25 Women Under 25 Who Are Absolutely Killing It Right Now

From Mabel and Ta-Ha to Jorja Smith and Little Simz, here's 25 of our favourite emerging female artists under 25 -all in one place.

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11 March 2016, 11:00am

This week saw International Women’s Day arrive in an avalanche of empowering statuses, arguments about Kim Kardashian being naked and “where’s men’s day, though?” tweets. There was loads of great stuff too, like Noisey interviews with Peaches, Little Simz and Robyn, this essay on Sia by Brooke Candy, a beautiful feature by Sian Anderson about being a single mother in the music industry, and this insightful documentary about Zimbabwean rapper AWA, who has forged a career as a hip-hop artist despite sexual blackmail, domestic violence, and industry sexism.

The music industry might appear to be broken, but that hasn't stopped women worldwide from killing it right now, and no amount of #content can really adequately cover their achievements when the list is literally endless. Saying that, we thought we could at least skim the surface by putting 25 of our favourite emerging female artists under 25 in one place, in order to champion the young women who are shaping the future, sound, and style of music, one track at a time. We’ve curtailed some of the bigger names like Tinashe, Kehlani and Miley, because you already know they’re great, but here are just a few of our lesser-known favourites.

BARF TROOP


Photo by Aren Johnson

Barf Troop is a badass DC-based rap collective featuring women, non-binary, and gender neutral members whose stage names all have the word “Babe” shoehorned in: Babeo Baggins, Babenstein, Babe Simpson, and Babe Field. They all met on Tumblr and decided to start a rap group together, because that’s how we do this side of MySpace, bitches. The very specific strain of motivating rap, pop and R&B running through Barf Troop’s output is unlike anything else around at the moment – although the twenty-somethings like to say their group is a healthy rival of Odd Future. Mixing in Adventure Time samples, wrestling references, saxophone breakdowns, rapping over math rock, rapping over wind and crickets, rapping over anything and everything – it’s a sound that could only come from a certain group of people at a certain time. As Babeo Baggins told Noisey a few years back: “The internet has helped me connect with people and make music I never would've been able to make otherwise.” So there you have it, a dizzyingly good example of five young people making intelligent use of the infinite worlds technology has placed at our fingertips. Tell that to your dad next time he has a go at you for using your phone at the dinner table. Emma Garland

MABEL


Photo by Jamie Morgan

Mabel is the 20-year-old daughter of riotous pop icon Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack producer Cameron McVey, but that is probably the least interesting fact about the singer, who has spent the past half year crafting two glistening pop bangers and slowly flinging them into the universe one by one. There’s a certain richness and honesty to Mabel’s jams that sets her apart from her fellow up-and-comers, and she sings about relationships in a way that feels totally real, raw and unique (which is no small feat considering 90% of music is about relationships in some capacity). Like the best of us, she grew up worshipping Destiny’s Child, Justin Timberlake and J-Lo, and it’s a throwback pop diet that feeds into her sound, style, and outlook with sweet, unapologetic self assurance. If I wasn’t already grown, I’d like to be Mabel when I grow up. Daisy Jones


KAYLA PHILLIPS


Photo courtesy of Facebook

Kayla Phillips is a triple threat. As primary vocalist and noise manipulator in Nashville-based hardcore/grind/noise consortium Bleed the Pigs, she raises a godawful racket in service of her ideals. Her anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-state violence screeds (and the occasional Nirvana cover) come filtered through a corrosive howl, delivered with the utmost conviction. Onstage, she's a pink-haired tornado, all fists and fury. Her harsh noise side project, Pulsatile Tinnitus, is less abrasive, but just as intense. As a writer, Phillips has confronted the looming specters of sexism and racism in hardcore for this very website, and, as an entrepreneur, she’s found considerable candy-scented success with her Foxie Bombs cosmetics line, a collection of handmade, cruelty-free, vegan products that look good enough to devour and smell like heaven (full disclosure, I’m addicted to her Sweet Rose red clay mask). She’s constantly creating, constantly thinking, constantly speaking out against injustice, and constantly slaying. Keep an eye on Kayla Phillips – one day, she’ll rule us all. Kim Kelly

