In January, Adam Rippon became the first openly gay athlete to make a U.S. Winter Olympic team. Then his perfect, clean skate to Coldplay’s “O” helped the American figure skating team take bronze at PyeongChang in February, making him the first openly gay U.S. athlete to win a Winter Olympics medal. Being out is still a rarity for an active athlete – even in a sequined sport.
“I have a passion for politics...A lot of it is strategy, and it’s competitive, and as somebody who’s in performance and is an entertainer, I look at it and see that it’s a show. It’s drama.”
But Rippon was something else: out, loud, proud, and endlessly funny. “I’m a glamazon bitch ready for the runway,” he told haters on Twitter. This spring he’ll tour with Stars on Ice, and he’s weighing a Dancing With the Stars slot. He recognizes the platform that media attention has given him, and uses it to both push buttons and make statements.
Khalid is a 20-year-old pop prodigy with a knack for big, breezy songs. His debut album, American Teen, came out last year and earned him the reputation as one of the year’s most distinctive new voices – as well as a Best New Artist Grammy nomination. He says he wants other misfits and outsiders to take solace in his example, in terms of both artistic and material success. “I’m an African-American man with an Afro, who isn’t your typical athlete – who wasn’t as masculine as other guys,” he explains. “And now people are looking at me like, this is ‘The American Teen … .’”
After more than a decade of work – including failed auditions for The Voice and American Idol, and songwriting credits for Kelly Clarkson and Tim McGraw – Maren Morris finally broke through with “My Church,” a gospel-style tribute to cruising while blasting classic country music, from her album Hero. She earned Grammy nominations, but wasn’t afraid to paint outside the country genre’s lines. Since then, Morris has continued to evolve as a socially conscious artist. “A lot of people get to Nashville and immediately start selling themselves,” she says. “If you’re patient and work your ass off and get really good, there’s going to be a space for you.”
Mitski carries herself more like an intellectual in a French New Wave film than one of the most gifted rock songwriters of her generation. Her latest album, Puberty 2, dramatically expanded her reach, winning over Iggy Pop and Lorde, who invited the 27-year-old to open 16 dates on her current tour. “You become a part of people’s lives, and that’s such a responsibility, because I’m an introverted person,” she says. “It’s a heavy thing to me, and I want to fully carry that weight.”
Carrie Coon has flexed both comic and tragic muscles on Fargo and The Leftovers – but how did this Midwestern actress go from an essential part of Chicago’s renowned Steppenwolf ensemble to one of Hollywood’s most valuable actors in such a short period? It started with her work as Honey in the Broadway production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? alongside her husband, Tracy Letts.
“I’m not good at writing the stories, I just hope I get to tell them.”
She was later cast in David Fincher’s Gone Girl and Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated The Post. “It’s exciting to think about what’s possible,” she explains. “I don’t want to be limited by my own imagination. Nothing I can come up with to tell you I want to do is as interesting as the thing I’m going to do because somebody else came up with it.”
California rapper Vince Staples is a goosebumps-vivid storyteller, a scathing social critic, and a world-class smart-ass with a comeback for anyone who dares to underestimate him. On his first album, 2015’s Summertime ’06, he spun an unsentimental rags-to-riches tale starting with his youth in Long Beach, California, offering a fresh perspective on an age-old American story. On his second, last year’s Big Fish Theory, he took more musical risks, working with avant-garde electronic producers Sophie and Flume to tap into the twin gospels of Detroit techno and Chicago house. “I care about my standards,” says Staples of big-name rap producers. “Not theirs.”
As a teenager, Micah Nelson had already started recording his own low-fi, dreamscape music, but when he decided to release it, he used the pseudonym Particle Kid so there was no sign it came from the son of Willie Nelson. “Instead of taking advantage of that, I always felt that I had to work twice as hard as everyone else and live up to the name, really earn it,” Micah explains. Combining an indie DIY aesthetic with a questing hippie spirit and a relentless work ethic, Micah has opened shows for Margo Price and backed up Neil Young in his older brother Lukas’ band, Promise of the Real. The latest features all of them in Paradox, Young’s trippy Western directed by Daryl Hannah. Playing music with Young has been like “getting a master’s degree in Jedi training,” Micah says, teaching him that “the perfect is highly overrated.”
In the course of her career, Cristin Milioti has taken on a wider variety of roles and disciplines than many actors do in decades. She’s made her mark on television, in movies and onstage, playing instantly iconic (and wildly different) characters in Black Mirror, Fargo, How I Met Your Mother, the Broadway musical Once, and sang David Bowie’s “Changes” in Lazarus. Currently, she’s recording her first album. And this is only the beginning.
Hailed as a primary architect of a West Coast jazz revival, featured in the Whitney Museum’s prestigious Biennial, playing to thousands at Coachella – Kamasi Washington still doesn’t see himself as the guy.
“ I’m a messenger...So now that people are listening, I see it as an opportunity to offer more messages.”
He was an integral part of Kendrick Lamar’s last two albums – arranging strings and playing tenor sax on To Pimp a Butterfly and DAMN. – and his strain of spiritual jazz helped rejuvenate the genre. But to hear him tell it, he’s merely living in the moment.
In a pop world dominated by club-ready bangers and hip-hop swagger, Jason Isbell’s The Nashville Sound is an outlier: Its blend of honky tonk, unplugged folk and heartland boogie contains zero hints of EDM, and its songs are meaty, detailed ruminations on adulthood and screwing up. Yet it still managed to debut in the Top 5 of the Billboard album chart, cementing Isbell’s status as one of today’s most vital songwriters. “So much for alienating half my audience by speaking my mind.”
