10 Canadian artists who broke out in 2022

Get to know the Canadian artists who are up next: Aysanabee, Isabella Lovestory, Softcult, Skiifall and more.

Get to know Aysanabee, Isabella Lovestory, Softcult, Skiifall, Mariel Buckley and more

The deeply personal and evocative songwriting of both Aysanabee and Nemahsis make them undeniable artists to watch in 2022. (Jen Squires, Facebook; graphic by CBC Music)

At CBC Music we're always searching for artists who are pushing their respective genres forward, who continue to impress us with each new release or who emerge on the scene and immediately make an indelible mark. 2022 was a banner year for such discoveries, and our list of 10 artists rising above covers a wide variety of music, from experimental dance-pop to introspective country. 

The below list highlights artists who released phenomenal debuts, ushered in new genres, had unimaginable viral moments, performed on some of the country's biggest stages and won reputable awards — including artists featured in Beyond the 6, The Intro and Songs You Need to Hear. Get to know the Canadian artists who are up next.

Who were some of your favourite new artists of 2022? Share with us at @CBCMusic.


It was a big year of firsts for Toronto experimental dance-pop artist Ceréna: her first Juno nomination for dance recording of the year, her first time performing at Osheaga and her first time gracing the Toronto Pride main stage. Still riding the high of her 2021 album, Resurrection, Ana Ceréna Sierra is basking in the glow of her burgeoning success, but as she told CBC Music in July: "So much of my art did come from a dark place … I'm thankful that I have this outlet, but it's kind of weird to think that all my trauma is now bringing me success, it's such a trip."

Resurrection is an album Ceréna wrote while struggling with her emerging trans identity, and it helped her begin to fully accept herself. It's a triumphant ode to resilience, self-love and authenticity, and it seems to be resonating with many more than a year later. It also helps that Ceréna is a performer at heart, and transmutes her pain and uncertainty into breathtaking and gripping live performances.

Kevin Chen

Life is about to get much busier for piano phenom Kevin Chen. On Nov. 3, the 17-year-old from Calgary won first prize at the Geneva International Music Competition, picking up more than $56,000 in prizes and adding concert engagements to his calendar for the foreseeable future. It was the latest in a string of competition successes for Chen: in 2021, he won first prize at the Franz Liszt International Piano Competition in Budapest; in 2020, he won first prize at the Hilton Head International Piano Competition. Chen's first concert engagement resulting from his Geneva win took place on Nov. 6 at the Temple de Jussy. He's already booked for a chamber music concert organised by Geneva's Société des Arts in addition to performances with the Steinway Prizewinner Concerts Network. Watch for solo appearances with Canadian orchestras in the 2023-24 season.

Devon Cole

One of Devon Cole's biggest viral moments came in late 2021, when the Calgary-born artist rewrote the words to Robin Thicke's controversial hit "Blurred Lines" to be a song about consent. That juxtaposition of being playful yet fiercely feminist has continued to fuel much of Cole's work since, and is what helped her break through as a crucial voice in pop music. It's also what made her 2022 single "W.I.T.C.H." her most successful song yet, racking up more than 30 million streams on Spotify alone. Reclaiming the witch as a symbol of women's resistance, "W.I.T.C.H." is celebratory in the face of misogyny, daringly staring patriarchy in the eyes as Cole sings, "Tell me why you're so scared of a woman in charge?"


Aysanabee's voice hits like a wall of sound, deep and rich with an unshakeable soul. Just over a year ago, he left his journalism career to take the plunge and pursue music full time. Now, signed to Ishkōdé Records, an Indigenous- and women-led label, Aysanabee has just released his first album, Watin, which landed on CBC Music's list of best albums of the year.

Watin is named after Aysanabee's grandfather, and clips from their recorded phone calls throughout the pandemic act as interludes between songs. As Aysanabee told Unreserved, the two discussed his grandfather's time in residential school, and being robbed of their culture. Through Watin, the Oji-Cree artist from Sucker Clan of the Sandy Lake First Nation is reclaiming narratives, singing about Indigenous sovereignty and wondering what reconciliation means when so much has already been taken. With this debut, Aysananbee has proven that he will be an essential voice in the Canadian music landscape for years to come.

Isabella Lovestory

With Canada's emphasis on English- and French-language artists, Spanish musicians have to fight twice as hard for space and representation. (Some successful artists include Lido Pimienta, Alex Cuba and Jessie Reyez.) Enter Isabella Lovestory, a rising reggaeton act whose hard-hitting anthems position her as possibly the country's next big Latine pop star.

