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SXSW 2016: 25 Artists You Need to See

Country legends, underground rock sensations and more to catch in Austin

BJ the Chicago Kid, Into It. Over It. and Charli XCX

BJ the Chicago Kid, Into It. Over It. and Charli XCX will be at SXSW 2016

The 2016 edition of Austin's annual music conference South by South West is set to kick off on March 15th. Once again they have a formidable lineup that includes everyone from country icon Loretta Lynn to Afrobeats ambassador Davido to emerging punks Sheer Mag. We searched the lineup for the year's biggest stories, boldest victory laps, most buzzed-about Internet sensations and some stuff we just like. 

SXSW; 25 Artist to See

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 19: Lorely Rodriguez of Empress Of performs onstage at The FADER FORT Presented By Converse at Eventi Hotel on October 19, 2013 in New York, New York. (Photo by Roger Kisby/Getty Images)

Roger Kisby/Getty

Empress Of

Status: Emerging
Why You Should Pay Attention:
The solo project of Lorely Rodriguez leapt into the big time with 2015's Me, a richly textured record that turns the dance floor into a place of personal discovery. The album's brutally diaristic lyrics, and musical nods to glassy synthpop and deeply emotional R&B helped Me, which Rodriguez wrote while holed up at a friend's place in Mexico, become one of 2015's critically beloved left-field pop albums. 

Davido

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Davido

Ever since he hit with 2012's effusive "Dami Duro," Davido has been one of Africa's biggest rising stars. Now that he's signed an international deal with Sony, it looks like he may become one of the world's biggest, too. To American ears, his sound seems to split the difference between dance music's uptempo beats, R&B melodies and hip-hop's effortless swag. Yet it's all incorporated through a sound that is distinctly African, with rhythms that prove to be more compulsively danceable than most things making waves on the Hot 100. His upcoming album Baddest — which he recently revealed to Fader will include a feature from rapper Future — will be a major test for African artists crossing over in the United States. But Davido is confident: "I know what kind of songs work. The music should have everything in it — Jamaican, African, American, everything."

SXSW; 25 Artist to See

Lucy Dacus

Status: Blowing Up
Why You Should Pay Attention: This Richmond singer-songwriter's just-released No Burden is one of 2016's best indie rock debuts. Dacus' sharply observed lyrics and her band's muscular, yet slightly fuzzy crunch feels completely lived in. The intimacy of songs like the brooding "I Don't Wanna Be Funny Anymore" and the thundering "Troublemaker Doppleganger" will entice even the most harried SXSW showgoers to lean in and listen a little bit more closely. "Hopefully when you listen to a song, you can say, 'That's me,' or 'That's someone I know' — you relate to it in a way that's cathartic," Dacus told Rolling Stone.

SXSW; 25 Artist to See

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 11: Charli XCX performs during the Charli & Jack Do America Tour at The Fillmore Detroit on August 11, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott Legato/Getty Images)

Scott Legato/Getty

Charli XCX + Sophie

Status: Back/Blowing Up
Why You Should Pay Attention: You probably first heard British singer/songwriter Charli XCX's brash, bratty voice on Icona Pop's "I Love It" and Iggy Azelea's "Fancy." In 2014 she built off those prominent guest spots to become a pop star in her own right with the hit "Boom Clap," but by the end of last year she'd changed trajectory, canceling the second leg of a tour with Bleachers so she could get back in the studio. In Stockholm, Charli worked with Sophie, an affiliate of the London synthpop label/collective PC Music known for the willfully artificial production style of tracks like "Lemonade." On the resulting EP, Vroom Vroom, released on Charli's new label, Vroom Vroom Recordings, the squeaky synths that Sophie favors further accentuate the pop blare that Charli has made her trademark.

SXSW; 25 Artist to See

Car Seat Headrest band's singer/guitarist Will Toledo(R) performs on October 15, 2015 during the CMJ Music Marathon in New York. Starting as a teenager, Toledo put out 11 homemade albums and posted them online, many of them raw ruminations on depression, death and drinking. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Jewel Samad/Getty

Car Seat Headrest

Status: Blowing Up
Why You Should Pay Attention: Car Seat Headrest's driven mastermind Will Toledo makes languid indie rock with whirring, no-bullshit musings; and it's a critical smash. His debut Teens of Style was one of Rolling Stone's 50 Best Albums of 2015, and cheekily-entitled follow-up Teens of Denial is slated to release later this year on his new home of Matador Records. Though he told Rolling Stone that his music is bred from nerves and "reflects introversion," Toledo will be busting the bedroom door open and hitting many SXSW stages.

