The Young Folks’ Best Breakout Artists of 2015


The Young Folks team has come together to list the very best in entertainment and pop culture for the year 2015!

As per usual in the entertainment industry, 2015 was ripe with talent, and plenty of actors and performers who have been in the business for a while now finally got roles that helped put them on the map for good. Musicians hit all the right notes, a comedian became a certified star and big budget, tent-pole reboots and sequels helped in the launching of what we can only hope to be successful careers. Take a look at who we picked for our Top 10 Breakout Performers of 2015, and let us know in the comments who would have made the cut for you.

Gabrielle Bondi’s Top 10 Breakout Artists of 2015

1, 2, & 3: The Ex Machina cast: Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson

I have to say it has been a huge year for the Ex Machina cast, which is why the three leads are atop my list. Gleeson and Isaac starred in a number of movies, including the biggest movie of the year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Domhnall also stars in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant, while Isaac gave an incredible performance on the HBO miniseries, Show Me A Hero. Vikander is a highlight of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. but truly brings heart to the rather dull Danish Girl. Her best performance belongs to Ex Machina, and I’m secretly hoping she nabs a Supporting Actress nod for that role.

4. Rami Malek


Rami Malek blew me away in Mr. Robot, the surprising and riveting USA series about a hacker caught up in a quite complicated situation. I won’t spoil the show for you here, just know that Malek shows some impressive range for a very difficult and mind-bending role. He embodies his character so fully. Prepare to be mind-blown at the end of each episode.

5. Amy Schumer

I didn’t know who Amy Schumer was before this year. She dominated media with her funny antics and hilarious romantic comedy, Trainwreck (which now happens to be my favorite Judd Apatow movie.) While I don’t always agree with some of her humor, this funny lady had a breakout year, and I’m excited to see what she does next.

6. Jacob Tremblay


This young actor had me in awe in the emotional and moving Room. Playing a child who was locked up in a shed since birth and then harshly reintroduced into the outside world, Tremblay brought so much sincerity and nuance to a character in a situation that even I, as an adult, can’t fathom to understand.

7.Sharon Hogan

Have you seen Catastrophe on Amazon Prime yet? Do yourself a huge favor and watch some of the funniest writing with the most real characters ever on TV. Hogan, who co-wrote and co-produced this British series with Rob Delaney, also stars with him as two strangers who find themselves in a possibly catastrophic situation.

8. Krysten Ritter


Ritter found her breakout role with Netflix’s new Marvel series, Jessica Jones. It may take a few episodes to get in the groove of Ritter’s performance of Jones, but ultimately she carries it off with some of the best TV acting work all year.

9. Tessa Thompson

Starring in Dear White People, Selma and Creed, Tessa Thompson is a stunning actress. Something about watching her onscreen is fascinating; she’s one of those actresses that instantly feels lived in her roles. I hope to see her in more movies with bigger roles in the future.

10. Alessia Cara

There is something hypnotic about the anti-social 19-year-old Canadian singer’s silky, textured R&B vocals. You feel like you’re right there with Cara when she’s singing her hit single “Here,” deeply feeling this perfect anthem for all the introverts out there.

Allyson’s Top 10 Breakout Artists of 2015

1. Alicia Vikander

I would like to point out that I was ahead of the curve with this particular talent and had her listed as one of the biggest breakouts of 2012 as well, with memorable turns in both Anna Karenina and A Royal Affair. However, it looks like I may have spoken too soon, with 2015 poised to be her official breaking out, both to the critics and audiences alike. Roles in films such as Ex Machina and The Danish Girl have won her awards notice while she was quietly stunning in Testament of Youth. Look for her next with Michael Fassbender in The Light Between Oceans where she’ll surely continue to impress.

2. Taron Egerton

There is a lot about Kingsman: The Secret Service that I didn’t like at all, but it wasn’t ever Taron Egerton’s charismatic and star making performance as Eggsy. Possessing both an old school quality that makes him perfect for a Bond lite type character, as well as an affable charm, Egerton has gone on to steal scenes in whatever film he’s appeared in, including Testament of Youth and the Tom Hardy vehicle Legend. Look for him in the upcoming Eddie the Eagle next with Hugh Jackman.

