5 Artists Taking Over Our Summer Playlists


Earlier this spring, we highlighted five female musicians making waves for their distinct sound and authentic songwriting in our annual Ones to Watch in Music portfolio. But in a year full of truly fantastic emerging talent, we couldn’t end things there. A part two was a must! As we find ourselves in the dog days of summer, battling sweltering temps and squeezing in those last few getaways before fall arrives, it feels like a perfect time to refresh our playlists, and these five women are delivering music that’s vibrant and heartfelt. 

Between viral hits on TikTok, standout summer festival performances, and growing Spotify streams, these musicians are amassing followers at a breakneck pace. From the smooth, soulful sounds of Olivia Dean (we’re obsessed with the single "UFO” off her album Messy) to the moody, alternative tracks by Brooklynite Ari Abdul to the electro-pop vibes of Canadian singer-songwriter Charlotte Cardin and the melting-pot sounds of Amaarae and Idman, there’s something for everyone in today’s roundup. 


(Image credit: Petros)

WHO: Olivia Dean

WHAT: One of the UK’s brightest and fastest-rising stars. Olivia Dean’s smooth and vibrant sound sits so uniquely within the pop, soul, and R&B genres that it’s hard to put a label on her, but that’s precisely the point. Her music is personal and relatable but always comes with a tinge of optimism. It’s no wonder she’s caught the attention of major artists like the Jonas Brothers and Elton John. The 24-year-old has been making a name for herself since 2018, releasing a series of EPs and racking up millions of Spotify streams, but 2023 is shaping up to be a noteworthy year for songstress consisting of a hit Leon Bridges collaboration, a performance at the legendary Glastonbury Festival, and the release of her debut album Messy. Speaking of Messy, we can’t stop listening to the opening track "UFO” and the upbeat ballad "Dive.” What’s more, Dean is a fashion-week regular and newly minted Chanel ambassador. 

WEAR: Whimsical frocks in punchy hues.

For people discovering you for the first time, how would you describe your music? What song of yours should they start with?

I would describe my music as … warm pop-soul, but I don’t really feel defined by genre. I would say start with "Dive,” a song about giving over to love, letting yourself love and be loved too.

How and when did you discover your musical talents?

I started singing when I was 8. I was really shy, so my mum started me in musical theatre classes. The first time I sang in public, I was so nervous that I performed the entire song with my back to the audience, so things have definitely improved. 

You have released a steady string of singles and EPs since 2019, but Messy is your debut album. How does this collection of songs reflect where you are at personally but also as an artist?

After my project Growth, I felt like my album had to represent the person I had grown into and be a definitive response to that. But in realising that I am and will always be a work in progress, I have learnt to love and celebrate the imperfections of life. I took this mentality into the studio and allowed myself to be messy! I wanted it to feel alive and present. That’s why we’ve left little bits of talking, studio sounds, and even a placeholder mouth trumpet in.

What aspect of making this album felt truly rewarding to you?

Being in the studio with my band was a special experience. We’ve played together for so many years, so it felt really important to bring them in. We also had Russell, a steel pan player, come in to play on "Carmen.” The sound of steel pan is so pure and joyful to me. They make me feel connected to the Caribbean and my granny. It was a dream of mine to record them on a song for a long time, so I’m proud of that.

You said in an interview that you write songs to play them live. Which song off Messy are you most excited to play live?

I love playing all of them live, but I think at the moment it’s "Ladies Room.” We have a really fun instrumental breakdown where I just get to dance and enjoy everyone else’s playing. It’s also one for my girlies.

What would you say is an Olivia Dean style signature?

Chic and comfortable.

How does fashion play a role in how you present yourself as an artist?

I love fashion. I love clothes. I love how they make me feel and how a fun item of clothing can turn your day around.


(Image credit: John Parvin McBride and Logan White

WHO: Ari Abdul

WHAT: A Brooklynite delivering her own brand of moody alternative pop. Twenty-year-old Ari Abdul’s star has been on the rise since the release of her 2022 single "Babydoll,” which proceeded to go viral on TikTok and earn the singer-songwriter 200 million streams on Spotify. Now signed by RCA, Abdul has landed a coveted spot in this year’s Lollapalooza lineup, which also includes her longtime idol, Lana Del Rey. She is kicking off her first headline tour, Hellgirl, this September, and has a new EP coming out this fall. Major things are on the horizon for Abdul, so it’s time to start paying attention. We suggest starting with her new single "Worship.”

WEAR: Modern-day grunge.

For people discovering you for the first time, how would you describe your music? What song of yours should they start with?

