SXSW 2018: 6 picks for this year’s breakout pop star

You want songs to sing in shower? High school dance jams? Dreamy electronic escapes? We have the radio dominating stars of tomorrow, right here.

Billie Eilish. Last month, the Recording Industry Association of America certified the 16-year-old singer’s debut single “Ocean Eyes” gold after it logged a staggering 363,524,897 million streams worldwide. Her 2017 debut album, “Don’t Smile at Me,” is a fully realized emotional pop platter. She comes into the festival off five sold out California dates and heads out to 10 more sold out shows on the East Coast. She’s already well on her way to becoming this year’s break out star. (11:20 p.m. March 14, Central Presbyterian Church; 12:05 a.m. March 15, Palm Door; 10 p.m. March 16, Lustre Pearl)

MORE POP AT SXSW: Our full preview with Khalid, Sylvan Esso and more


Noah Cyrus. “They say ‘It all gets better’/ They say ‘It won’t last forever’/ Then someone pulls the trigger/ We are (expletive),” Noah Cyrus (yes, Miley’s sister) sings over a bubble gum club beat on “We Are…”, her new collaboration with Danish singer Mo. The 18-year-old released the pop anthem in early February, but in the wave of youth activism that rose in the wake of the Parkland shootings, her buoyant wake-up call feels like a potent rallying cry. (12:30 a.m. March 14, Empire; 1 a.m. March 16 Trinity Warehouse)

Cuco. With glasses, an unkempt mop of curls and quiet, self-deprecating charm, the 19-year-old Chicano crooner from L.A. seems like an unlikely heartthrob, but the artist also known as Omar Banos has won legions of fans with his dreamy, swirling melodies. Vaguely psychedelic and drenched in sincerity, he makes solid electropop for the uncynical lover in all of us. (10 p.m. March 15, Banger’s; midnight March 16, Mohawk outdoor)

SXSW Party Guide: Check out the unofficial events in our searchable database

Cloves. For the past two years, the Aussie singer-songwriter has been kicking around the early slots at top-tier fests such as Coachella and Lollapalooza. With a new album due out this summer, she’s about to move up the ranks fast. She got her start belting original, Amy Winehouse-inspired tunes with her sister in Melbourne’s dive bars when she was 13, and she learned how to capture the poignant waver between fragile and powerful in her voice. The Adele comparison is obvious — and accurate. (11:30 p.m. March 14, Empire; 9:10 p.m. March 15, Palm Door on Sixth; 11 p.m. March 16 St. David’s Historic Sanctuary)

Mallrat. We’re not sure exactly what’s going on with the abundance of unusually astute pop coming from young women down under, but 19-year-old Australian Gracie Shaw layers witty lyricism into upbeat electro grooves. Listen to “Uninvited” and tell us she’s not the slacker girl you want to skip out of the cool kid party with. (11:20 p.m. March 15, Sidewinder outside; Midnight March 16, Lucille)

Bad Gyal. The Spanish sensation who hit viral gold with a cover of Rihanna’s “Work” is having a moment. Less than an hour after we left a meeting where SXSW staffers raved about her charisma and easy swag, the Washington Post crowned her the “future-present of club music” in a review of her D.C. debut. Her crowd in D.C. was relatively small, but by the time she leaves SXSW, we predict her rooms will be packed. (6:15 p.m. March 13, the Main; 11 p.m. March 14, Bungalow)

Billie Eilish, Courtesy of Interscope Records


Author: Deborah Sengupta Stith

Deborah Sengupta Stith has been hanging out in dimly lit corners of the city soaking in the music scene for almost 20 years. Twitter: @deborific

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