Whether you’re sad to see 2017 go or you’re counting down the seconds ’til 2018, pop culture fans owe this year a big old thank you. It was the year we cheered on Wonder Woman, danced to “Bodak Yellow,” and got sucked in by Riverdale. So as December draws to a close, we decided to celebrate 18 of the biggest breakout stars who wowed us this year, spanning music, movies, and TV. Think of them as the “freshman class” of 2017, who are only poised for bigger and brighter things come 2018. Congrats, graduates!
Timothée Chalamet: Best HairGetty Images
Breakout role: As the young admirer of Armie Hammer in the coming-of-age romance flick Call Me By Your Name; as the disaffected hipster who steals, then breaks, Saoirse Ronan’s heart in Lady Bird
How he ruled 2017: At 21, the native New Yorker is already experiencing the kind of acclaim many actors only dream of. Awards season has been good to him thus far (he’s already won Best Actor from both the New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and gotten a Golden Globe nomination), so you can bet his name will be everywhere once Oscar season rolls around.
What’s next: Making out with Selena Gomez in Woody Allen’s next film; playing the meth-addicted son of Steve Carrell in Beautiful Boys
Julia Michaels: Miss CongenialityGetty Images
Breakout song: The quirky, vulnerable “Issues”
How she ruled 2017: By making pop a weirder place. Michaels got her start as a songwriter-to-the-stars (Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears), but she kept her most personal songs to herself. Good thing, too — her debut EP, Nervous System, proved what the magic that can happen when she lays her emotions bare.
What’s next: Hopefully a full-length album!
Cardi B: Life of the Party
Breakout song: The inescapable flex “Bodak Yellow”
How she ruled 2017: You already know. The former stripper-turned-Instagram celeb-turned-hip-hop tour de force won over the world with her unfiltered, maximum-volume personality and swagger. “Bodak Yellow” was everywhere during the latter half of this year, and made Cardi the first female rapper to score a solo No. 1 since Lauryn Hill in 1998.
What’s next: Two Grammy nominations (for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance). And hopefully, her debut album, which has been set back a couple times, but which she swears is worth the wait.
Dua Lipa: Best DressedGetty Images
Breakout song: “New Rules,” a.k.a. the set of commandments every girl needs to recite before dealing with a pesky ex
How she ruled 2017: After “New Rules” became a late-bloomer hit (thanks in large part to its viral music video), Lipa scored an opening gig for Bruno Mars and slayed festival stages the world over.
What’s next: A world tour that runs through the spring, during which she’ll hopefully find time to record the follow-up to her self-titled debut
KJ Apa: Class HeartthrobGetty Images
Breakout role: As sensitive jock Archie Andrews on CW’s brooding teen drama Riverdale
How he ruled 2017: The New Zealand actor was a relative unknown when he joined Riverdale, having just made his big-screen debut as the younger version of Dennis Quaid in A Dog’s Purpose. Now, he’s a bonafide star-in-the-making — think of him as the 2017 version of The O.C.’s Ben McKenzie.
What’s next: The lead role in indie thriller Altar Rock; the practically guaranteed third season of Riverdale
PRETTYMUCH: Best DancersGetty Images
Breakout song: The blast-from-the-past earworm “Would You Mind”
How they ruled 2017: If you’ve missed the excitement of the peak boy-band era (who among us hasn’t?), then you’ll love PRETTYMUCH. Brandon, Edwin, Nick, Zion, and Austin sing their own harmonies, bust their own moves, and are the closest reincarnation of Backstreet Boys and NSYNC you’ll find today.
Tom Holland: Teacher’s PetGetty Images
Breakout role: As everyone’s favorite web-slinging hero in Spider-Man: Homecoming
How he ruled 2017: Holland’s introduction as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War pegged him as the young but eager kid of the MCU. With Homecoming, he got his chance to shine on the big screen, introducing audiences to Holland’s boyish charm and impressive physical skills (his background in gymnastics and parkour really came in handy).