Emma Cline wrote her debut novel, The Girls, in a friend’s backyard shed in Brooklyn, finishing it in the summer of 2014. The manuscript sparked a bidding war, earning the 28-year-old a reported $2-million, three-book deal with Random House. Set in the summer of 1969, The Girls tells the story of a searching California teenager who gets caught up with a cult that commits a multiple homicide in the Hollywood Hills, and America’s warped countercultural past can be read as a prologue, particularly as pertains to being young and female in this country. Cline feels like one of those writers uniquely tapped into the anxieties and ecstasies of their generation, but she’s not really into the idea of herself as a spokesperson for anything besides what you can read on the page. “I trust in my writing and not much else,” says Cline, who is currently “circling around” a second novel. “I like to think the best of me is in there. Or that’s the salient information.”
If you’re ever feeling bored with new music, like you’ve heard it all before, don’t give up – just hit play on a Jlin track. The 30-year-old Gary, Indiana, electronic musician is evolving faster than the world can keep up. A few years ago, she was a rising star associated with footwork, a high-tempo house variant born in Chicago clubs. Then, with her second LP, 2017’s wildly innovative Black Origami, she pummeled apart the very idea of dance music and found weird beauty in the shards. And on her next project – an original score for British choreographer Wayne McGregor’s group-performance piece Autobiography – she backflips into ambient psychedelic space and beyond.
Greta Van Fleet
Greta Van Fleet’s sound is pure Seventies golden-god swagger – an electrifying throwback at a time when most bands that get played on what’s left of rock radio lean more toward hip-hop-influenced electro-pop – but they lean more hippie than hedonist. As they record a full-length follow-up to their first two EPs – packaged together last year as the eight songs of From the Fires – they favor hikes in the Nashville woods over all-night ragers.
“Rock & roll to us is liberation. A reminder that we as human beings have a voice.” — Josh Kiszka
At 21, Josh Kiszka and his twin brother, Jake (on guitar), are the band’s elder statesmen; younger brother Sam (on bass and keyboards) and drummer Danny Wagner are both 18. The band’s biggest success so far was also its most hard to imagine: making rock & roll cool again for a younger demographic.
J Balvin is on a mission to globalize reggaeton. The 31-year-old singer opened the year with a series of accolades: He became the world’s most watched music artist on YouTube. His smash hit “Mi Gente,” written with French singer-producer Willy William and remixed by Beyoncé, has surpassed 1.5 billion YouTube views and topped Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart for three consecutive months. And as the latest Colombian on the verge of crossover superstardom, Balvin hopes to make the biggest splash with his upcoming album, Vibras. “Juanes played rock, Shakira pop,” says Balvin. “But we’ve had nothing urban to represent our country.”
Michelle Wolf has made her name by throwing tornadoes of precise punchlines at everything: Wonder Woman’s lame lasso of truth, dating, zits, periods, farts, Bill Cosby’s lazy eye and her own resemblance to both Hollywood Annies. Since joining The Daily Show in 2016, she’s earned her own HBO special, a weekly Netflix late-night show (premiering later this year), and a slot hosting the 2018 White House Correspondents Dinner. She calls herself a “to-the-bone” comedian, and the title of her HBO special Nice Lady comes from a riff that finds her sorting her own – and our culture’s – complex feelings about powerful women like Hillary Clinton. “Nice ladies aren’t in charge of things,” Wolf says. “I’ve worked for people who are a lot nicer than I am, who might say, ‘We can’t say this about this person.’ And I will.”
Last spring, 23-year-old Shamir Bailey was ready to leave his recording career behind after a few years of feeling trapped in a major label deal that left him creatively stifled. While his manager and the label executives wanted more of the electro-pop direction of his surprise hit “On the Regular,” Bailey was ready to explore the indie rock and country music he was raised on and created early in his career. After his grungy fall album Revelations, he’s at the beginning of a second act, one where he’s better equipped to carve out his own musical independence.
In performance, Jay Som – the alias of 24-year-old Melina Duterte – has a way of transforming her intimate, home-recorded sweet nothings into a swinging party fit for hundreds of strangers.
“Indie-rock is changing – and for the better...Women, queer people, people of color are at the forefront, changing the structure of it all.”
For years she penned pop songs in private, most happy to wield a microphone when singing karaoke with her Filipino family, but after she self-released nine songs on Bandcamp one evening, she was on her way to becoming an indie-rock hero.
After hitting 52 home runs and winning the 2017 Rookie of the Year award, Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge is perfectly accessorized to begin a long run as the next legend in the Bronx. At 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds, he’s LeBron in cleats, blessed with the fast-twitch reflexes of a shortstop. Judge’s swing is both beautiful and violent – a symphony of moving parts. “I still have a lot to prove,” he says. “I’m only 25, I haven’t done anything yet.”
Each of director Ryan Coogler’s first three films – Fruitvale, Creed and Black Panther – has been not just bigger and more successful than the one that came before – but also arguably better. “We’ve got a good thing going,” Michael B. Jordan, who has been in each of these movies, says. “I was lucky enough to find my director so early. We want to make each other’s movies for the rest of our careers. It’s been a fun ride, and we feel like we’re just getting started.”
Eddie Huang has this idea of America that involves all its people owning their own stories, in all their inevitably idiosyncratic, multi-cultural glory. But since he’s set up shop in Los Angeles to tell versions of his own story – that of a Taiwanese-American basketball fanatic, hip-hop fiend, author and celebrity chef – he’s finding it’s easier said than done. He had to fight for his vision when his memoir Fresh Off the Boat was made into a hit ABC TV series. But the big news is the film he’s just written, about the next great New York City point guard, a Taiwanese-Chinese kid from Flushing, New York. “It’s about coming of age in basketball,” he says. “I’m focusing on a kid who’s very smart, very talented, but comes from a home with domestic violence, cultural clashes. And it also asks the question: How much of your past do you bring with you and how much do you create your own future?”