gal-dem selects: ones to watch 2023
Our ultimate selection of 2023's most exciting artists, featuring Rachel Chinouriri, Miss Grit and more.
Kayleigh Watson and Charis McGowan
26 Jan 2023
As any regular of this section will know we’re eager champions of great new acts across all genres. We put you onto artists like FLO (who’ve since won both BBC Sound of 2023 and Brits Rising Star), Koffee, Sudan Archives and Nova Twins – and with our refreshed gal-dem selects we’re committed more than ever to championing diverse artists.
Music is one thing we can count on to brighten our days or to articulate our emotions when we’re deep in our feelings. So we wanted to introduce you to the names who will undoubtedly soundtrack your life this year.
Read on for our highlights for the year ahead and find an extended Spotify playlist in the link above!
Rachel Chinouriri’s 2022 EP Better Off Without saw the Croydon songwriter refine her brand of introspective musings that capture a sonic brightness birthed from painful moments. Lead single ‘I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Trying)’ is a perfect example of her whirlwind of delectable indie-pop, a punchy, feel-good ode to “the hesitation before diving into a situation”. Meanwhile, the bittersweet ‘All I Ever Wanted’ captures the moment of “realising your own worth.”
Through relatable and diaristic lyrics that unravel the complexities of relationships, listening to Chinouriri feels like an uncompromising confessional with your best friends. For such soul-baring, her sound is imbued with a peppy hopefulness that doesn’t quiver in the wake of her emotions. This isn’t music to wallow in self-pity; it is a soundtrack to gathering your resolve and move forwards.
With a long-awaited debut album set to drop this year, we’re excited to hear how her ever-growing confidence and composure as an artist manifests into an extended body of work.
Nia Archives has been making waves since the release of her 2022 EP Forbidden Feelingz, a vibrant exploration of her unmistakable command of jungle. Spurred by a DIY spirit, the songwriter and producer is passionate about being “a Black woman making Black music”; her relentless breakbeats and heavy bass pay homage to the genre’s origins. Despite drawing from a club scene rooted in hedonism, her music carries an untypical vulnerability that sees her tackle big topics such as mental health and body dysmorphia on tracks such as ‘Luv Like’. With new music planned for this year, Nia Archives is just getting started.
Def Jam signee and Stormzy co-writer Debbie strikes a chord of nostalgia courtesy of sentimental lyricism and slick production reminiscent of 00s R&B and neo-soul styles. After releasing a string of singles in 2022, including latest outing, the escapist BERWYN collab ‘Cousin’s Car’, to sultry and coercive standout ‘Cherry Wine’, we’re keeping fingers crossed for a wider collection in 2023.
With an irresistible groove underlined by a pattering beat, Dean’s most recent single ‘Danger’ marks a transformative-era for the London artist. It’s a different direction to the bittersweet soul that characterised her first three EPs, and if ‘Danger’ is anything to go by, her debut album – set for release later in the year – is set to be a fun and frivolous ride.
Having supplied vocals for the likes of Sampa the Great and Genesis Owusu, 2023 is KYE’s time to claim the limelight as her own. Her 2021 EP Good Company mused on love “romantically, platonically and internally” through emotive R&B, but last year’s bouncy comeback single ‘BOSSIN’ flipped the switch with an unexpectedly potent shot of UK Garage that pays homage to her heritage with a lyric sung in her native Zimbabwean tongue, Shona. The dance vibes continued with bouncy follow-up single ‘Clique’, and we’re eagerly awaiting a wider project for 2023.
Bloody Civilian first appeared on the much anticipated soundtrack to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever with the rhythmic and coercive pop single ‘Wake Up’. Recent solo outing ‘How to Kill a Man’ builds on the dark sound of her debut, its ominous aura an ode to venting multifaceted fury. All shuffling beats, chunky bass notes, she explores the undertones of female empowerment with a satirical lens. The cyclical incantation of its chorus shows the Nigerian singer/producer’s innate ability to cast listeners under a beguiling spell. With a debut project in the works, Bloody Civilian is set to be a potent force in 2023.
The moniker for Korean-American artist Margaret Sohn, “Miss Grit” encapsulates the entirety of their vision: latent and emotive femininity twinned with an uncompromising and confronting vigour. Forthcoming debut album Follow the Cyborg takes influence from Donna Haraway’s A Cyborg Manifesto and is set to challenge societal expectations of identity through a more fluid lens. The title track summarises Miss Grit’s endeavour, all angular synths and spiky guitar work that dissolves into haunting piano, while latest single ‘Lain (Phone Clone)’ captures the desensitisation of overstimulation; Follow the Cyborg will, no doubt, be a complex feat.
Somadina’s debut album Heart of the Heavenly Undeniable (HOTHU) proved an eclectic mix of trippy garage, spiky rock, and compulsive club electronica. Building on the punchy Afrobeat of standout single ‘Rolling Loud’ and the dreamy, Y2K-inspired sound of the aforementioned, HOTHU has strong roots in rock and pop punk, with tracks ‘Imagine Giving a Fvck’ and ‘WDYWFM’ fizzing with brattish energy and sweet and sour vocals. Tapping into the smorgasbord of musical trends of the past two years, the Nigerian-based artist’s canny observation of sound is one we’re eager to hear more of in 2023.
Bellah’s 2022 EP, Adultsville, is a canny exploration of growing up, getting wiser and retaining individuality. On ‘Prototype’ heart-tugging guitar work and cooing vocal evokes the inviting sounds of SZA and seminal production of Brandy. Adultsville’s lyricism traverses Bellah’s journey from girlhood to womanhood, documenting – in her own words – the “most transformative, painful, eye-opening, beautiful and shitty chapter of my life.” With a new single to land in the spring, we eagerly await Bellah’s next chapter.
Grove grabbed our attention with their abrasive 2021 single ‘Ur Boyfriend’s Wack’ and the accompanying gender fluid video that played with hyper-femme and masculinity atop clattering breakbeats and throbbing 90s rave. This politicised, confronting energy is further explored on last year’s re-released EP QUEER + BLACK with tracks ‘Ring a Roses’ and ‘Intent’ traversing dancehall and reggaeton for an invigorating infusion. Their plan for new music this year leaves us anticipating Grove’s inimitable euphoria.
Chilean act Soulfía mixes trap styles with salsa and reggaeton influences, steered by vocals that deftly switch from delicate to defiant. Last year’s EP, Brujerías de Cantina, was one of the most exciting releases from the explosive Southern Cone urban scene – and this year we’re certain that she’s set to break out internationally. –written by Charis McGowan
Natanya is making her mark amidst the R&B/neo-soul renaissance, with melodies that reminiscent of Aaliyah’s groove and pop hooks with a Esperanza Spalding feel. The Londoner has an exciting year ahead; she’s already teased snippets of unreleased music on her buzzing TikTok profile. With an endearing DIY aesthetic that permeates through her music videos and gives raw edginess to her songs, it’s impossible not to be charmed by her – written by Riann Phillip
Bridging the gap between drum and bass with an alt-indie edge, the Sudanese-Ethiopian songstress has already garnered an army of loyal fans with tracks ‘Gonna Bleach My Brows’ and ‘Post Nut Clarity’. Growing up, Alemeda divided her time between Ethiopia and Arizona which fine tuned her unfiltered point of view and elevate her craft. With a only a handful of songs to her name, we’re eagerly awaiting new music from her this year – written by Riann Phillip
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