gaye, but with more futuristic piano and electronics. His voice is soothing and deep with emotion, a very mature sound with inspiration taken from Feist, an artist whose music has been mentioned more than once on this list. Check out Blake’s cover of his favorite Feist song, “Limit To Your Love,” and his self-titled debut album next week.

The Naked and Famous

This New Zealand five-piece band has a sound unlike anything you’ve ever heard, but somehow manages to make you feel like you know their songs. But unless you’re going to admit to watching “Vampire Diaries” or “Covert Affair,” or compulsively shopping at Urban Outfitters, keep racking your brain. The good news?  Their breakout single “Young Blood” has been blowing up YouTube since the song debuted at #1 on New Zealand music charts last year and the new-wave, electric feel they bring to alternative rock is addicting. Basically, they aren’t going anywhere, so I’d advise buying a copy of their album now.

Pomplamoose

No, that’s not a typo. This indie jazz-folk band didn’t misspell the scent of your favorite body wash. In fact it is derived from French word pamplemousse, meaning grapefruit, and it was intentional. The duo, Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn Knutsen, are yet another band who used YouTube to their advantage. (They had over 240,000 subscribers as of last month.) But it’s their stripped down, mutli-instrumental, no “smoke and mirrors” sound that has listeners opening first their ears then their browsers. Maybe you know them from the Toyota and Hyundai commercials that feature their covers of classics or Christmas carols, or maybe it’s their strange, but noteworthy rendition of “Single Ladies” that takes the song from repetitive and silly to new heights. Whatever it is: You know them. If not together maybe separately (they both maintain solo careers). And if you don’t, well, you should.

Wiz Khalifa

So, the Steelers didn’t win the super bowl, but Wiz Khalifa’s Pittsburg-inspired track, “Black and Yellow,” did win national airplay in the early weeks of 2011 as the team’s anthem. But aside from the song’s catchy chorus and good timing, it features Khalifa’s talent, which, rest assured, will surely take over the charts in 2011. Khalifa has been on the radar for quite some time now. In fact, Rolling Stone named the rapper an “artist to watch” back in 2006. But 2011 is proving to be his year. Not convinced? Well, maybe a list of hip hop vets who Wiz Khalifa (“wiz,” due to an uncanny ability to be good at a little bit of everything and the Arabic word “khalifa,” meaning successor) has either collaborated or performed with will: Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop Dogg, Lauryn Hill, A Tribe Called Quest and Lil Wayne, just to name a few. Still not convinced? In 2010, Khalifa nabbed numerous magazine covers and a number-one spot on Twitter’s worldwide trending topics. The icing on the cake? Khalifa beat out female rap sensation Nicki Minaj and Rev Run’s son Diggy Simmons in MTV’s Hottest Breakthrough MC of 2010 competition. So, maybe now is a good time to tell you his third album “Rolling Papers” is out this March

Sarah Jaffe

This southern belle’s vocal performance once earned her a spot on tour with Norah Jones, but it was her 2010 release “Suburban Nature” and its hit single “Clementine,” that has won her critical acclaim from under-the-radar music mags and created buzz in the blogosphere. Beyond the love affair her home state of Texas has with its sweet-voiced songstress (she’s been playing local gigs, fairs and music fests since 2007), is the outside world that would undoubtedly fall victim to her witty lyrics, raw songs and smoky sound if only she would leave the lone-star state. Jaffe could reignite the nation’s love affair with that bluesy-country-folksy southern sound and all that is not country, if only she would tour outside of Texas. With any luck her upcoming SXSW gig will change that.

Warpaint

The experimental, psychadelic art rock group from Los Angeles currently boasts four females (Emily Kokal, Theresa Wayman, Jenny Lee Lindberg, Stella Mozgawa) but has been home to four other members in the past (including three males, one being current Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer). The group has had some lineup changes since its 2004 initiation, but has only recently seen success beyond the L.A. music scene with its single “Undertow.” The group’s infamous Bowie covers and contributions to a Bowie tribute album, “Ashes to Ashes” gained them enough attention to earn a spot at last summer’s Lollapalooza and comparisons to Siouxsie and the Banshees, Cocteau Twins and the great Joni Mitchell. Their latest single, “Shadows” is making quite the splash, and just last week they were named “Buzzworthy” by MTV.com.

Tinie Tempah

This Nigerian-born British MC is destined to bring the latest overseas electronic craze, Dubstep, stateside. Dubstep, a dance genre notorious for its overwhelming bass lines and specific drum patterns also features clipped samples and occasionally some vocals. Tempah embraces the more traditionally American style of hip-hop and R&B but places his rhymes over Dubstep rhythms. His 2006 breakout hit “Wifey” put him on the map, but it’s his latest song “Pass Out” that should be on your iPod.

Jessie J

You might have heard of this British singer/songwriter with her explicit “Do It Like a Dude,” or maybe her latest collaboration with B.o.B., “Price Tag” is what turned your head. Whatever it was, don’t let her whiny, poppy performance in “Do It Like a Dude” (which she originally wrote for Rihanna) turn you off from following her future career. Acoustic performances continually pop up on YouTube, showcasing the 22-year-old’s talent. With reggae influences and a catty attitude, she’s a bit reminiscent of a young Lily Allen, before the crazy. Keep this cat on your radar in 2011.

Leave a Reply