Sometimes finding the perfect song is about connecting with the artist who wrote it. Especially with the huge amount of contemporary music in the world, honing in on one songwriter or producer who has a firm grasp on their own sound is the way to find the perfect soundtrack for a creative project. Looking to the genre has long been a way to narrow down what creators are looking for in terms of sound. Since the artists making production music don’t always get their stories told by the media, excelling within their own sonic niche can be a way to gain recognition.
For musicians who work in production music and create songs and soundtracks for sync, the ability to switch lanes can be a huge asset, but defining a sound and sticking to it is also a good way to gain recognition Here are five artists who do just that, standing out across pop, rock, folk, R&B, and hip-hop. These artists deserve to be heard based on the quality of their craft and the power of the personality they bring to their work. They might not be superstars, but they are experts in their field.
Artist: Britt Warner
Sounds Like: Lana Del Rey
With a dark pop sound that treads into gothic territory, Britt Warner sounds like Lana Del Rey if she’d never left her Jersey days as Lizzy Grant. Tracks like “Black Holes” and “Let It Burn” both showcase Warner’s incredible vocal chops, set against trip-hop production and intimate songwriting. Whether she’s singing about a love so transcendent it feels like getting high off stardust or trying to numb the ache of heartbreak with cigarettes, this Los Angeles native’s emotive alto is distinctive enough to leave an impression. She’s also versatile enough to go the acoustic route, bringing a slower, sweeter track like “Sea Debt” to life with a dreamy, reflective tone.
Artist: Colors In The Air
Sounds Like: Coldplay
Somewhere between Jimmy Eat World and Coldplay, this Buffalo, New York band is striving to keep anthemic rock in the mix. Their atmospheric sound splits the difference between pop melodies and driving rock guitars, with frontman Brian Miller’s crystal clear tenor separating them from the pack. It’s Miller’s voice that evokes a Coldplay comparison, as he isn’t far off from the power and range that helped Chris Martin and his UK cohort break out a few decades ago. “Blue” isn’t quite the hit that “Yellow” was, but it deals with similar breakup themes, and “9:46 AM” leans more toward the pop-punk side of things, with wailing guitar riffs and driving drums. These guys take indie rock and stretch it into whatever works for their own needs, dealing with pop influences but never losing sight of a guitar music foundation that defines their sound throughout.
Artist: Nate Donnis
Sounds Like: Jackson Browne
Already gaining attention through previous syncs on shows like BBC’s “Skins” and the PBS hit “Roadtrip Nation,” Nate Donnis is a folk artist who understands the history and legacy of the musical style he’s chosen. “I Love You Softly” is a masterwork of fingerpicking, superlative comparisons flecked with pastoral evocations, and his vulnerable vocals. With a warm, honeyed tone that brings to mind legends like Jackson Browne and Jim Croce, it’s no surprise that Donnis is stirring up interest in the industry.
Artist: Dayna Madison
Sounds Like: Normani
This Orange County artist has a deep understanding of what makes contemporary R&B pop, pairing crisp beats with synthesized vocals and flex-worthy lyrics that could easily double as Instagram captions. Dayna Madison easily shifts between songs about heartache and loss, to self-confidence anthems and even the occasional love song that veers into PG-13 territory—as any great R&B record should. Madison’s vocal flourishes and phrasing help catapult her into diva territory, and throwback ‘90s vibes prove she’s done her homework.
Artist: Styliztik Jones
Sounds Like: Ludacris
With a clear appreciation for the golden era of ‘90s east coast hip-hop, MC Styliztik Jones is on a Nas flow one minute and shifting to spitting bars over a modern beat the next. As far as vocal tone goes, Jones’ hyper-quick rapping brings Ludacris to mind, but he goes much deeper into the trap world than Luda did. Even Wu-Tang legend Ghostface Killah has noticed Jones, collaborating with him on a track; this LA rapper’s music has also appeared on iconic TV shows like The Simpsons and in the film Mr. 3000, to name just a few placements. “Get Out My Lane” and “War Ready” both work to showcase the braggadocious style that makes hip-hop such a beloved genre, with plenty of sports and battle metaphors thrown in.