My top genre in my 2021 Spotify Wrapped was indie pop, an all-encompassing genre that found its way into my headphones regardless of whether I was happy, sad, angry or somewhere in between.
My most extensive, carefully curated Spotify playlists — like “sobbing on the subway,” “the first fall of snow” and “spring soundtrack” — feature the likes of mainstream artists like Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers and Lorde (often known as together girlboss, gaslight and gatekeep) as well as equally acclaimed but less popular contemporaries like Japanese Breakfast, HAIM, St. Vincent, Lucy Dacus, Maggie Rogers and MUNA.
These are some of my favorite female artists who are all immensely talented and in their early 20s, in the indie music scene to keep your ear on.
Crookes is a 23-year-old neo-soul and R&B Bangladeshi-Irish singer from South London. She was first brought to my attention by my friend late last year, who loved a single from her debut album “Skin.”
The joyous and bittersweet “When You Were Mine,” as described in a heartfelt Instagram post, is about the artist’s complicated first love and is set against the backdrop of her colorful hometown of Brixton.
Many of Crookes’ songs are rooted in her multicultural upbringing and experiences with love and loss, as she discussed in further depth on Charli XCX’s podcast recently. In the aesthetics around her music, she often incorporates a distinctly South Asian flair in album cover art and red carpet looks.
“Skin” is an excellent body of work in its entirety that gives listeners a holistic idea of Crookes’ creative and personal identity and builds on her amazing EPs, “Influence,” “Reminiscence” and “Perception.”
Some of my favorite tracks on “Skin” are “19th Floor,” a touching piece on the urban immigrant experience featuring audio clips of the artist’s Nani, and “Trouble,” an upbeat number about arguing with family members whom she loves.
Humberstone’s name may sound familiar to those readers who somehow obtained tickets to pop-rock sensation Olivia Rodrigo’s “SOUR” Tour as she will be the opening act for Rodrigo in major cities like New York City and Philadelphia in the coming weeks.
While the 22-year-old British singer-songwriter is yet to put out her first album, she has already earned the title of the 2022 Brit Rising Star. Humberstone may not have a large quantity of work out there as she's only been formally releasing music since 2020, but the quality of her voice and songwriting makes me excited for what's to come.
“Deep End” — her first-ever release — is about being by her sister’s side through a mental health crisis and beautifully captures the emotional precarity of her situation.
Her cover of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees,” her most recent EP, “The Walls Are Way Too Thin” and latest singles “London Is Lonely” and “I Would Die 4 U” will undoubtedly resonate well with listeners of Generation Z artists like Rodrigo, Conan Gray, Gracie Abrams and Maisie Peters.
Born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, McAlpine has been making music in the genres of indie, pop and folk since 2018. The 22-year-old singer’s 2020 album, “Give Me A Minute,” had symbolism-heavy tracks like “Apple Pie” and “Pancakes for Dinner” that talk about the elusive idea of home being people and not places.
Disney heartthrob Joshua Bassett wrote a rather prophetic tweet in the pre-pandemic world in 2020 claiming that artists like Rodrigo and McAlpine would change the music industry in the next five years. He couldn’t have been more right about Rodrigo, who just won several Grammys — so it won’t be long before McAlpine’s potential is recognized in a similar mainstream capacity.
Her album “five seconds flat” came out on April 8 and encapsulates everything wondrous and existential about being a young woman today.
McAlpine adopts a much darker tone and eclectic sound in introductory songs like “doomsday,” “an ego thing” and “erase me (feat. Jacob Collier).” My friend Gillian, who introduced me to McAlpine, blasted the sparkly song “all my ghosts” in her car recently —and I was very intrigued to hear more songs so visceral with imagery of youthful spontaneity and electricity.
Similar tunes on the album are more gentle in nature like “called you again” and “what a shame” and the luminescent concluding number, “orange show speedway.” McAlpine even collaborated with singer-songwriter-producer FINNEAS on “hate to be lame,” after inviting him onto the project via Instagram direct message.
The last artist on this list is the incomparable Griff, who won the 2021 Brit Rising Star Award and is currently opening for Dua Lipa on the European leg of her "Future Nostalgia" tour. Similar to Crookes, Griff was raised outside of London and is of Chinese and Jamaican descent.
Apart from being an incredibly talented force of nature in British pop at the young age of 20, Griff also has a great sense of style, often tailoring her own eccentric outfits and styling her hair into a signature exaggerated bubble/ball braid.
Her debut album, “One Foot In Front Of The Other,” came out last year and featured her hit single “Black Hole.” A more heart-wrenching song, “Good Stuff,” allows her uniquely evocative voice to shine through.
What I love about Griff is her impeccable ability to collaborate with others and produce a diverse range of music. Her YouTube series “Against the Clock” gives her one hour to reimagine a cover of a popular song.
I really wish that studio versions of these covers were available to stream on Spotify, especially my recommendations of the videos for Glass Animals’ “Heat Waves” with Dan Smith from Bastille and Billie Eilish’s “when the party’s over” with JC Stewart and Tom Odell. Other brilliant collaborations include “Happy Hunting Ground” with Maisie Peters and most recently, “Head on Fire,” with Sigrid, King Princess and MO.
If you're interested in learning more about artists who might not necessarily be making the Billboard Top 100 but still are worth your stream, these women in indie are more than capable of producing songs for just about anyone to listen to.