Year From Hell In Review: Top 10 Releases From Pop Artists 25 & Under

2020 couldn’t end quickly enough for just about everybody — and granted, it’s been a rough year to say the least.

In times of hardship, we often turn to music to get us through, whether it be because we connect with the lyrics or can dance along to the beat. Either way, forgetting our woes and making new, happier memories are always qualities that attract all of us to music.

In particular, younger musicians are often well-equipped to connect with the masses, as they tend to be in tune with what topics are trending and act as signposts for how the music industry is evolving.

Below is a compilation of some of the standouts from this year, proving that in times of darkness, art can shine through as an optimistic light.

Get ready to dance along and hum to these melodies throughout the new year.

10. Boston the Girl- “Sweet Brown Eyes”

Raised and living in San Diego, CA, Boston the Girl (born Boston Anderson, 22) brings some of that California sunshine into the happiness of her November release, “Sweet Brown Eyes.” Picture the soft vocal layering of Billie Eilish’s hit “Ocean Eyes” but with stronger percussion behind it, (and a more positive topic) and you have Anderson’s charming ballad. If you fall in love with her voice as quickly as I did, the next place to look would be her 2019 single “Silence,” another display of her gentle vibrato in a reflective, contemplative setting.

9. Lemondrop- “Move a Little”

Nashville-based band Lemondrop put out their debut EP Shut Up Move On back in August and it is, as the kids say, a whole mood. “Move a Little” in particular stands out as an up-tempo breakup song. Recent Belmont University graduate Joni Lemons stars as the lead singer, but also writes often on her bass, contributing to a grounded sound that’s reminiscent of a classic garage band. This aesthetic isn’t too far from their influences: Maroon 5, The Black Keys, and The Naked Brothers Band.

8. Maty Noyes- “Wrong”

“It is what it is” for LA-based singer-songwriter Maty Noyes, as she’ll sing to you with her uniquely sultry voice on her July single, “Wrong,” self-described as “the most positive break up song.” The 19-year-old already has years of industry experience under her belt, and it pays off in the maturity of “Wrong,” in its writing, vocals, and production. Noyes bears a similar hard, playful edge to that of Melanie Martinez, but in a more flirtatious way.

7. The Rumble Fish- “Mad at the Sun”

Groove along to the funky bass line of The Rumble Fish’s third release from this year, “Mad at the Sun.” The bridge alone landed this song amongst my top ten, with an energetic solo from 23-year-old guitarist Keneti James Apa that includes a jazzy walk-down with a series of sonically satisfying chords. Though overall an understated song, there’s a sweet message of falling in love (potentially at first sight) if you listen closely. I also have to credit the single with the best cover art on this list.

6. X Lovers feat. chloe moriondo- “Haunt You”

You wouldn’t expect a band that’s been together for over ten years to qualify for this list, but that’s because London Jackson and Jacob Ames first teamed up in their hometown of Nevada City, CA, at only eleven years old. A decade later, X Lovers are finally starting to take over this Mad World (the title of the EP “Haunt You” is from) as planned, this time with the help of 18-year-old Chloe Moriondo’s delicate yet dynamic voice. Jackson’s signature airy harmonies paired with a plucky guitar lay the backdrop for a cutely-threatening story of coming back to haunt your ex as a ghost because you can never get enough of them.

5. Riley Biederer- “too much”

Riley Biederer artfully captures anxiety in her February single “too much,” both explicitly through the relatable lyrics and paralleled in the climactic hook. The 24-year-old Colorado resident utilizes sensory-provoking lyrics and equivocalities to guide the listener through her own mental struggles and life crises common to people her age. Appearing on the EP heaven / heartaches, it is one of five bubbly songs, each as colorful as the tips of pink at the end of her hair.

4. Carlie Hanson- “Daze Inn”

“Daze Inn” is a dangerously addictive track from 20-year-old Carlie Hanson, a rising name in pop and songwriting. Beware of its catchy chorus, which might get stuck in your head for days at a time (in the best way) and resist the urge to run away with your significant other to your local affordable hotel after she successfully romanticizes the experience. The song is a stark, positive contrast to the darkly accurate “Stealing All My Friends,” another single appearing on her October album DestroyDestroyDestroyDestroy, but both are excellent examples of her lyrical strength, which is sure to catapult her into stardom before too long.

3. Carly Paige- “your jacket”

It was hard to pick just one song off of 23-year-old Carly Paige’s EP indie pop post rock cinematic sometimes: vhs (a title which thoroughly and accurately describes its contents) since all six songs were worthy winners. The EP is a laid-back collection of classic singer-songwriter storytelling and the ever-more-popular bedroom pop production, carried along by dreamy vocals and electric guitar melodies. “your jacket” stands out as a relatable, romantic bop reminiscent of first dates and falling in love. If Jeremy Zucker and Nora Jones had a musical child, it would be Carly Paige with her mix of nostalgic familiarity and modern tastemaking.

2. Joel Adams- “Slipping off the Edge”

Since his hit “Please Don’t Go” in 2015, Joel Adams has struggled to see another song reach the same level of success. With its vulnerable message, rhythmic verses, and raw vocals, “Slipping off the Edge” is a stand-out off of this years’ self-titled EP, Joel Adams, deserving of widespread recognition — making it shocking that the single hasn’t even landed on the 24-year-old’s top ten most popular songs on Spotify. Take the resonant guitar from Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” but add clever lyrics about struggling with addiction and depression to get one of the most fun and upbeat songs about hitting rock bottom you’ll probably ever hear.

1. Lindsey Lomis- “Feel”

At merely 17-years-old, Lindsey Lomis takes the crown for both the youngest artist to make this list and my #1 pick for the year with her single, “Feel.” It is a catchy, defiant, girl-power song, danceable and impossible not to blast at full volume with such powerful and compelling production. The mature vocals and sassy lyrics of the Nashville-native are well beyond her years, worthy of an industry veteran and impressive for such a newcomer. Lomis is almost certain to make a name for herself soon, already having collaborated with early 2000’s star JoJo and boasting the advantage of her youth, which gives her plenty of time to break through in due time.

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