Breaking into the music industry is hard.
Which is why it’s always a good time to highlight the work of artists who haven’t yet hit the mainstream. From U.S.-based bands to foreign singer-songwriters, here’s The Spectrum’s list of 12 underrated artists worth listening to in 2022:
Sleeping At Last
As its name suggests, Sleeping At Last is the quintessential music project to listen to before going to bed. Multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Ryan O’Neal deftly blends his euphonious vocals with his wonderful piano and chord skills to create a beautiful sound that will evoke all your strongest emotions. From O’Neal’s stunning cover of The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” to his gorgeous rendition of Kelly Clarkson’s “Already Gone,” his music transports us to a calmer, gentler world.
- Justin Weiss
I was going through a rough time when I first heard The Bellfuries. Consumed with anxiety, I was canceling plans left and right. So, I shuffled through my music until I landed on the song “Just Remembering,” which quieted my racing mind. I had never experienced music so eclectic yet cohesive, so I instantly downloaded “Workingman’s Bellfuries.” Averaging just 18,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, every single one of The Bellfuries’ songs takes you on a journey. Traversing genres ranging from country to R&B, the band scratches the specific itch in your brain that you didn’t even realize was there until you felt it. Even though the band has stopped making music, their songs will always have a special spot in my playlists.
- Jenna Quinn
I was first introduced to the musical stylings of singer-songwriter Issac Dunbar in a 60-second TikTok where he debuted a short clip of a song he’d been working on, “Bleach.” But like many of the clips Dunbar has continued to upload, “Bleach” will likely never come to fruition, which makes the albums he has released that much more special. The 18-year-old alternative pop artist’s EDM roots are evident in the subtle bass lines and synths that lace each song he’s released. Dunbar’s tracks often follow the roadmap of traditional pop songs, brandishing robust choruses and moody lyrics regarding teens and early-20s plights like love and identity.
- Reilly Mullen
If you’re a fan of Mac Miller or J. Cole, you need to add Aaron May’s tunes to your playlist — ASAP. From his rhythmic flow to his killer backing beats, May’s music resembles the early works of Miller and Cole. At only 20 years old, May is trailblazing his way to becoming the next big hip-hop artist while discovering his own sound. The Houston native began his musical journey in fifth grade and displays a level of wisdom not typically found in such young artists. May is the perfect guy to listen to whether you need a new song on your gym playlist or something to vibe to in the circle.
- Kayla Sterner
One of the most prolific artists in hip-hop’s competitive underground, 39-year-old Boldy James has been delivering some of rap’s most riveting bars since 2009. A technical wizard who specializes in creating a melancholy tone, James blends a psychedelic style with hip-hop’s boom-bap roots. Following multiple critically-acclaimed collaborative projects with legendary producer The Alchemist — “My 1st Chemistry Set” (2013), “The Price of Tea in China” (2020), “Bo Jackson” (2021) and “Super Tecmo Bo” (2021) — James has earned his place as one of hip-hop’s underrated lyrical giants.
- Anthony DeCicco
Maise Peters is the quintessential Gen-Z popstar. The songs in her debut album echo insecurities and relationships that any 20-something can relate to. Her song “Details” is about the pain of her unrequited love, falling in love with someone else and hearing the other girls’ details. Her titular song. “You Signed Up For This,” expresses the ramblings and anxieties of someone trying to find and grow into themselves. Peters is perfect for fans of Taylor Swift and Julia Michaels. While she is well known in the U.K., she has yet to make it big in the U.S. That could change soon. Peters is expected to gain a bigger following when she opens Ed Sheeran's European tour this year.
- Julie Frey
Dreamer Boy is the perfect artist to listen to while you cloud-watch with your friends. The musical project of Zachary Arthur Taylor, Dreamer Boy is the perfect mix of bedroom pop mixtape artists like Dayglow and Mild High Club. With just under 800,000 monthly Spotify listeners, Dreamer Boy is on his way up in the indie music scene with support from veteran artists like The 1975. Songs like “Falling for the Wrong One” and “Know You” perfectly melt his melodic voice and psychedelic beats together to show off his signature style. His latest single “ARE YOU LETTING GO?” sees him join forces with BENEE, as they produce lyrics that are soft to the touch. Dreamer Boy is a big hit in the making.
- Sophie McNally
Authenticity is the arrow of artistry that pierces the heart of its beholders, and JPEGMAFIA is a marksman with a bottomless quiver. The New York City rapper made his start spitting over his own beats because they were too “confusing” for other artists, and he hasn’t looked back since. Peggy revels in unrestrained experimentation and artistry, mesmerizing listeners with scintillating sampling and raw yet cinematic production while rebuffing attempts to be boxed into any one genre. Peggy’s latest release on “LP!” holds true to that and more, as a milestone final project before going independent from his music label. Unshackled and with renewed creative license, it is inevitable that Peggy will do as Peggy does and there’s no better time to tune in for the ride.
- Kyle Nguyen
Any true 70s music fan should already be familiar with Ric Okasek, the former co-lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist, songwriter and frontman for the Boston-based rock band, The Cars. Okesek began a solo career in the 90s with the album Fireball Zone. Although his solo career never truly took off, Ocasek’s tunes can be summed up in one word: idiosyncratic. His music choices were peculiar and risky for his time, although they changed the way music is made today. Ocasek is a great artist to add to a study or gym playlist to get you motivated.
- Dan Eastman
Despite six Grammy nominations and plenty of critical acclaim, Yola doesn’t have the extensive fanbase she deserves. Drawing from genres like Americana, pop, R&B, country, rock ‘n’ roll and more, the self-described “genre-fluid” artist pens songs unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. And she blends emotions just as well as she does genres. One of my favorites from her newest album, “Dancing Away in Tears” — unsurprisingly about a breakup — is melancholy and rueful, but its relatively upbeat tempo gives it undertones of triumph. And Yola’s talent doesn’t end at song-writing. It’s her voice — powerful and soulful — that brings her music to life. The only thing you can expect from any given Yola song is that it won’t disappoint.
- Grant Ashley
With songs soaked in longing and nostalgia, Current Joys is the moniker for alternative/indie singer-songwriter, Nicholas Rattigan. Current Joys is the perfect artist to name drop when wanting to sound just a little pretentious without having to resort to being a fan of The Smiths. With music that feels like the last roadtrip of summer, the achingly bittersweet sounds of songs such as “Kids” and “American Honey” are perfect to listen to while sitting in the sun and contemplating one’s path of life in both past and future tenses.
- Kara Anderson
NYC-based band Sipper has all the elements of an underrated act: bedroom-based production, album art that looks like it was crafted in Microsoft Paint and rooftop shows advertised exclusively via Instagram stories. Nevertheless, Sipper manages to produce songs with exceptional musicality and raw emotion. Songs like “Dance in Room Song” and “FWB” confront harsh realities with cheerful, melodic instrumentals. Sipper is constantly developing and dropping new music, making them a perfect band to follow.
- Moaz Elazzazi