Lovestory moved to Montreal from Honduras over a decade ago, and has since grown an international fanbase with her 2022 debut album, Amor Hardcore. (Lovestory has even stretched her songwriting skills into the K-pop market, penning the infectious "Antifragile" for girl group Le Sserafim this year.) Unapologetically maximalist, especially when it comes to singing about sex in her music (just peek at the lyrics for "Cherry Bomb" or "Exibisionista") and her striking visual styles, Lovestory is one of this year's most exciting new artists. 


Nemah Hasan's is a relatively new voice, but one that is achingly undeniable. The Palestinian Canadian singer's first single, "what if i took it off for you," explores the pressure to assimilate into Western culture; she ponders whether the only way to be loved is to let go of her own culture (fellow Muslim Canadian artist Mustafa is a co-writer on the track). By the song's end Nemahsis is defiant, railing against the kind of lover who would expect that of her in the first place.

It was a stark and heart-wrenching introduction, and foreshadowed much of the lyrical content on her 2022 EP, eleven achers. From calling out exploitative tokenism to dealing with insidious xenophobia, Nemahsis weaves a tapestry that tells the story of life as a young Muslin woman. Her delicate, bright voice and ability to write lyrics that stop listeners in their tracks led her to international recognition this year, including a tour through Europe and the U.K., plus a performance on Berlin-based musical platform Colors.

Mariel Buckley

When Mariel Buckley made her debut in 2018 with her album Driving in the Dark, the Calgary country artist self-admittedly made music that was a little too vague. "I couldn't go any deeper," she confessed, in a press release. But with this year's sophomore release, Everywhere I Used to Be, Buckley decided to trade in character portraits for some of her most personal songwriting yet. Both a vivid illustration of her conservative Prairie hometown and a frank, introspective look at how that shaped her life, including her queerness, Everywhere I Used to Be has rightfully earned its spot on CBC Music's best albums of the year. The country music scene has seen the emergence of more LGBTQ stars in recent years (Orville Peck, Lil Nas X, T.J. Osborne), and while Buckley's presence isn't as big and splashy as her peers, she is equally as revolutionary.


At this point, the narrative of teen musicians "blowing up" on TikTok is practically a cliché, but for 18-year-old R&B artist RealestK (Rony Kordab), it actually happened in, well, the realest way. In 2021, the high school student, frequently bullied for wanting to write vulnerable, romantic songs, posted a clip from his song "WFM" on TikTok, and within days he had Drake hitting his DMs and security staff escorting him out of Toronto's Eaton Centre when admirers began to throng. While his head was still spinning, Kordab had the focus and talent to back up the hype, releasing his debut album in 2022, Dreams 2 Reality. It reveals a singer-songwriter of surprising maturity ("Divide"), a pliable tenor voice that exceeds the genre's expectations ("I Think I Do"), and an ability to create palpable moods ("Love Me"). There are no artist features on Dreams 2 Reality, but since the album is basically a calling card that's ushered RealestK to the front of the line, you can expect major collaborations in the near future.


Skiifall is on fire. With recognition from the late fashion designer Virgil Abloh,  BBC Radio One and U.K. singer Jorja Smith — and collabs with BadBadNotGood, the Kount and Lil Silva — it seems the Montreal rapper is making all the right moves. He's methodical, aiming for a slow build, telling CBC Music in May: "I know how lucky I am, to get a kickstart in this industry. That's why it is important to take my time, work hard and not rush to get to the level I want to reach." The St. Vincent-born artist blends Montreal's icy production styles with Caribbean music and patois into an exciting new form of diasporic hip hop. He also had a Colors feature this year, premiering his single "Bloodclarrt Business" on the platform. Last year, Skiifall was attending an after-school music program to hone his skills, and now he's gracing the stages of major festivals like Rolling Loud and Something in the Water.


The riot grrrl ethos is alive and roaring in the music of Kitchener duo Softcult. Its 2022 EP, Year of the Snake, doesn't sugarcoat women's experiences of misogyny, assault and manipulation — all things that sisters Mercedes and Phoenix Arn-Horn have encountered in their years performing in the Toronto pop-punk band Courage My Love. But their truth rings louder now as Softcult, arming themselves with an unrelenting sound powered by fuzzed-out guitars and pounding drums that grab listeners with a tight grip. Through its brutal honesty, Softcult forces listeners to confront ugly truths. And if we're not willing to enact change, "you might lose some f--kin' teeth," as Mercedes and Phoenix warn on their track "BWBB (Boys Will be Boys)."