SXSW; 25 Artist to See

BARCELONA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 23: Bombino performs in concert during day 6 of BAM Festival on September 23, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Xavi Torrent/WireImage)

Xavi Torrent/Getty

Bombino

Status: Back
Why You Should Pay Attention: Desert-blues guitar virtuoso Omara "Bombino" Moctar has had no problem attracting high-profile rock fans who want to help him get his remarkable music out to the world. In 2013, Rolling Stone dubbed Bombino an Artist to Watch even before the release of Nomad, the album he travelled to Nashville to record with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach. His follow-up, Azel, was recorded in Woodstock with the Dirty Projectors' Dave Longstreth and will be released next month. A member of the nomadic Tuareg people, Bombino had already journeyed a long way from Agadez, Niger before coming to the U.S. to record – guitars were banned and musicians were executed in the country of his birth, and he was forced to migrate to North Africa. But as dramatic as Bombino's life story is, his guitar work, influenced by Hendrix and Dire Straits but rooted in the rolling, circular patterns of West Africa, speaks for itself.

BJ the Chicago Kid

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 13: Singer-songwriter BJ The Chicago Kid performs at the BET Music Matters Grammy Showcase at W Hollywood on February 13, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for BET)

Earl Gibson III/Getty

BJ the Chicago Kid

Bryan James Sledge's government name even sounds like that of an R&B star. He's not an overnight success, but with the rise of the gospel-infused single "Church" — featuring fellow Chicagoan Chance the Rapper — and his record for Schoolboy Q, "Studio," BJ has been making waves. His recently released Motown debut, In My Mind is classic R&B in an un-classic time and BJ is unafraid to go against the grain. He told Rolling Stone: "Cupid is very much busy in the club, rolling up weed, and smoking, and drinking cognac at the bar like everybody else. He's not doing his job like he used to. So I'll call myself the New Cupid."

SXSW; 25 Artist to See

Big Ups

Status: Emerging
Why You Should Pay Attention: Big Ups are mainstays in the DIY haunts of their native Brooklyn. But the quartet – who meld post-punk and post-hardcore into a wiry, thrilling affair – are making universal points about consumerism, isolation and too much information. As the band thrashes through SXSW, keep a close eye on frontman Joe Galarraga: Don't be surprised if, in mid-throttle, he wraps the microphone's long cord around himself, and then you too.

SXSW; 25 Artist to See

AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 09: Roger Sellers performs during Fun Fun Fun Fest at Auditorium Shores on November 9, 2013 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Gary Miller/FilmMagic)

Gary Miller/Getty

Bayonne

Status: Emerging
Why You Should Pay Attention: SXSW will be a homecoming for Bayonne, the one-man Animal Collective currently touring his quivering electro-pop across the northern U.S. His show is as exciting as his music. Onstage alone, the real-life Rogers Sellers layers loop upon loop, then lets them corrode as he beats old-fashioned tom-toms and snare drums. The setup traces back to a perhaps unlikely source: Phil Collins, his childhood hero. "I was always trying to imitate somebody at some point," Sellers told Rolling Stone, "and my Phil Collins obsession was how I learned to play the drums."

SXSW; 25 Artist to See

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 10: Aurora Aksnes from Aurora performs at La Boule Noire on June 10, 2015 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images)

David Wolff - Patrick/Getty

Aurora

Status: Blowing Up
Why You Should Pay Attention: Norwegian Aurora Aksnes' folk-enhanced, synthy pop racked up millions of YouTube views and has perked up the ears of Katy Perry and Of Monsters and Men. Singles "Murder Song (5, 4, 3, 2, 1)" and "Running With the Wolves" glimmer and cut. "Lots of songs aren't even from my experiences, but they're about accepting … the dark things about yourself," Aksnes told Rolling Stone. The Glassnote signee's debut album, All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend, arrived just in time to be the talk of Texas.

SXSW; 25 Artist to See

Mauricio Santana/Getty

AlunaGeorge

Status: Back
Why You Should Pay Attention: The London duo – singer Aluna Francis and instrumentalist George Reid – refitted R&B with indie electronics on their 2013 debut, but they've since been experimenting with EDM. A DJ Snake remix toughened up the understated "You Know You Like It," giving them the biggest hit of their career, and new single "I'm in Control" grooves to the kind of light synth riff you'd hear on a Major Lazer album. Expect to hear more from their upcoming I Remember, due April 29.

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