FLORIST


Photo by Stephanie Griffin

Just when you think everything that can be done with a guitar and some vocal cords has been done before, along comes someone like Emily Sprague to prove you very wrong and unimaginative. At the age of 17, she released a series of electro-folk songs under her own name before writing and recording with bandmates under the name Florist. Now 21, Double Double Whammy just put out Florist’s official first full-length, The Birds Outside Sang, and it’s one of those releases that asserts itself quietly but profoundly. Composed mostly on a keyboard while Sprague was recovering from a hit-and-run accident in Brooklyn that left her in a neck brace and unable to use her left arm, many of the songs are built around a single organ or synth line – but hers is a manner of songwriting that manages to say a lot using very little. Florist is simultaneously wise and innocent, sad and goofy, bursting with mortality but rooted in the mundane. It’s rare that such delicate songs can carry so much weight. Emma Garland

ARISTOPHANES


Photo courtesy of Facebook

You probably first heard about Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes when she appeared on Grimes’ beautifully freaky Art Angels stand-out “Scream” at the tail end of last year, but she’s so much more than a guest verse, and her debut EP No Rush To Leave is one of the weirdest and most wonderful creations that 2016 has blessed us with so far. She raps almost exclusively in her mother tongue mandarin, but you don’t really have to understand the words to appreciate her sound – a sinister and skulking blend of half-whispered vocal shapes spread over dissonant, glitch-ridden production. People sometimes bemoan the lack of uniqueness and originality in the post-internet era, but you just have to take one listen to Aristophanes to realise that’s clearly ludicrous. Daisy Jones

TA-HA


Photo courtesy of Facebook

Listening to Ta-Ha is like drinking a cold glass of water after smoking a blunt on a hot day – totally refreshing in a kind of unhurried way. Head-to-toe in casual sports gear, and with a predication for stock image-heavy, DIY music videos, Ta-Ha looks as if she’s just stepped out of the digital pages of DiS Magazine. To file her music next to your average “net art” gimmick is to do her undeniable talents a disservice, though. With her fluid, half-rapped vocals and low-key R&B production, the Tokyo-born, Paris-based musician sounds a bit like Spooky Black if he’d travelled the world and got into club music (disclaimer: he might have done both of those things, I don’t actually know). Her debut EP Tuareg Shawty – released last year – was truly astonishing, and also utilised a fresh wave of fellow underground talents from Rejjie Hype to Neptune and Yung Naota, so to say I’m excited about her upcoming album is an understatement. Daisy Jones

PESKY


Screengrab via YouTube

Nothing makes you feel more like a useless sack of shit than seeing a group of kids aged between 11 and 12 years of age ripping harder than you could ever pretend you might one day. The band formed in their school's music class and since then they've been applauded by the Guardian, featured on BBC Breakfast, and put out their first release – knowingly titled Smells Like Tween Spirit – on Fierce Panda. But to talk about Pesky in terms of age, despite it being pretty amazing, is to do them a disservice. For a band quite literally in their infancy, their melodic shoegazing pop is way beyond their years, both in terms of inspiration and execution. The only notable difference from Pesky to bands like Teenage Fanclub or Lush is that they actually sound happy. Pesky capture the naivety of youth from a place of absolute honesty. It’s a rare and brilliant glimpse into how pure music can feel when it hasn’t been tainted by the gifts of ennui and self-loathing that adulthood brings. I can’t wait to see where these indie-pop wunderkinds will go once they’re free of the shackles of homework and after school clubs. Emma Garland

