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From the moment pop singer-songwriter Anna Clendening appeared on the scene, her music hit home with thousands—and very quickly, millions—of people.
Granted, that moment came when she least expected it: five years ago, at home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Clendening recorded a video of herself singing an acoustic version of “Gas Pedal,” the monster hit from Bay Area rapper Sage the Gemini, and casually posted it online. It quickly went viral, so she began making more videos and eventually amassed more than 2.5 million followers online. Less than one year later, she snagged her first major television appearance, as a competitor on America’s Got Talent.
In 2017, Clendening’s breakout acoustic version of her single “Boys Like You” proved she has what it takes to go toe-to-toe with pop’s power players. The song—which Clendening says she conceptualized as a tongue-in-cheek, script-flipping version of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”—has been streamed more than 12 million times on Spotify (without any official Spotify playlist support) and viewed more than 25 million times on YouTube.
Clendening’s songs range from acoustic to alternative pop with an edge, but each is hook-heavy and relatable. Vocally, she can deliver incredibly personal material with a honeyed grace (as she does in the not-yet-released “Drowning,” which she wrote about her struggles with mental health), but can also carry a power-pop chorus with confidence. In terms of career inspiration, she cites artist/songwriters Sia and Julia Michaels.
Gia Woods is a 22-year-old Persian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who can provoke one moment and comfort the next. After impressing the music community with her 2015 release, “Only a Girl” (the music video for which received more than 10 million views), performing at the LA Pride Festival and Parade, and collaborating with Matoma on his 2017 hit “Heart Won’t Forget,” Woods is primed to be one of this year’s breakout talents.