Vance Joy
Vance Joy. Image: Paul L Carter

5 artists who dominated in 2015

2015 was chock-a-block with an array of unique and exciting music from the commercial and independent music scenes. Audiences gravitated to singles, EPs and albums that broke the mould and entertained to no end. This was a year for music highs and lows – for every Taylor Swift rise to prominence there was a Jay-Z and co. Tidal disaster right behind it.

The year’s high points gave artists like Courtney Barnett and Vance Joy their moments in the spotlight. In addition, RnB-pop artist The Weeknd broke out to critical and commercial acclaim.

Our top five features big hitters and quiet achievers – those who made headlines for the right reasons, delivered stellar hits, and turned outside-the-box ideas into global successes.

  1. Courtney Barnett

Australia singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett gave it her all in 2015, becoming one of the country’s most acclaimed talents. Barnett has helped shine a light on Australia’s underground music scene, having released two EPs and gained traction in the USA and UK. Described as Australia’s answer to Bob Dylan, the musician released her debut album, Sometime I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, to rave reviews from industry, media and most importantly music fans.

The 28-year-old Melburnian’s knack for deadpan vocals and witty narratives about the mundane and familiar pushed her new album into the stratosphere. Singles Pedestrian at Best and Depreston helped the album to number 4 on the Australian charts. Barnett was also nominated in eight categories at this year’s ARIA Awards taking home Best Female Artist, Breakthrough Artist, Best Independent Release and Best Cover Art (illustrated by Courtney herself, of course) for the new album.

The loveable left-hander is looking to achieve even greater heights in 2016, with a nomination for Best New Artist at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards to be announced in February.

  1. Vance Joy

Another 28-year-old Australian singer-songwriter broke out from the pack in 2015. Vance Joy, like Barnett, worked tirelessly before his break-out year. Joy was, believe it or not, a promising football player in the Victorian Football League before pursuing his passion for music. Joy’s hit Riptide was voted number 1 on Triple J’s Hottest 100 of 2013 and the song has since made a resurgence on commercial radio throughout 2014 and 2015.

In 2015, Joy toured throughout the world, took his opportunities, and developed a huge following. Joy was given the momentous responsibility of supporting Taylor Swift on her 1989 World Tour. After crating single Great Summer for the Paper Towns movie soundtrack, Joy was nominated for six ARIA Awards in 2015 and picked up one for Best Male Artist for latest album Dream Your Life Away. Singles Georgia and Fire and the Flood gave him even greater commercial recognition.

  1. Drake

Canadian RnB artist/rapper Drake, formerly known as wheelchair-bound Jimmy Brooks from Degrassi: The Next Generation, has become one of contemporary music’s most profitable and controversial figures. Known for everything from number 1 albums and career defining singles to the popularisation of the acronym ‘YOLO’, the producer/recording artist continually pushes boundaries and entertains the masses.

Building upon hits including Started From the Bottom and Hold On, We’re Going Home, Drake’s 2015 was a miasma of headlines and chart-topping experiments. The rapper unexpectedly released latest album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late on iTunes, selling over 1 million copies. The album helped Drake to become the first act to reach platinum in 2015, making it his fourth platinum and counting.

Releasing What a Time To Be Alive in late 2015, Drake became the first rapper since Jay-Z in 2004 to achieve two number ones in the same year. Putting aside the Serena Williams stuff, the musician’s latest single/music video smash Hotline Bling became one of the most talked about, beloved and parodied ventures of the year.

  1. The Weeknd

Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, known primarily as The Weeknd, is one of the most progressive and intriguing breakout stars of the past decade. Stemming from Drake’s influence, the Canadian producer and artist made his name by uploading several showstoppers to YouTube in 2010. Building his reputation over several years, the artist released multiple albums and nine-track mix-tapes including debut studio album Kiss Land. Last year, his second album, Beauty Behind the Madness, became his first number one album.

In 2015, four singles pushed The Weeknd, along with his signature hairstyle, into the spotlight. Singles Earned It, Can’t Feel My Face, and The Hills made him the only artist to hold the top three spots on the Billboard 200 R&B singles chart simultaneously. Cant Feel My Face became a 2015 pop-culture staple, earning everything from instant acclaim to a Tom Cruise lip-sync performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The Hills and In The Night fuse pop-R&B sensibilities with a dark edge.

  1. Adele

Adele, Adele, Adele. What can we say?

At just 27, Adele has, arguably, become one of the biggest solo artists in music history. Her remarkable career kicked off with debut album 19, certified seven times platinum in the UK charts and double in the US. In 2011, she released her second album, 21, to critical and commercial glory of incomparable proportions. The album earned the artist six Grammys, two Brit Awards and three American Music Awards. In addition to her albums’ successes, the singer-songwriter’s Bond theme, Skyfall, is possibly the greatest Bond song to date.

So, where to after 21? How about 25! Her third studio album, although released in late 2015, debuted at number one and broke multiple sales records across the world. The album’s first single, Hello, was an instant smash hit. The single destroyed records and debuted at number one in numerous countries. Above all, it became the first single in the US to sell over 1 million copies within a week (gee, is that all?). 2015 has made her one of the best-selling artists in entertainment history.




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