BABYMETAL

Babymetal are unlike any other band you have ever been exposed to before. Three teenage girls from Japan singing songs about chocolate in a style they have dubbed “Kawaii metal” - a new genre they’ve created; their 2014 breakthrough single, “Gimme Chocolate,” sounds like a J-pop song after it was sadomasochistically pleasured by nu-metal. But the group’s repertoire analyses the strength of women in a little more depth than the decision to eat a Dairy Milk after dinner. "Kitusune" is about women being tough enough to show a happy exterior when they’re sad, and "Head Bangya!!" is an anthem about a 15-year-old girl going to concerts and headbanging but only seeing guys around her. “It’s a special song for the female fans to relate to,” Su-metal told Noisey in an interview. When you cast aside the connotations of idol culture that surrounds them, Babymetal are doing good things for the rock scene. They’re introducing more people to metal: pop and J-pop fans, girls, for example. They’re bringing a non-white presence to a mainstream scene that’s still predominantly white. They’re three women in a totally male-dominated genre. Their version of the metal moshpit’s carnage-inducing wall of death is the two youngest girls running across the stage to each other. Their version of head-banging is tilting their heads side to side like a tiny human pendulum. Their live performance combines CO2 cannons, red streamers, and choreographed dancing with the strobes and adrenaline of a full-throttle arena show. With a new album in the works and a media blitz sure to come, Babymetal aren’t going anywhere. Hannah Ewens

TOMMY GENESIS


Screengrab via YouTube

I love everyone on Awful Records, but Tommy Genesis is so on fire she could literally burn speakers. While she hails from Vancouver, her sound is smattered in weird ATL trap influences and eclectic sonic reference points, from the casual, heavy-lidded flow of Lauryn Hill to the trashy rebellion of Suicidal Tendencies (who she always reps on Instagram). Lyrically, she’s completely off-the-wall and sparkling with brilliance (in “Execute”, for example, she raps “Rub a dub fucky in the club with your headphones, bored motherfucker in the bath with the tattoos, big ass flipping those bubbles down the drain pipe, grow up smelling like that cotton candy kush ripe”). She’s also just announced that the follow-up to World Vision (titled World Vision 2) is peaking around the corner, so watch this space. Daisy Jones

RINA SAWAYAMA


Screengrab via YouTube

Sure, most of us have a fairly sizeable internet addiction, but Japanese artist Rina Sawayama takes her digital obsessions to the extreme by making it completely central to her sound and aesthetic. The result is a neon-sheened, Instagram-style explosion of lonely odes to iPhones and white screens, shimmering melodies and vaguely tongue-in-cheek music videos where she does things like roll around on the bed with her laptop. Vocally, she sits somewhere between mid-90s Mariah, Prince and Solange, her voice cushioned beneath twinkling synth lines and R&B bass lines. She’s also tight with digi-feminist artists like Arvida Byström and Alessandra Kurr, who have both co-directed a couple of her videos. Oh, and the wokest thing she’s ever told us is: “Your overheating phone substitutes human warmth.” Daisy Jones

KAYLA DIXON


Photo by Veleda Thorsson

Kayla Dixon is no stranger to the stage. Even before she was plucked from relative obscurity on the strength of an audition tape and installed as the soulful, fiery vocalist of Portland’s ascendent doom troupe Witch Mountain, Dixon was a seasoned actress, and those skills came in handy once she strode out in front of a very different (and much hairier) crowd. Former singer Uta Plotkin left her with some pretty big shoes to fill, but Dixon proved that she was more than up to the task, casting a spell over audiences night after night on the road with her grandiose wails and raspy growls. She gelled immediately with her new bandmates in the studio, too (as seen in this exclusive peek inside their jam space) and will be lending her formidable pipes to their upcoming new EP—her first behind the mic—and on tour this summer.. At just 21, Kayla Dixon is already a force to be reckoned with, and lord only knows how high she’ll soar. Kim Kelly

TOXE


Photo courtesy of Facebook

The ingrained sexism within the electronic music scene has been a hot topic for the past couple of years, but despite the odds stacked against them, female producers have been killing it since producing began, and 18-year-old Swedish supernova Toxe is no exception. A key member of Stockholm-based label StayCore (alongside artists like Mobilegirl, Lil Tantrum, Endgame, Kablam), Toxe makes genre-blending music that fuses spitfire beats with twisted vocal samples, chewing up and spitting out everything from Britney Spears to T-Pain, and chopping up grime, R&B, cumbia, reggae, hip-hop and garage to make a startlingly fresh mish-mash of club-ready beats. Speaking to Noisey last week, Toxe explained how she first got into producing when her brother introduced her to Ableton at the age of 15, before she quickly dived into the depths of musical experimentation, and has been slaying ever since. Daisy Jones

