- Kaiana Lee
10 Underrated Black Pop Artists
*photocredits: Maya B facebook, Hemlocke Springs: People Magazine Michelle Li, Isaac Dunbar: Twitter, Arlo Parks: NPR Alex Kurunis
Something I’ve come to realize is that black people are absent from the pop scene. Black people tend to be placed in the box of RnB and Hip-Hop. Though many of these artists take heavy inspiration from these genres, they rarely participate in them. This leads to the lack of acknowledgment of black artists who create some of the most thought-provoking and iconic work out there. The world is blind to their talent because they would rather place these genre-bending artists into the category of urban music. This top 10 list highlights some of my favorite black pop artists that should be getting the recognition they deserve in the genre.
10. Morgan Reese
Starting strong with some incredible vibes. Sometimes the track will sound chill and wavy; other times its bass guitar heavy and leaning towards pop grunge. Morgan Reese never sticks to one genre entirely and is always playing around with new sounds. Her music is kind of like Art pop with Alternative folky vocals but that isn’t always the case. That is the appeal of Morgan Reese. You never quite know what you'll get but you'll always love the results. Whatever you want to call her genre, it's always interesting to listen to. Morgan Reese steps out of the pop box and into so many different genres. Yet, she does it in a way that is compelling and cohesive. Morgan never misses a beat; each song is like a breath of fresh air. I can't get enough of her.
9. MAYA B
Maya B is taking up well-deserved space in the pop genre. She has the voice, the fashion, and the personality needed to be labeled a star and she holds that title well. Her music is pop infused with RnB and a dash of sweet, sweet electropop now and then. Her lyrics revolve around some real intimate and sometimes emotional topics but they are packaged in beautiful pop bows. Things like feeling lonely, anti-materialism, and self-love are just a few of the topics Maya B touches on in her music. Her heart goes into each of these songs and it gives them a relatable feeling that is alluring to many of us.
Do you miss 90s pop music? Me too, and Precious has us covered. Her cloud-soft voice tends to be paired with a bubblegum pop aesthetic that is so dearly missed. She mixes these aesthetics with K-Pop influences that mesh so perfectly together. Her sound evokes a childlike playfulness that only she can pull off. Precious stands out amongst the rest because of the hyper-feminine nature of her sound. Everything is soft and danceable. You just want to have fun with Precious. Her music feels like visiting Barbie's dream house in the best way possible. She’s bringing back the bubblegum pop sound the world has been missing and I am 100% here for it.
7. J $ensei
J $ensei is such a cool artist. Where can you find an expert mix of indie pop, electro nostalgia, and a dash of Alt rock except for in J $ensei’s discography? Every song is a different journey leading to a similar destination. They all have the same underlying genre but the way they interact with that genre is ALWAYS new. He has a serious talent for creating something compelling and different with each track he releases. It’s hard to place his music into one box. He is an indie pop artist that simultaneously throws out the concept of the genre altogether. It is incredibly refreshing to come across an artist who blows off the genre and just makes something awesome in their bedroom. J $ensei expertly mixes 808 beats and natural instruments, such as guitar, into each track to create a truly distinctive sound. His sound is so recognizably his, it's chaotic and calm, unfamiliar and familiar, but utterly J $ensei.
6. Arlo Parks
Arlo Parks is an endearing artist. She generates some of the most intoxicating and warm soundscapes heard in the industry. Her music seems so simple and unassuming to many but under the surface, the meanings begin to reveal themselves. Arlo Parks is a poet, this explains the gorgeously arranged lyrics that each song in her discography comes with. She can transform some of the saddest lyrical topics into empowering tunes. She creates a light at the end of the tunnel with every sad lyric she writes. If you're looking for an artist that is comforting and calm but deep and meaningful Arlo Parks is right up your alley.
5. Mora Michelle
Mora Michelle is going down the path of alternative bedroom pop. With her quirky instrumentals, she compliments it beautifully with her dreamy vocals that drip with nostalgia. Mora's voice is light and airy, it leaves you suspended in a daydream with each verse. Incorporating jangly guitar plucks and synths that emulate the ever-popular sonics of the 80s, Mora is taking advantage of the decades' resurgence in the best ways possible. Mora Michelle doesn’t have much music out yet but what she does have will certainly make you feel something calm and reminiscent of simpler times.
4. Hemlocke Springs
TikTok sensation sure, but Hemlocke Springs is even more than that. She is one of my absolute favorite pop artists out right now. The sheer risk-taking in each song is astonishing and done so well. She puts a twist on the newly formed bedroom pop genre with some avant-garde instrumentals and her unique style of vocals. It seems like once the novelty of her track, Girlfriend, died down she was forgotten about. We can not let that happen. So few artists are taking risks nowadays. Hemlocke Springs is doing it with such style. Though she doesn't have many songs right now, what she does have delves heavily into the Avant-Garde Pop subgenre. If you loved Girlfriend, I highly suggest you check out even more hemlock springs.
3. Isaac Dunbar
I was genuinely enraged that I hadn't heard of this artist. When I say artist I mean ARTIST; Everything Isaac Dunbar touches turns to gold. It's a 70s funk rock dreamland luring you into a baroque pop dance hall. You can’t help but move when hearing his music but the moves are always unorthodox. My body was flowing in all different directions; each limb was mimicking a different instrument Isaac so cleverly placed along the instrumental. His witty use of lyricism imitates a fairy tale book at times. Telling stories through the lens of tall tales and fantasy characters like witches showcases his boundless brilliance. From Onion Boy to Fool’s Paradise Isaac treats us to imaginative soundscapes that only he can invent. I might be late but Isaac Dunbar needs his flowers TODAY.
2. Madison Rose
Madison Rose is single-handedly bringing back the EDM pop sound of the 2010s. In a time where the music seems to be going in a darker direction sonically, we all can collectively turn towards Madison Rose for the summertime disco tunes that are desperately needed. Her production is always filled to the brim with opulence. Gagging us with her powerhouse vocals and ecstasy-inducing instrumentals. Her music is made for the club and the stage. Popularizing the sound of House music with both her natural voice and a vocoder. She adds texture and vibrancy to her already boisterous and extravagant sound. Madison Rose is setting herself up to be totally iconic.
1. Diamond White
I could go on and on about how Diamond White is slept on. Her music puts you on a nostalgic high with every track she releases. I first heard her EP Summerland about a year or so ago and I have been hooked ever since. The instrumentals she creates feel like being transported to another world. Diamond White can paint vivid images in your mind and leave you breathless with each stroke of her pen. Her voice is like silk over the electro-pop instrumentals she pairs it with; it's inviting and comforting. I honestly have no idea how she isn’t a bigger star than she is now. She’s working on Marvel's “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur" and has released some music for that as well, so she will be a household name soon.
Do you listen to any of these artists? What black pop star do you think deserves more love?
Written By Kaiana Lee
Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Spotify | TikTok | YouTube
*copyright not intended. Fair use act, section 107.