Obscure Music Artists: Why We Should Praise the Unknown


Elliot Moss performing one of his songs, “Best Light.” He has less than 500,000 listeners on Spotify, compared to the 6.1 million listeners of a different band, The Weekend. (Photo from Google)

Drake, Shakira, Taylor Swift and Eminem are all names that most everyone can recognize, even if one does not listen to their music. But what about Elliot Moss, Scotty Sire, Lily Kershaw and Sufjan Stevens?

With the introduction of the internet and music streaming, the once controlled public tastes in music diverged into genres such as rock, pop, folk, electronic, country and hip hop. Still, certain artists receive more recognition than others, which creates a hierarchy of popularity: the well-known, the somewhat known, the rising artists and the obscure. 

Obscure artists, such as Lily Kershaw and Sufjan Stevens, are usually found by a group of listeners who searched for specific genres of music instead of relying on algorithms to choose the music for them, like how a miner would stumble upon a rare mineral when searching for coal. Sometimes, the discovery happens so many times that a once unknown song tops the charts. In some cases, this brings the artist into the light as well, but other times, it’s only the one song that reaches the public eye. Thus, obscure artists remain largely unknown. 

Despite what it may seem, obscure artists often have better music than their well known counterparts. Popular music may be “popular” for a reason, but those songs rely on two factors: repetition and sound. Take the once famous, now infamous, “Baby” by Justin Beiber. The word “baby” is said a total of 55 times throughout the song, and is driven forward by the melody, which matches closely with the vocals. The same thing can be said about Lewis Capaldi’s “Before You Go,” where he says the title phrase nine times, which does not come anywhere near Beiber’s count, but succeeds in creating strong repetition in the chorus with some deviation in the verses.

Obscure artists rely on something more deeply ingrained in the human condition to create their music: emotion. Outside of the pressure to maintain high levels of popularity, their music tends to become a form of self-expression that is parallel to their experiences as opposed to what would be accepted in the public eye. This fact alone creates deeper, more heartfelt lyrics and creative deviations from normal musical patterns.

One of the lyrics of “The Wisp Sings” is “This is the murmur of the land.” These lyrics are a nod to the album’s name. (Photo from Google)

An example of this is “The Wisp Sings” by Winter Aid, which is a combination of indie and alternative music with peaceful yet powerful musical interludes and personal lyrics that never repeat but still build upon each other. Highly metaphorical, there are new nuances and meanings to unpack with every listen. This creates a depth that the intricate and emotional side of us can relate to, which makes sense, since it was birthed from this part of the artist.


The Ghost Club’s “This Bird Has Flown” is another archetype of this phenomenon. The song has emo-based lyrics and an upbeat tune, which can be compared to the vastly more popular Twenty One Pilots. Though there are similarities between the two bands, The Ghost Club shows a greater knack for incorporating both metaphorical and straight-forward lyrics into their songs to create the sense that the song comes from the heart and was written as an anthem for the self as well as others. Not to mention the creative use of alternate instruments during different portions of the song that keeps the experience interesting for the listener.

Though he can be referred to as “the love child of Brendon Urie and Tyler Joseph,” Domenic Raymond Dunegan (the lead singer of the band The Ghost Club) brings his own flair and style into his music. (Photo from Google)


This is not to say that all popular artists write shallow and robotic music. In fact, people like Billie Eilish and bands like AJR are celebrated every year for their contributions to the music industry. However, a pattern emerges that only certain artists of this type can retain a large fan base and receive such recognition. Eventually, they sink into lower levels of recognition once more, making way for “Tootsie Slide” and “Still Don’t Know My Name.”

So, next time the surface level ripples of the top songs don’t satisfy your need for creativity and depth, consider delving deeper into the lands of undiscovered and underappreciated artists.