3. & 4. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega

Daisy Ridley having only starred in a few bit roles on television series, and John Boyega having lead the under seen science fiction thriller Attack the Block (amazing), these two genuinely were relative unknowns. That was before the Star Wars machine snatched them up and now they’re poised to be two of the biggest new stars. Boyega is immensely talented, looks like a young Denizen Washington and is almost too charming, while Ridley delivered a bad ass, highly physical performance of Rey, a character us fangirls have wanted to see in the Star Wars universe for a very long time.

5. Jacob Tremblay

For the most part this year I’ve been relatively okay with how the awards season has played out. Sure, my underseen by the voters favorites aren’t getting any love, but that’s nothing new and I’ve largely enjoyed the unpredictability. However, there is no doubt in my mind that young Jacob Tremblay, who was the true knockout of Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, is being snubbed. He gave the most heart wrenching and natural performance of the year, and in my opinion, a stronger one than any of the other male performances being considered. A true find, Tremblay will hopefully have a strong career ahead of him.

6. & 7 . Krysten Ritter and Charlie Cox

Kind of a cheat, maybe, sure, why not, but well warranted. Both Krysten Ritter and Charlie Cox have been in the acting business for a while now. She’s popped up in shows such as Breaking Bad and he had a memorable turn in Boardwalk Empire, but neither had truly had a real, shining moment until Marvel casting struck again and placed them in their superhero extended universe of Jessica Jones. Both delivered two of the strongest performances of any of Marvel’s films or television series, both bringing something unique to the popular characters.

8. Rami Malek

Another actor who’s been around for a while, Rami Malek also has never been given a chance to truly break out. He came close in a scene stealing role in the HBO mini series The Pacific, but since then has been seen mostly in supporting roles. Mr. Robot proves that that’s been a waste of his talents and the show wouldn’t have worked like it did without his commanding, and sometimes unhinged, portrayal of Elliot. Taking tropes that we’ve seen before from computer hacker types and making them a little more curious and a little less familiar, the show never coasted on what has been done before and Malek made sure that we always knew Elliot was an unreliable narrator, even when he wasn’t speaking, with his face buried in a hoodie, his shoulders hunched until he appears smaller, physically trying to disappear even when there’s a part of him itching to help start a revolution.

9. Mya Taylor

Tangerine was the breeding ground for a lot of breakthrough talent, from indie director Sean Baker, to scene stealer Kitana Kiki Rodriguez but it was Mya Taylor’s turn as leading lady Alexandra that grounded the film. Naturally compelling, as a key scene where she sings demonstrates, Taylor gave a subtle and beautiful performance as a nuanced woman, just trying to celebrate with her best friend.

10. Shameik Moore

While Dope was a commendable and entirely enjoyable film, it also was an imperfect one. However, Shameik Moore was never at fault, always the best thing about the film, and delivered a hilarious and layered performance as a young music geek who has found himself way in over his head. Showcasing an admirable range, Moore is one of the more exciting new talents this year.

Hannah Atkins Top Ten Breakout Artists of 2015

The music and movie/TV world kind of passes me by – I dip my toes in every now and then – but my main focus, at least for TYF, is literary. That said, this list is a combination from a few different mediums of items or people that have caught my eye for the title of Biggest Breakouts of 2015!

1. Halsey

I played Badlands on repeat when it was first released. If it was a cassette tape, it would be worn out by now. Love her voice, love the lyrics.

2. Paula Hawkins

The author of “The Girl on The Train” became a 2015 literary sensation, with her rather unassuming psychological mystery/thriller breaking all sorts of publishing records.

3. Sarah J. Maas 

While not a new “breakout” per se, the bestselling author of the “Throne of Glass” series reached new heights this year – with the release of a second series, TV show and film rights up for grabs and a coloring book to boot! (Coloring books are a big deal, yo. So far the only literary ones I know of are “Harry Potter” and “Game of Thrones!”)

4. Daisy Ridley/John Boyega

I loved their performances in the latest installment of Star Wars, and I hope they have good careers ahead of them. They’re everywhere at the moment, but I hope they don’t get pigeonholed as the actors forever known as “the new kids in that space movie.”