LAYLA HENDRYX

It goes without saying that R&B is having a real moment right now, and while we already know that Kehlani and Tinashe are dope, the sweet, trap-smattered talents of Layla Hendryx ought to be recognised. Based in Vancouver, but raised in Somalia, Hendryx is ice-clear about her wish to become Canada’s biggest Somali rapper, and to break down tired stereotypes in the process. “I want a little Somali girl to look up to me and think they have a chance in music because I didn’t really have that,” she explained to Noisey earlier this year, “I want people, in general, to feel like they don’t have to be constricted to rules and follow their own path.” It’s a self-assured individualism that seeps into her music and makes it kick, from the spiralling Auto-tune of “Runnin’ (ft. Castro Guapo)” to the silky-smooth roll of “7 Days” and the sparkling melodies of “Different”. Layla Hendryx is dancing to the beat of a brand new drum, and I want to join in. Daisy Jones

RYAN PLAYGROUND


Photo courtesy of RYAN Playground

As is the case with many artists who take the “I’ll teach myself” route, RYAN Playground’s compositions take one look at the barriers of traditional music and barge straight through them. Born Geneviève Ryan Martel, she received her first drum kit at the age of 5 and things just got cooler from there. Ryan’s CV is impressive: science student, international model, producer, singer, rapper, DJ… It’s not often you find someone with so many fingers in as many pies. She recently teamed up with a fellow Canadian producer by the name of Ryan - Hemsworth - to release her new album Elle through his Secret Songs label. Falling in roughly the same ballpark as Hemsworth’s own material, RYAN Playground meticulously crafts soundscapes that merge electronic music with R’n’B, punk influence, and straight-up pop sensibilities - but the sentiments that make it relatable are hers alone. Elle is technically impressive, emotionally moving, and full of meaning. One of her greatest triumphs to date comes in the form of “Are You Mad”, a gorgeous track which, as she told Nylon, details “my relationship with my girlfriend and an issue we both had to overcome.” Asked in an interview recently which song she would be, Ryan picked Death Cab For Cutie’s “A Lack of Color”, which is quite a nice summary of everything, really. Emma Garland

GIRLPOOL


Photo by Alex Baxley

You can’t talk about teenagers done good without talking about Girlpool. Two best friends from LA who hemorrhage genius with every breath, write and play sweet music together and get to travel the world: Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker are, on paper at least, living the dream. There are few things as unique as a close friendship between two people, and Girlpool harness that energy in songs that take snapshots of the world in all its scary, painful, and confusing beauty. Sometimes, music is written from a place that feels as though it’s looking out at the world comfortably from the inside, but Girlpool throw themselves - and you - right in the deep end, rummaging outside of comfort zones, exploring the unexplored, and hoping to grow. Every song they’ve written is a journey that’s a pleasure to take with them. Emma Garland

LET'S EAT GRANDMA

First of all, let’s not eat Grandma. She’s won’t like it. Second of all, you need to listen to this duo because they’re great. Born and raised in the UK, these basically identical BFFs Rosa and Jenny (who are both 16 and 17) manage to take all the glacial, witching-hour ambience of the English countryside and inject it into their sound, creating a strangely powerful, pure shot of weird pop brilliance. Their voices are so sweet it could almost be sickly, but coupled with the gothic rumble of drums and odd, incongruous poeticisms, there’s a certain darkness that elevates them. While it can be easy to draw comparisons to the likes of Lorde or St. Vincent (which is obvs no insult), it feels more accurate to acknowledge that these young women occupy a space that is entirely their own. Daisy Jones

YUNGEST

Photo courtesy of Facebook

Yungest is the kind of artist you might stumble across while in a 2am Soundcloud wormhole (full disclosure: I did), and be forever thankful it happened. Way back in the day, Noisey premiered her video “Rare Like a Vinyl”, which showed the then-18-year-old musician getting baked at home before rapping on the mic in an empty-looking pizza restaurant. Two years later, and her sound and style is still just as casual and effortless, her tracks winding and whirring like the slow curl of cigarette smoke in a windowless bedroom. Most recently, Yungest teamed up with fellow Copenhagen rapper Felix De Luca for “Valentine”, a wonky jam about smoking, drinking and having sex. True to her namesake, Yungest makes music about being young and having fun, reminding us all that life is short and meaningless so we might as well enjoy it while we can. Daisy Jones

