5 Overlooked Artists Still Influencing Music Today

Modified on by Kaitlin Goodrich


The greatest music is both familiar and yet one-of-a-kind. It takes influences from the artists that came before and changes it to make a sound that is totally its own. Since the roots of the best artists today come from past musicians, it’s hard to believe how many influential artists remain relatively unknown compared to the success of those who they inspired.

Read on to discover five influential, yet overlooked artists we hope you will recognize.

5 Influential Overlooked Artists

1. The Velvet Underground

No list of overlooked artists could skip over The Velvet Underground. Despite being named in just about every list of the greatest or most influential musicians of all time and inspiring tons of artists including U2, the Strokes, and just about every alternative rock band since the 70s, The Velvet Underground remains a relatively unknown name. Still, their social-commentary-laced, provocative lyrics and unique sound gave rise to hundreds of bands that have dedicated followings today.

2. Kate Bush

Whether defying the expected or following the model of artists before them, all singer-songwriters today are molded in a sense by Kate Bush and her archetype of the mysterious singer-songwriter.  Her eclectic music stylings opened the door for many artists who followed, and shadows of her idiosyncratic soprano vocals can still be heard in artists today, including Florence + The Machine and London Grammar.

3. Sufjan Stevens

With the resurgence of Americana and digital alt-folk crossovers gaining popularity, it would be remiss to ignore the influence of Sufjan Stevens’s songs. Sufjan Stevens has been pivotal in building the foundations of American alt-folk, and influenced the sounds of everyone from Fleet Foxes, to Grizzly Bear, to Hozier.

4. Wiley

Despite being the “Godfather of Grime,” Grime MC Wiley has a smaller following than some of the artists he inspired. Just about every rapper and hip-hop artist in the Top 20 exhibits some of his pioneered stylings. While his crossover hits have gained him some added popularity in recent years, we’ll always remember Eskiboy for his rougher sounds.

5. Flying Lotus

As the great-nephew of John and Alice Coltrane, it is no surprise that the cross-genre music of Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison) has powerful jazz roots. What makes it innovative, though, is the way he combines traditional jazz rhythms and sounds with daring electronic riffs. It’s no surprise that his music has become a cornerstone in the growing electronic genre. While Flying Lotus may be coming into his own with his album You’re Dead that was released last year, he has yet to receive the attention his pioneering work deserves.

These five musical artists deserve more credit than they get, but they are only a few of the overlooked artists out there that we wish had gained a greater following. Let us know some of your favorites in the comments, and check out some others in our Musical Artists section of Brainscape’s Knowledge Rehab deck. You may discover a new favorite artist.

Brainscape is a web & mobile education platform that helps you learn anything faster, using cognitive science. Join the millions of students, teachers, language learners, test-takers, and corporate trainees who are doubling their learning results. Visit brainscape.com or find us on the App Store .

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