5. Brie Larson

She starred in both Trainwreck and Room in 2015, but it’s her performance in the latter that has catapulted her to the status of Hollywood’s “It” girl. She’s certainly proved she can tackle a range of diverse material.

6. Mad Max: Fury Road

Fierce. Feminist. ‘Nuff said.

7. The 100

I know the show premiered back in 2013, but it’s in 2015 that the show has really reached peak fan status – with multiple award nominations and a frenzied, passionate Tumblr community.

8. Hanya Yanagihara

The author’s second novel, “A Little Life” (also a contender for Most Depressing Book Ever) made waves in the literary sphere, and garnered multiple award nominations.

9. Paul McCartney

Kanye West and Rihanna were so great in giving this old man with a guitar his breakout riff. *

10. Katy Perry’s Left Shark. 


Luciana Villalba’s Top 10 Breakout Artists of 2015

1. Tituss Burgess

He basically stole the show and a Golden Globe nomination. I cannot wait to see him on Season two of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

2. Fetty Wap

Hey wassup hello? Fetty Wap was on the radio 24/7 this year and I’m not complaining.

3. Kygo

How many times have you heard “Firestone” this year? Be honest.

4. Rami Malek

Rami’s moment finally came with the leading role for Mr. Robot. I was completely captivated by his character and how natural it seemed for him to portray a character so conflicted as Elliot.

5. Amy Schumer

All I remember is that when Trainwreck was released people were raving about her like there was no tomorrow, like the next female comedic genius was sent to Earth.

6. Abraham Attah

With a simple look, Abraham was able to convey the emotions that his character was going through in Beasts of No Nation. I truly hope that we get to see more roles for him in the future.

7. The Weeknd
He really isn’t a new artist, but this was the year where The Weeknd truly shined. I wrote about him back in 2011, but it wasn’t until “Earned It,” “Can’t Feel My Face” or “The Hills” that people actually embraced his music.

8. Jussie Smollett
After the success of Empire and his amazing vocals and songwriting for the show’s soundtrack, Jussie is truly the heart of the show and I’m sure that the people at Columbia Records noticed too after offering him a record deal.

9. John Boyega
Listen, when I watched Attack The Block I knew this kid would go places and look at him now!

10. Charlie Cox

Basically, the reason why I love Daredevil, besides Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk of course.

Brooke Pawling Stennett’s Top 10 Breakout Artists Of 2015

New and emerging artists are always an absolute treat to listen to. It’s the sound of musical bodies putting their feet in front of them and putting together a sound that works. It’s delightfully nostalgic to the days when all I knew of new music was a song I hadn’t heard before playing on the radio. These artists all released full length albums or EP’s by the end of 2015, and each one of them full of triumph. Each artist accomplishing breakout artist titles with one mighty roar.

Here are the breakout artists that stood out to me with the first note:

  1. Troye Sivan
  2. Jess Glynne
  3. X Ambassadors
  4. Ella Henderson
  5. Leon Bridges
  6. LEON
  7. Dej Loaf
  8. Ryn Weaver
  9. Kehlani
  10. W. Darling

Ryan Gibbs’s Top Ten Breakout Artists of 2015

1. Courtney Barnett

The Australian singer-songwriter’s witty songs has made Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit one of year’s best debut albums, full of idiosyncratic humor and wonderful lyricism. Her surprise-but-well-deserved Grammy nod for Best New Artist only solidifies her excellent year

2. Lin Manuel Miranda

Even before his Hamilton opened on Broadway this August, Miranda was only an Oscar away from completing an EGOT; his musical Into the Heights had won a Tony for Best Musical in 2008 and was even nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Hamilton, however, has become a phenomenon unmatched on Broadway since The Book of Mormon. Its cast album has received critical acclaim and entered the Billboard charts higher than any Broadway album in over 50 years. The success to the show has brought Miranda – who wrote the music, book and lyrics to the play, in addition to performing the lead role – the rare distinction of a Broadway auteur becoming a household name. A cameo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens only solidified a great 2015 for Miranda.

3. Toby Fox

Toby Fox’s endearing game “Undertale” is one of the best RPGs ever made, with a unique play dynamic and incredibly memorable characters. It’s a great example of the kind of wonderful game, story and world that can be built by a single person. It’s easy to say that many are anticipating what he does next.