THE JAPANESE HOUSE

When we profiled 20-year-old Amber Bain aka The Japanese House earlier this year, her ability to capture the beautifully fragility and uncertainty of the human experience was one of the major draws. Spending her youth moving from place to place in southern England before settling in East London, the moniker comes from an experience Bain had on holiday in Cornwall aged eight, where another girl developed a crush on her thinking she was a boy - until proven otherwise. The cottage Bain and her family stayed in was built on a Japanese-style raised platform previously owned by Kate Winslet and actually called The Pole House, but her mother referred to it as “The Japanese House”. The nickname stuck, and Bain has used it - a reference loaded with a cocktail of confusion, wonder, attraction, and disappointment - as the fitting epithet for her music. Her debut EP Pools to Bathe In released last year is a tapestry of soothing, heartfelt pop whose layers immediately recall Imogen Heap, whose melodies evoke Bon Iver, and androgynous vocals are on par with Beach House - all basking in an 80s glow. It’s a product of Bain’s very particular imagination, with memory upon memory intrinsically woven into melody upon melody. Emma Garland


JORJA SMITH


Photo courtesy of Facebook

Jorja Smith might only be 18, but she seems like an old soul, and she’s been giving off some serious The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill vibes. Lyrically, the London singer shines, and she constantly peppers her tracks in social commentary and perfectly shaped story telling. “I wanna turn those blue lights into strobe lights, not blue flashing lights, maybe fairy lights,” she sings in “Blue Lights”, an introspective, truth-telling jam about “a black male who portrays three different paths he could've gone down in life” and “the negative stereotypes many people suffer each and every day.” Despite racking up over half-a-million plays on Soundcloud, Jorja actually still works shifts at Starbucks, which is fair because Soundcloud plays don’t equals cash. Daisy Jones

SOAK

Imagine touring with Tegan and Sara, having a release through CHVRCHES’ label, and being nominated for the BBC Sound of 2015 before even releasing your debut album. Imagine then releasing your debut album through Rough Trade, and it gets nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, subsequently winning the Choice Music Prize – all before you turn 20. Shit, most of us are still debating our choice of day job, uni course, or “gap year” location at that age. But Bridie Monds-Watson, who performs as SOAK, is not most of us. The 19-year-old from Derry, Northern Ireland, has managed the impossible, which is to make acoustic-based songwriting cool again. She has tattoos of dinosaurs, her Twitter game is off the hook, and combining her twin skills of skateboarding and singing, she embarked on a free tour of skate parks across Europe last year, and even took the time to teach nerds like me how to kick-flip. In a landscape of cookie-cutter British singer-songwriters with the same backgrounds, same tales of heartbreak, same haircuts, SOAK is a brilliant example of someone who has totally nailed their own steez in a way that feels real, relatable, and compelling. She’s an impossibly cool but also totally tender songwriter documenting adolescence with an insight most people only manage in retrospect. Emma Garland

DONMONIQUE

Via Instagram

Brooklyn’s rap scene is full to the brim with blokes, but that never put 21-year-old rapper DonMonique off from rising to the city’s upper echelons, and making a name as one of this generation’s brightest rap talents. Her drawling party jam “Pilates” was easily one of the best of last year (the 22nd best some might say), and her hefty debut EP Thirst Trap was essentially an 8-part lyrical volcano with torrents of bass. Speaking to Noisey in a documentary that we made about her last summer, the rapper told us how she felt set apart from the girls she grew up with. “I was always a little bit rougher than all the other girls. I didn’t really take shit from nobody,” she said, “but it’s okay to be alone, the right people will come to you.” Basically, DonMonique is cool AF and it would have been sacrilege to leave her off this list. Daisy Jones

