Illustrations by Bianca Bosso

Here are the artists, producers, songwriters, radio hosts and music people who we think are going to shape the way we listen to and see music this year.

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Rihanna has been a game-changer since she burst onto the scene in 2005 with Pon De Replay. Since then though, she’s revolutionised pop and R&B music, delivered at least one classic album and become one of the greatest performers on the planet. While her music is worth celebrating, it’s her business ventures that continue to make Rihanna one of the most successful people on the planet. Fenty Beauty was one of the most successful product launches of last year, her collaboration with Puma continues and she’s reportedly going to now launch lingerie. She’s also an ambassador for the Global Partnership For Education working closely with our former PM Julia Gillard. Who says you can’t do it all?

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Robyn may not have as many hits as some of her pop peers but she’s been quietly dictating the sound for more than a decade. Her dancefloor ready brand of pop dripping in melody is the best on the planet and she’s about to return in 2018 with a new album. We heard Honey on an episode of Girls last year and it sounds exactly like the type of earth-shattering pop we’ve come to expect from her. She’s set to shake things up again as an independent, self-driven artist who has rarely let anyone dictate her path.

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Janelle Monae has always been quietly vocal but in the past 12 months she’s gotten louder and louder. Her powerful #TimesUp speech at the Grammys this year before Kesha took to the stage was some of the most powerful rhetoric we’ve heard. She then followed that up with an unapologetic bisexual anthem Make Me Feel and a thundering rap song Django Jane that demanded, “let the vagina have a monologue.” She means business and if you’re not listening, you’re denying the truth.

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Miss Blanks only released her debut EP Diary Of A Thotaholic last year but she’s already become one of the most prominent artists in Australian music. As well as delivering lyrics that bounce between the powerful and the playful over pulsating electronic beats, she’s taking her platform seriously. If you follow her on Instagram, you’ll know she’s an eloquent advocate for the LGBTQIA community, POC and safe spaces. She’s not afraid to call things out, no matter the backlash and was the one brave enough to address Kirin J Callinan’s inclusion on the Laneway Festival bill. He was dropped from the bill and Blanks stood as the spokesperson for the decision even when festival organisers distanced themselves from it. She doesn’t wait for change to happen, she demands it.

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Meet your ultimate slashie. FlexMami, as well as being the smart, eloquent and sharp star of our video chat series, is a DJ, presenter, content creator, filmer, editor, radio host, fashion Queen, Instagram star and beauty vlogger. She’s an example of what can happen when you refuse to wait for opportunities and rather create them yourself. If she doesn’t become one of the most influential content creators in Australia over the next 12 months then we’ve missed out.

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Ash London will feature on these lists until we fade into obscurity. She’s the host of the Hit Network’s nightly program ‘Ash London Live’ and is one of the most tireless music fans in the country. Unlike stations like Beats 1 and Radio 1 overseas, Australia has a tendency to put personalities before music lovers but Ash is flipping the script. She brings an infectious energy to the way she presents new music. It’s genuine and contagious - just listen to the way her audience engage with her in a positive, responsive way. She can make us excited about nearly every song on the planet and that’s not easy to do if you’re not 100 per cent invested in what you’re delivering.

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You really don’t need to list out all the records broken to explain Cardi B’s influence. In 12 months she went from a reality star to a chart-topping superstar without losing one ounce of that humour or personality that made her so likeable in the first place. Mainstream rap has been a boy’s game for too long but Cardi is tearing that up. She celebrates that there can be more than one woman at the top of rap and is consistently making her love for other women, from Anna Wintour to Demi Lovato, known. She’s also not about to let you shame her, or anyone for the matter, for being a stripper. “People want me to be so full of shame that I used to dance. I would never be ashamed of it,” she told The Guardian last year.

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There is an alarming lack of women working behind-the-scenes as producers and songwriters but Alex Hope is here to shatter that. She’s an Aussie who is working on mammoth pop projects at the moment. She’s worked with Troye Sivan, Jack Antonoff, Tove Lo, Tove Styrke, Mikky Ekko and heaps more. She’s sick of being referred to as a “female producer” because she’s simply a “producer” as she told The Fader, and a bloody good one.

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Sarah Aarons is another Aussie songwriter who you’re about to notice is writing all your favourite songs on the radio right now. She was nominated for a Grammy this year for her work on Zedd’s Stay and is currently riding high on the charts after penning the follow-up single The Middle. She’s also written with Dua Lipa, Camila Cabello, Demi Lovato, Jessie Ware and heaps more. She’s going to continue to dictate the sound of pop this year.

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Dua Lipa is embodying the same kind of energy as the Spice Girls right now. She encourages women to band together, whether it be for a break-up or simply to empower, and she’s doing it with some of the best pop songs on earth. It all kicked off with the viral New Rules in which she placed female friendship at the centre and has continued with middle-finger anthem IDGAF. She’s on a very sharp rise to become one of the biggest popstars in the world and if she doesn’t have another worldwide smash this year then it means she’s gone missing and we’ll have to go find her.

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Camp Cope have decided that if change is going to happen, it’s going to happen right now. They’re understandably angry and are coming at gender disparity in the music industry with a sense of urgency. While on the Falls Festival tour earlier this year, they called out the festival for the lack of festivals and their place on the lineup and then encouraged other artists, both male and female, to fight with them, wearing a t-shirt that said, "The person wearing this shirt stands against sexual assault and demands a change". They’re fighting for inclusive, safe spaces where women are given the same opportunities as men. It’s not only Falls Festival who need this shake-up either, it’s just about every major music festival in Australia. Camp Cope’s music echoes their words too. Their latest album How To Social & Make Friends is a furious, raucous collection of tracks that fights against assault and calls bullshit on what’s being supposedly done for gender equality in music.

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Last year may have been the year of her debut album but Kehlani only continues to get better and better. As well as a few excellent features on albums by Eminem, Calvin Harris and G-Eazy, she’s dropped a handful of her own songs that proves she’s only getting better and more in touch with herself as a songwriter. While in Australia last year, she vocally advocated for same-sex marriage during the plebiscite, shone a light on our Indigenous artists and empowered each and every fan at her shows. This year, she’s also working on an app, having secured $50,000 in funding for her stealth startup Flora.

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Ariana Grande endured a year in 2017 that very few artists could even imagine. After a show in Manchester, a terrorist attack took the lives of multiple fans. Instead of shying away and dealing with it personally, she stood in solidarity with her fans. She continued the tour and returned to Manchester for a heartwarming tribute show that revealed just how important her platform is to her. In 2018, she’s due to return with a new album worked on with Max Martin and Pharrell. We already know it’s going to shake pop up like nothing else. She’s going to be the most relevant artist in the world this year, mark our words.

Happy International Women's Day!