On the surface level, my music is alternative in the way that I don’t like sticking to one exact genre but want to create my own. I feel like my music is more of an experience in emotion. When I record my songs and write lyrics, I like to truly get in that mind space and really feel it. I want those emotions to be delivered and felt in both the vocals and instrumentals. I would definitely start with "Babydoll.” Despite it being my first song ever and the first thing I’ve ever recorded in general, I truly did feel that song in me and feel like that is conveyed through it.

Who were some of your musical influences growing up that really ignited your passion for becoming a singer-songwriter?

I grew up such a fangirl. Like most people, I went through so many different phases of music and genres. However, when I did (accidentally) become an artist myself, I definitely found so much inspiration in the artists I looked up to in middle school like Lana [Del Rey], The Neighbourhood, and Arctic Monkeys. Lana, especially, caught my attention and is probably my biggest influence today.

With a new EP on the way, how do your recent singles "Worship” and "Haunt Your Dreams” set up this next chapter for you as an artist?

Just like my first EP, I really want this next project to tell a story through a roller coaster of emotions. I wanted "Worship” to feel romantic and "Haunt Your Dreams” to feel vengeful. I don’t want to give away just yet the story I’m going for in this EP, but I’m curious to see how listeners interpret it in their own way. I think my favorite thing as an artist is to create music that can easily be interpreted in any way. I want people to connect to it in any way they feel. I also feel like this EP has many different sounds that I like bouncing around, which may be the next chapter. Not that I’m saying I’m leaving my old sound because I adore that sound, but I want to involve new ones as well.

You described your last EP Fallen Angel as a villain origin story. How would you describe this next collection of songs?

Three words: romantic horror story.

Your single "Babydoll” went viral on TikTok. How has TikTok influenced the way you make music, if at all?

Firstly, I would like to say I am so beyond grateful toward TikTok for allowing me to reach people who believe in what I do. I’m super grateful for all the love I’ve received through the app. Through watching how people were using my songs to create their TikToks, I was definitely influenced to create more songs that can fit content, whether that’s an edit, a video of oneself, or simply any kind of TikTok. I love seeing how people use my songs on the app.

You are playing Lollapalooza this year. What are you most looking forward to that weekend, and how will your set compare to your tour coming up this September?

I am going to answer this in full honesty. When I saw the lineup, I was so excited by the other performers that I almost forgot I was there. So many of my idols will be playing their songs, and to have the opportunity to share that space with them this year is such a blessing to me. Going back to my music at Lolla, I’m so excited to bring my music to life through performing it and just seeing everyone. Regarding tour, I do want to do more songs on tour as well as meet people who come out to see me and just talk with them.

What would you say is an Ari Abdul style signature?

When it comes to the music, I think my signature style would be my dark lyrics with my vocal delivery.


(Image credit: Josh Croll)

WHO: Amaarae

WHAT: The first Afrobeats female artist to debut on the Billboard Hot 100 as lead. Now making a name for herself in the pop space, Ama Serwah Genfi, known professionally as Amaarae, is a perfect melting pot of her many influences growing up: the female icons (Britney Spears and Janet Jackson) she admired while living in New Jersey, the hip-hop artists (T.I. and Gucci Mane) she listened to while living in Atlanta, and the African music from her Ghanaian roots. The result? A rich and diverse sound all her own and ever evolving. The singer-songwriter broke out with her hit single "Sad Girlz Luv Money” featuring Moliy and later remixed with Kali Uchis, off her 2020 debut album The Angel You Don’t Know. But the high notes haven’t stopped there for the artist. Following an appearance on the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack with "A Body, A Coffin,” Amaarae was tapped for the campaign of H&M’s highly anticipated collaboration with Mugler earlier this spring and just released her second album Fountain Baby, an essential summer listen that was named one of the best albums of 2023 by Rolling Stone

WEAR: The best micro-miniskirt collection in town.

For people discovering you for the first time, how would you describe your music? What song of yours should they start with?

I would describe it as sexy. We’re in the Fountain Baby era. … They should definitely start with "Princess Going Digital” or "Aquamarie Luvs Ecstasy.”

Who were some of the musical influences growing up that really ignited your passion for becoming a singer-songwriter?

I grew up listening to Joni Mitchell, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Sade, Jill Scott, and Missy Elliott.

You released your sophomore album, Fountain Baby, earlier this summer. How does this collection of songs reflect where you are at personally but also as an artist?

Personally, I think it captured a moment in time where a lot was changing in my life, and I was documenting my lived experience through these songs. As an artist, it represents growth. I think I stretched my voice more and tried things I didn’t try before. The production is also more elevated. 

Can you pull back the curtain on the writing process for this album? Which song was the most challenging to pull together, and which one came easily? 

Songs are honestly quite easy for me to write. That’s one of my favorite parts of making music, so I can’t really say there was a record that we just agonized over. Everything came very naturally. We just let it flow. 

What would you say is an Amaarae style signature?

