Yes, there are artists who absolutely killed it this year. We’ve geeked over their moments of genius and compassion, especially from the women. Charli XCX and the flood of influencers in her video for “Boys.” Ariana Grande and her deeply felt message and actions after a tragedy. Kehlani and her endeavors to spread positivity as an “artivist.” These musicians inspired the way we moved our own artists this year.
We have criteria that defines what is a lasting artist: it’s about authenticity, social mastery, innovation, leadership, and strength of personal narrative. It’s about striking the balance amongst all of them, and less about over-indexing in one area. Sure, getting one area down very well will help you make a splash, but in a new music economy splintered by short attention spans and nonstop content, finding that balance yields engagement, engagement, engagement with your fans.
So let’s get to it: here are the 9 artists on our Top Ten Artists Brands of 2017.
9. John Mayer
Standouts: Figured out how to go ceaselessly viral on Twitter and Instagram; now he’s just that guy. Maintained his relevancy and legacy by using social media to talk to fans and contemporary artists. He’s even aligned himself with some of the hottest musicians right now by performing with Post Malone and Shawn Mendes. The real gems, though, lie within his social activity. Like this. Or this. And who can forget all of this anytime you open Snapchat?
8. Kendrick Lamar
Standouts: Reigned supreme with his visual brand. An earth-shattering music video with a reaction heard from all the way across the world. Then once the album was here, it was all about the good music and touring arenas with some of the loudest fans of this day and age. And he did this all with no beefs. That’s how much his poetry and his visuals resonate. Though he’s not a prolific user of social media, he is on this list because when he connects with fans, he always kills it. It’s not his frequency that reverberates with fans but rather his consistency and mastery.
Standouts: While quietly incubating her empire, SZA’s been using her Twitter like a diary and a self-care destination. She’s always championed it as her place to talk with her fans beginning from her emerging days; even now, she uses it to talk the mundane stuff with her followers. No doubt that this is her baring all behind the app. As far as visuals go, every single music video of hers reinforces her strong yet ethereal, fairly-like image.
Standouts: Speaks up about the many facets of growing up as woman, things usually reflected upon in private. Helped fans feel comfortable about same-sex relationships, health troubles, and mental illnesess. Consistent transparency is her hard work; she’s never had a day off, even on bad days. But she’s also found a way to turn it to her empowered fans to tell their own stories.
Standouts: Kindness and youthfulness, incarnate. It’s what he exudes in his strong visuals and when he talks to his fans about his humbling moments. Down to the bio on his socials, he reminds you that he’s 19 and loving it. His brand is personality-based, and as a result, his fans know they’re considered his friends. His most recent touching moment was individually thanking and congratulating all of his friends on the day the Grammys nominations were announced. Let a young artist be his age and control his narrative, and you get an unstoppable force.
Standouts: Content kings BROCKHAMPTON made three solid albums this year named SATURATION I, II, and III, a sharp move to saturate a market that carries a short and oft-split attention span. It didn’t stop at the music: tour diaries, music videos, personal interviews…admire the sheer volume of content on their YouTube channel. Best of all, every single video contributes to a tight visual identity. You can’t not stop talking about their massive year.
Standouts: The beacon of positivity this year, he took a very prevalent issue around suicide prevention and stepped forward as its messenger. Besides the performances, he also made public appearances to advocate for mental health. Though “1-800” was Logic’s lightning in a bottle this year, he’s been keeping people interested for years. He’s amassed over 1MM followers on his YouTube channel, cracking the code a while ago that viral content can derive from existing moments. Beyond the message and behind the scenes, he’s genuinely a guy who wants to make people smile.
2. Tyler, the Creator
Standouts: A zany TV show, a new GOLF collection, a Converse collaboration, a twist on his very first NPR Tiny Desk performance, and going all-in on one of the most riveting music videos of this year (also directed by him). Tyler sticks uniquely to who he is and keeps finding new platforms to show it. And he’s doing it all while still having intimate moments with his fans: he’ll even strip it back for them.
1. Post Malone
Standouts: In 2017 he claimed his niche in hip-hop, and everyone’s on board because he brought them all along on his journey. As a millennial, he’s documented his growth as an artist then owned up to those musical influences when doubters resurfaced videos of his younger days (he loves country and folk and he grew up on pop punk, get over it). Even now he continues to address his followers about his credibility when you could argue he doesn’t have to anymore. Furthermore, he’s a master at turning his lows into wins; after a potentially damaging photo circulated, he squashed a “beef” with Justin Bieber by befriending him, securing a feature from him, and opening for his tour. Building authentic friendships with fellow artists and openly reveling in his goofier days…it all comes to Post naturally.
While creating his brand, he’s also given his fans incredible power: “I Fall Apart” was chosen as a single after a live video of him performing the song went viral within his fanbase, spreading without the help of his label. His fans are in control.
Think there are any that we missed? Let us know. We love a good debate.