GEORGIA


Screengrab via YouTube

Georgia Barnes is a 21 year-old North London-based producer and multi-instrumentalist who goes by the name of Georgia, just like Billie Piper went by the name of Billie or Cheryl Fernandez-Versini tried to be known as Cheryl so that she could spell her own autographs. Georgia started off drumming for everyone from Kwes to Kate Tempest before starting her own project that sounds entirely different to everything else going on in the UK at the moment. Drawing in influence from every significant cultural energy around her – like Magneto with Logic Pro – Georgia blends singer-songwriter intimacy with grimey electro and tribal rhythms that make her both uniquely London and unique in general. She wrote, performed and produced her debut album in her home studio over a two-year period, and it’s an onslaught of percussive sophisti-pop that sounds a bit like M.I.A, The Knife, and Oneohtrix Point Never in a blender. She’s also one of the chillest people alive, as we found out when she took us to visit her former football club last year (oh yeah, she used to be a semi-pro footballer also – is there anything this woman isn't good at?). Emma Garland

NICOLE DOLLANGANGER


Album artwork

Nicole Dollanganger’s voice and delivery might be as sweet, light and beguiling as a doll, but her lyrics are scattered in darkly gruesome themes, from sexual violence to illness and death, her aesthetic swinging between something delicate and angelic to something altogether more gothic, kinky and campy. It’s this unsettling dichotomy that makes the 23-year-old Canadian singer (and Grimes signee) particularly intriguing, like a candy-coated poison apple, or a Harmony Korine film come to life. Of course, Nicole’s sound and style have caused many to draw comparisons between herself and Lana Del Rey, and while both artists ooze a similar kind of tortured sexuality, Nicole is far more enamoured with cult horror, drawing influence from films like Jeepers Creepers or Nightmare on Elm Street, and dubbing Type O Negative and black metal her biggest musical influence. When Noisey spoke to her at the end of last year, she told us she always carries around a bunch of good luck charms when she’s travelling or doing something she’s nervous or excited about, explaining: “There are three different pendants given to me: one by my mother, an old friends tooth, my grandmother’s ashes, a doll-head pin I found after a hospital visit and a bisque doll.” Daisy Jones

MITSKI


Photo via Wikipedia

Mitski Miyawaki is such a good songwriter it makes me sick. Like, almost literally. I’m not kidding. The levels of emotion she manages to push through her music ties my stomach in knots and leaves me in a ball on the floor, phone in hand, with a blanket text reading “send help” prepped to send to all my best friends. Last year’s Bury Me at Makeout Creek was a distorted cocktail of self-pity, black humour, and liberating calls for freedom. Whether she’s sitting on a curb, drunk and rejected, or finding comfort in the thought of dying with a tidy apartment, Mitski - a self-described 25-year-old “tall child” - marries melodrama with painful realism. She visits all the places your mind wanders when you’re alone, and finds healing in announcing them out loud. The album title is a reference to an episode of The Simpsons in which Milhouse is promised a romantic encounter at Makeout Creek and gets hit by a truck instead. With his final breath, he says the album title. Thus is life, thus is Mitski. Emma Garland

LITTLE SIMZ


Photo by Dave East

Considering the fact that Little Simz recently became the first independent rapper from the UK to appear in Forbes 30 under 30, we could hardly call her “emerging” anymore. She has already emerged. She is here. But she’s far too good not to include on this list. Within the length of a handful of mixtapes and a debut album, Simz has single-handedly changed the UK rap game. Her fiercely neat, quick-fire flow runs100mph rings around her contemporaries, with lyrics like “Demons in the back of my closet, don’t talk to them / you wouldn’t want to be me, cos I’ve walked with them.” When Noisey profiled Little Simz two year ago, she said she wanted to be a “mega icon”, explaining: “I’m trying to take it to heights that people would probably say is impossible to reach at my age. But I know that the path I’m on right now is going to lead me there. I’ve got the support of the universe, my family and friends, and that’s all I really need to keep making great music.” And now, at 22, she’s shaping British music history one bar at a time. Daisy Jones

You can follow Daisy, Emma, Kim, and Hannah on Twitter: @daisythejones @emmaggarland @GrimKim @hannahrosewens