The voice! The swag! I have the audacity to say a lot of things people just can’t say. Who would hop on a track and the first lyric is, "I like my coffee with some head in the morning” or "Me and my bitch got matching titties!” That’s signature Amaarae right there. 

What role do fashion and beauty play in your artistry, and how has your look evolved from your first album to this one?

My look now is more refined—more womanly. It’s sexier. I just wanted to reflect the energy of the album. 

With Fountain Baby out, what are you looking forward to most in the back half of this year?

The album going crazy. More people discovering it and more artists I love wanting to collaborate with me for my unique sound and perspective. I’m looking forward to a record like "Princess Going Digital” being able to shift the frequency on the dance floor. I really want to get people going out in the streets, to the club, or just to parties and vibing down to "PGD.”


(Image credit: Aliocha Schneider)

WHO: Charlotte Cardin

WHAT: A Montréal-based artist amassing a large following with her hypnotic electro-pop sound and stunningly raw vocals. If you have been paying close attention to the Canadian music scene in recent years, you are likely familiar with Cardin’s recent domination. Last year, the singer-songwriter nabbed four Juno awards (the Canadian version of the Grammys), including Album of the Year and Artist of the Year, for her debut album Phoenix. With her eagerly anticipated sophomore album, 99 Nights, due out August 25, Cardin is planning her global takeover, and it starts with an international headline tour with stops in NYC, L.A., Chicago, London, and Montréal along the way. The 12-track record marks the closing of one door and the opening of another as the artist grapples with what’s truly important at this stage in her life.

WEAR: Parisian minimalism à la Jane Birkin.

For people discovering you for the first time, how would you describe your music? What song of yours should they start with?

I’m a pop artist, but my music is very influenced by a lot of different genres. I grew up listening to a lot of jazz, hip-hop, soul music, and pop, so it’s pop that is very influenced by other genres from my childhood. The songs that would sum that up would be "Next to You” from this upcoming album and "Confetti” because they’re both very different but cover all the vocal things I like doing. They’re very meaningful to me, so both of those would be a good starting point!

How does your new album 99 Nights reflect where you are at personally but also as an artist?

Compared to the first album, 99 Nights is a record I approached with a lot more confidence going into the studio. I knew better who I was as a person as well as an artist, so I allowed myself to be more playful, and I think you can hear that. I wasn’t afraid to write songs that felt more instinctive rather than overthinking in the studio. A lot of jamming was involved in the creation, and it was very collaborative. I made it with friends in Montréal, and I think you can hear that on the album. There’s something a little bit more raw. We tried to encapsulate the sparks we had in the studio and not alter them too much in production so we could keep that first-draft magic. Even though we worked on the production a lot and put our heart and soul into it, we wanted to keep the "first spark” feeling to the final songs. I approached it with confidence and openness to collaboration and playfulness on the arrangements and musical choices that we made.

Is there a song on the album you are particularly close to, and why?

The most personal song on the album is "Next to You.” It’s the last song that I wrote on the album, and it was a six-month-long process to write it. It was the most time I’ve ever spent writing a song, and it wasn’t like, "Oh, I wrote a sentence for the song in the first month, and then six months later, I finished it.” I worked on the song for six months, one word at a time. It just really grew in a very slow way, and I was going through a lot of stuff and life-changing decisions that I was making at the time. It’s a song about moving away from my hometown, and it’s kind of a love letter to Montréal in which I say, "I need to leave in order to grow.” I was making that decision while I was writing the song, so the song kind of evolved as I was experiencing those things in life. I usually write songs in hindsight of things that I’ve gone through in the past, but that one was like writing about the present moment and over the course of six months during that creation process.

The album was recorded in Montréal, London, Los Angeles, and Toronto. How did this global tour play into your creative process?

The DNA of the album was all made in Montréal. The direction we wanted to go in, the sound of the album was figured out there with my friends during the summer, and it was very much jamming sessions in my hometown. We then wanted to take the songs to another level with those first sparks that we had, so we took them to producers and super-talented artists that we wanted to collaborate with.

It’s made in two different phases. Phase one was the Montréal-based demos and the vibe of the album being created, and then phase two was wanting to take those songs to another level and taking them to people that we wanted to work with in a bunch of different cities. That was a fun way to work. There’s a lot of magic involved in this album because of the collaboration. I surrounded myself with producers that I love and that I really wanted to work with, but I also surrounded myself with really close friends who also happen to be very talented songwriters.

What can fans expect from your tour that kicks off at the end of August?

