5 pop artists likely to become your next indie god

DAVE RUBY HOWE weighs up which massive pop star is most likely to become your next favourite not-so-guilty pleasure.

It’s 2016, guys. The time for quibbling over vague ideals of authenticity and artistic integrity has now faded for many and in its place is a readiness to embrace pop music. I’m not talking about pop music from successful crossover artists like Haim or Major Lazer – nah, I mean the shiny textured and slickly produced stuff that’s made by the biggest pop stars around.

Since the 2014 release of her fifth LP 1989, Taylor Swift has kept our collective conscience transfixed to hit single after hit single while Miley Cyrus, has transformed into an aggressively strange and always compelling freakshow with Wayne Coyne installed as her sidekick. Most tellingly of all, 2015  was the year it officially became okay to love Justin Bieber; he of numerous public and musical transgressions who just so happened to have an album stacked with hits and flashy collaborators like Skrilex, Travi$ Scott and Halsey. So now that pop music’s trojan horse has infiltrated the defences of previously ardent “indie” music fans which commercially inclined artists have a shot at becoming your next favourite not-so-guilty pleasure?

1. Carly Rae Jepsen

Were you paying attention when Carly Rae Jepsen released one of the sleeper hit LPs of 2015? If not then there’d be few who’d blame you as Jepsen’s past as the precocious singer behind 2011’s ‘Call Me Maybe’ megahit doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in many. But on the Canadian pop singer’s 2015 record, Emotion Jepsen challenged her doubters with an album of quality pop songs built on humming ‘80s influenced production.

The song that will convince you:
With a crack team of collaborators assembled for Emotion, including producers like Greg Kurstin (Lykke Li, Foster The People, Adele) and Ariel Rechtshaid (Haim, Sky Ferreira, Charlie XCX), as well as Sia, Blood Orange and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij, Jepsen’s lovelorn pop songs are undeniably stylish. The pick of the bunch is probably ‘Run Away With Me’ – or ‘Your Type’, ‘Favourite Colour’ and ‘All That’ depending on which fan you speak to – with a blaring ’80s sax lead and punchy vocals in the chorus.

Chances of an indie crossover:
While Jepsen’s alt-pop transformation has made for underwhelming commercial returns (Emotion peaked at #37 in Australia compared to 2012’s Kiss which hit #8) it has flown with critics; Emotion found its way onto year end album lists of NME, Vice and Pitchfork. Having dropped well timed covers of Blondie and Wham! online, not to mention her part in achieving complete nostalgia with her rendition of the Full House theme song for Netflix’s 2016 revival, Jepsen’s making some real moves to position herself as the pop star it’s cool to like.

2. Troye Sivan

West Australian youngster Troye Sivan has been touted as pop’s Next Great Hope and is smartly living up to expectations on the back of his first studio LP Blue Neighbourhood. Sivan’s at the centre of a ferociously loyal fanbase that consumes not just his music but Sivan himself. His personal YouTube account that features frequent “vlog” entries outstrips Sivan’s music profile by nearly three million subscribers.

The song that will convince you:
Though Sivan’s output is undeniably pop music his impact on the mainstream charts and commercial radio has thus far been modest – Blue Neighbourhood peaked at #6 locally. It could be that Sivan’s yet to release a definitive radio knockout, though singles ‘Wild’ and ‘Youth’ come close. Characteristic of much of what we’ve heard from Sivan, ‘Wild’ is an elegant mid-tempo tune with pillowy electronic production and an unfussed yet pristine vocal.

Chances of an indie crossover:
Sivan’s already worked with a laundry list of your favourite artists including Tkay Maidza, Allday and Broods and has a good ear for studio collaborators too. The Blue Neighbourhood LP liner notes list input from Pip Norman (TZU, Tuka, Jarryd James), Bram Inscore (bassist in Beck’s band) and the name Claire Boucher (aka Grimes) even pops up. If all these highfalutin names rate Sivan then you probably should too.