4. Daisy Ridley

Out of the four new leads  in The Force Awakens, Ridley is the one complete unknown. As Rey, she’s impressive, confident and easily slides into the world of Star Wars. Her strength in the role makes you wonder she hadn’t had her big break before she was cast in a Star Wars movie.

5. Girl Band

This Irish noise rock band’s album Holding Hands with Jamie is one of the year’s strongest debut albums and the band’s singles “De Bom Bom”, “Paul” and “Pears for Lunch” are loud, invigorating and even a bit menacing. The delivery of singer Dara Kelly recalls Stephen Malkmus and Mark E. Smith without sounding derivative of either. The band had to cancel a slew of tour dates this year, but with dates rescheduled for 2016, it will be a good year for the band as they finally build on the goodwill of their fantastic full length.

6. Skylar Spence

A few years ago, Skylar Spence (aka Ryan DeRobertis) was well known as SAINT PEPSI, one of the architects of the infamous and quietly brilliant vaporwave genre. Now rebranded as Skylar Spence, he’s added his own vocals his music to great effect. Songs like “Can’t You See” and “Fiona Coyne” are the kind of neo-disco floor fillers that bigger EDM singer/producers like Calvin Harris seem to be no longer capable of. If EDM isn’t going away, then Spence should be easily able to become a major star in years to come.

7. Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah has done well in the near impossible task of following in Jon Stewart’s footsteps as host of The Daily Show. The South African comedian’s approach to the show is different enough from Stewart’s to establish himself as a unique voice, but similar enough that the show is still recognizably The Daily Show. Every late night host needs a few months to iron out the kinks, but Noah has become progressively more solid at the desk as time goes by.

8. Years & Years

Years & Years won the BBC Sound of 2015 poll, and immediately set out to prove themselves worthy of that title with a string of British hits. Although the band hasn’t being quite as successful over to the pond — only “King” became a minor hit — it’s only time before the band’s R&B influenced synth-pop catches on in America big time.

9. John Maclean

Slow West director John Maclean isn’t an entirely unknown name if you have followed British indie music for the past 20 years. He was the keyboardist and sampler for the acclaimed group The Beta Band (of “Dry the Rain” fame) and directed most of the band’s visually distinct and eye-catching music videos. He brings his talent for visuals to Slow West, one of the year’s best directorial debuts that injected new blood in the Western genre. Following such an impressive debut feature, it will be interesting to see what he does next in both film and music.

10. BB-8

I’m know I’m kind of cheating with this one, but it was really interesting to see the roll out (no pun intended!) of this character throughout the year. The marketing for BB-8 wasn’t so over-saturating that we became sick of the spherical orange droid before we even saw it in action in The Force Awakens; The Sphero toy in particular was a great way to fully introduce the character. In the movie itself, BB-8 stole the show — I had already been made aware of most of the “spoilers” in the film (I put that in quotes because I did not feel spoiled by knowing them in advance), but I was not prepared for how integral BB-8 was to the plot and how wonderful a character it was. It was also really nice to see a character with such an unusual gimmick be portrayed through practical effects instead of being a CGI construct. I can’t wait until 2017 to see more of this droid.

Jose Cordova’s Top Ten Breakout Artists of 2015 

1. Oscar Isaac

2. Alicia Vikander

3. Constance Wu

4. Daisy Ridley

5. Rose McIver

6. Aziz Ansari

7. Twenty One Pilots

8. Shawn Mendes

9. Rachel Bloom

10. Walk the Moon

Melissa Berne’s Top 10 Breakouts of 2015

This year’s breakouts come from my humble opinion. I binged watched Jessica Jones several times, I loved the commercially successful and critically acclaimed Straight Outta Compton and I can’t get Alessia Cara’s song “Here” out of my head. Oh, and how can I forget The Weeknd’s back-to-back-to-back monster hits? I still jam to Beauty Behind the Madness. Check out who else made the cut from my list:

1. Newbies Star Wars cast
2. Straight Outta Compton cast
3. Amy Schumer
4. Alessia Cara
5. Eddie Redmayne
6. Alicia Vikander
7. Krysten Ritter
8. Charlie Cox
9. The Weeknd
10. Jacob Tremblay


Exit mobile version