I’m really excited for this tour, especially for this album that has more guitar sounds. It’s a little bit more bandy than the previous album. For music with those types of sounds, live contexts make the most sense. The music just speaks for itself when it’s shared in a live context, and I can’t wait to do that with these songs specifically. We’re going to be sharing really special moments telling these new stories, and I can’t wait to tell them live. We’ve only played some of these songs a couple of times at festivals this summer, so it’s all very new for us. I feel like I’m going to be discovering new parts of my own songs at the same time as I’m going to be introducing them to a lot of people, so that’s always a really exciting thing, but I just can’t wait to see my fans! We haven’t toured in the States in years because we had to cancel our U.S. tour due to the pandemic. We’re just excited to go and reconnect with my fans—it’s going to be really fun.

What would you say is a Charlotte Cardin style signature?

Very simple. Baggy jeans are always my go-to onstage. I like feeling comfortable but sexy at the same time, so I’ll go for a super-baggy jean and a cute fitted top, something I can move around in. I usually like wearing things onstage that I would like to wear in real life as well, so there isn’t a clear signature or a clear cut between my stage outfits and my life outfits.

Are there any Canadian fashion brands we should have on our radar right now?

Some Canadian designers I like are JJJJound, Punkandyo, and Friends With Animals.


(Image credit: Tyler Borchardt)

WHO: Idman

WHAT: An on-the-rise Somali Canadian songstress captivating fans with her syrupy vocals and unapologetic messaging. Idman is first an activist and social leader, having spent years serving her community and enacting change with various racial justice organizations. Today, that purpose manifests in her music, where she’s committed to showing her most authentic self, flaws included. With her debut EP, Risk, Idman takes you on a personal journey of facing fears head-on, removing herself from toxic relationships, and finding who she is on the other side. The R&B project, which includes our favorite track "Still,” is a beautiful reminder to break free from what’s holding you back.

WEAR: Denim on denim on denim. 

For people discovering you for the first time, how would you describe your music? What song of yours should they start with? 

I would say it’s flexible contemporary R&B with alt moments. I would probably start with "Good Life.” I’m really proud of the production/vocal production and the storytelling. I think it’d do a good job of showing folks that my music can be emotional but also tongue-in-cheek. 

Growing up, who or what were the influences that really ignited your passion for becoming a musician?

I think a lot of my mom’s friends being musicians and her doing bookings for them for weddings really exposed me early to the connective power of performance. I loved watching shows like 106 & Park and Access Granted when they featured artists like Beyoncé and Rihanna, and more recently, artists like Janelle Monáe and Solange lit a fire under me in high school/undergrad.

Congratulations on your debut EP Risk. How does this collection of songs reflect who you are as an artist and personally? 

I think they just show that I’m committed to telling it in these songs. They show that I’ll always be of service to the song. I put my ego on the back burner to tell some of these stories, and I appreciate that. The stark difference between this set and the songs I released before gives me a sort of freedom to continue to be malleable in how we treat our relationship to genres. It’s me—it’s not all I have to give, but it’s super great for right now. 

Is there a song on the EP you are particularly close to, and why? 

Probably "Hate.” I heard the instrumental for it first in making this EP but pushed to writing it last. I was terrified of it the entire time. It sat in the back of my head while we made the others. It gave me the feeling I had when I heard "Unpretty” by TLC for the first time, and I just knew … to do it justice I would have to tell a lot of truth on it. I cried for days after making the demo, and I still get choked up performing it. 

Before pursuing music, you were involved in a lot of social justice work in your community. What does that work look like for you now, and what issues are top of mind for you? 

I think it still looks like answering the call to action, big or small, from my folks in my everyday life and also being malleable in what showing up looks like. My heart is back home heavy right now. I’m thinking about Somalia and also everything happening in Sudan. The war on trans youth and birthing peoples’ bodies in this country. The world is on fire right now it feels like, but I do still believe always that one day we will win. 

What role do fashion and beauty play in your artistry, and how has your look evolved from your first album to this one? 

I think it’s played a huge role. I feel lucky to have gotten to work with incredible stylists and wear some really cool pieces that have really helped us in pushing the story forward. My relationship with fashion … as a queer person has felt intrinsic. Self-expression feels as vital as most vital things when you feel perpetually misunderstood. I’ve played with my blonde, and this era has been defined by molding and playing with my braids throughout our live shows/visuals. I don’t know that I feel all the way there, though. Cue the Young Thug quote, "I [have] the plan. I just needed the platform.”

What would you say is an Idman style signature?

I think it oscillates. I have eras and moments where I’m beanied down in really animated, formless, and boyish sweat sets, or sometimes, I’ll wear more risqué and subversive outfits that are hyper-femme and show a lot of skin. I like to play, and I think I’m committed to not taking it too seriously. I think it’s cooler that way, to be honest.

Executive Director, Entertainment

Jessica Baker is Who What Wear’s Executive Director, Entertainment, where she ideates, books, writes, and edits celebrity and entertainment features.