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Hot Artists to Watch in 2016: Kane Brown [No. 10]

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Kane Brown‘s white-hot success feels like the variety that surely can’t last, except it has. At one point last fall, this mysterious newcomer had two songs on the country digital sales chart, including “Used to Love You Sober,” an unreleased-to-radio track that found 100,000 (and counting) willing buyers exclusively through social media.

Brown’s country cover videos raised his profile to the point that calling him country music Justin Bieber didn’t seem like hyperbole. Millions watched, and continue to watch, each one, and those who love this kid praise his unique mix of traditional and contemporary country sounds. “Used to Love You Sober” is one of three songs Brown has released, but none are on his Closer EP, which came out in June.

But is it real? That is the question many are asking, mostly because Brown’s been aided by his manager Jay Frank, founder of two digital music companies. Some have gone as far as calling his out-of-nowhere success story a fraud, but that’s not fair to the work he’s put in. The opinion is also blind to how every overnight success story works in the music business. There’s always someone helping, and there’s always some level of manufacturing beneath the sheen of public image.

Three paragraphs into this explanation of Brown’s selection for Taste of Country’s Hot Artists to Watch in 2016 list and we haven’t talked about why he’s so on fire. “If I’m gonna compare myself, it’s gonna be Chris Young’s voice on a Sam Hunt track,” Brown says of his sound. The produced tracks are more raw than Young’s finished pieces, but that figures to change once Brown signs a record deal and returns to the studio.

2016 promises both, as well as dates touring with a major country star.

“I can’t announce this, but I got two big guys that came up to me during the CMAs and asked me if I wanted to open for them,” Brown reveals. “They’re huge. I just can’t announce it yet, but it’s pretty awesome.”

Brown is hot right now, and we don’t even know much about him yet. That could be a predicament if he chooses the traditional route to success (programmers tend to view internet stars as disposable), but if he follows his own road, he could be country music’s first viral sensation a la Justin Bieber.

For these reasons — and the lure of mystery — Brown kicks off our Hot Artists to Watch in 2016 list at No. 10.

Next: See All Hot Artists to Watch

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