3. Nick Jonas

Despite selling some 17 million albums worldwide you’d have had no great reason to be familiar with Nick Jonas’ work with his siblings as part of the Disney Channel fodder act that was The Jonas Brothers. Yet much like his peer Justin Bieber, with whom he shares a previously squeaky clean tween image, Jonas in his early twenties sounds reinvigorated – and, again like Bieber, it’s down the transformative power of sex.

The song that will convince you:
On Jonas’ self-titled album (released in 2014 before receiving a repackaged international release last year) the 23-year-old singer ladles some water on the sauna stones for singles like ‘Levels’ and ‘Jealous’. The latter is the pick of the bunch with production from Bieber collaborator Sir Nolan and repeated helpings of Jonas’ upper register.

Chances of an indie crossover:
SPIN named ‘Jealous’ their eleventh best song of 2015 and Jonas savvily recruited another potential crossover star in Tinashe for a remix of it last November. On the back of something like ‘Jealous’, Jonas has a launching platform to win over new listeners who are looking to fill the void of a smooth white guy singing sex jams while Justin Timberlake is in between albums.

4. Tinashe

When reading about the backgrounds of all the artists in this list you start to notice a theme: Pop artists live some pretty fucking crazy lives. Experiencing a chameleonic professional life like that of Jonas, Sivan and the established names in pop like Bieber, Lovato et al, Los Angeles-based artist Tinashe has been a model, joined a girl group that toured with a sixteen year-old Justin Bieber, been in a garbage TV show (Two And A Half Men) and released three mixtapes and an album all by the age of 21. There’s comparisons being thrown around to Aaliyah, Janet Jackson and The Weeknd and a bunch of good reasons why Tinashe should be on your radar.

The song that will convince you:
2014’s ‘2 On’ might be considered Tinashe’s breakthrough single comprising all the right elements like a jacking beat from DJ Mustard (YG, Jeremih, Ty Dolla Sign) and a versatile lead vocal and a rap feature from Schoolboy Q. Meanwhile Tinashe’s team up with Snakehips and Chance The Rapper for ‘All My Friends’ has quickly become this summer’s premier ear-worm on alternative and mainstream radio alike.

Chances of an indie crossover:
As we’ve seen with successful crossovers like Amerie’s ‘1Thing’, Kelis, occasionally Rihanna, as well as the universe’s unending Beyonce fascination, there’s a place in nearly everyone’s heart for spunky pop singers making vibrant music that straddles both cool and the commercial. And Tinashe’s primed to be the next one to win your affections. Even better news is that she’s got the cred to back it up with ace collaborators like A$AP Rocky, Cashmere Cat, Dev Hynes and Schoolboy Q.

5. One Direction

Once upon a time it may’ve been tantamount to pissing on the masters of Nevermind to extoll on the potential redemption of a pop juggernaut like One Direction, the most famous boy band on the planet. But the same could’ve been said of Bieber too, and look at how his cred stocks have risen in recent time. While still the obsession of an overwhelming tween majority, the now four piece group have at the very least become a formidable singles act on the back of tracks like ‘Drag Me Down’, ‘Perfect’ and ‘Steal My Girl’.

The song that will convince you:
Unlike their company on this list, who have drawn upon the talents of some arguably left field collaborators to inspire their most interesting and acclaimed material, One Direction’s five studio albums have been cooked up with a very safe list of tried pop songwriters and producers. An aversion to risk-taking aside, One Direction are still capable of some shining moments like ‘Drag Me Down’ off of 2015’s Made In The A.M., but are clearly still missing an adventurous and undeniable monster song to unite the disbelievers.

Chances of an indie crossover:
Having already lost original member Zayn Malik and a group hiatus confirmed, the critical second coming of One Direction is most likely to come with the post-1D solo careers of its members. Malik’s already given us a taste of his debut LP Mind Of Mine with the lead single ‘Pillowtalk’, and recently spilled the beans about his time in One Direction, telling Billboard that “the other boys’ taste was generally indie rock. It’s good music, but I don’t fuck with it. That was never cool where I was from.”