What’s next: More Spidey action in Avengers: Infinity War; the impending Spider-Man sequel; the sci-fi action thriller Chaos Walking, co-starring Daisy Ridley
Lakeith Stanfield: Most Likely to SucceedGetty Images
Breakout role: As a scene-stealing stoner on Donald Glover’s FX series Atlanta; as a body-possessed victim in Get Out; as a man wrongfully convicted of murder in Crown Heights; as one of the seven Friends in Jay-Z’s "Moonlight" music video.
How he ruled 2017: Just look at that résumé! Stanfield’s quickly becoming one of the most versatile young actors out there, which is great, because his presence at junkets, red carpets, and on award show stages is always worth the watch.
What’s next: The absurdist comedy Sorry to Bother You; the preacher drama Come Sunday; the much-anticipated second season of Atlanta
SZA: Most CreativeGetty Images
Breakout song: The swear-off-all-men anthem “Love Galore”
How she ruled 2017: Her astonishingly self-assured debut album, CTRL, put listeners in their goddamn feelings. The way she bluntly sings about her own confidence and insecurities is *chef’s kiss* perfect, and even more impressive considering she freestyled a decent chunk of the album, letting her own subconscious take the reins.
What’s next: An appearance at the 2018 Grammys, where she’s nominated for five awards; a music video for “The Weekend” directed by Solange
Lil Uzi Vert: Most EmoGetty Images
Breakout song: “XO TOUR Llif3,” the most emo rap song of the year
How he ruled 2017: Uzi’s been steadily releasing mixtapes for three years now, but in 2017, he skyrocketed to stardom. His year got off to a massive start when Migos’ “Bad and Boujee,” which he’s featured on, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. After that, he dropped the hit “XO TOUR Llif3,” which earned him a VMA for Song of the Summer and propelled his debut studio album, Luv Is Rage 2, to the top of the Billboard 200. On top of that, he hasn’t slowed down on the feature top, recently linking up with Nav, Dave East, and Nicki Minaj. So much to luv.
What’s next: A holiday-themed mini-tour in December; a Paramore-influenced rock album; a punk-inspired project with Playboi Carti; two nominations for the 2018 Grammys: Best New Artist and Best Rap Performance
Finn Wolfhard: Undercover RockstarGetty Images
How he ruled 2017: Yes, you got to know Wolfhard as the star of Stranger Things in 2016, but this was the year he took over the big screen as well. Not only was Stranger Things 2 an obvious hit, but as a member of the King’s Losers’ Club in It, Wolfhard was part of horror’s biggest box office success ever. On top of that, the budding rockstar’s band, Calpurnia, signed a record deal with Royal Mountain Records.
What’s next: Lending his voice to Netflix’s Carmen Sandiego; the haunted house flick The Turning; Calpurnia’s forthcoming debut EP
BTS: Most PopularGetty Images
Breakout song: The hip-hop-influenced “DNA,” which, no, is not a Kendrick Lamar cover
How they ruled 2017: After building momentum for the past few years, the seven-member South Korean boy band finally crossed over into the U.S. market — in a huge way. With “DNA,” they became the first K-pop boy band to chart on the Hot 100, and also became the first K-pop group to perform at the American Music Awards. Several U.S. TV appearances followed, and judging by the astounding fervor of the group’s dedicated fanbase, the A.R.M.Y., they’re not going anywhere.
What’s next: Kicking off 2018 with a performance on ABC’s Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 2018 with Ryan Seacrest; probably more world domination
Noah Cyrus: Most Changed Since Freshman YearGetty Images
Breakout song: The solemn duet “Make Me (Cry)” with British R&B singer Labrinth
How she ruled 2017: It takes a lot to unchain yourself from the nickname “Miley’s little sister,” but Noah managed to do that and carve out her own lane this year. “Make Me (Cry)” is her biggest hit to date, but follow-up singles “I’m Stuck” and “Again” proved she has the potential for staying power.
What’s next: Her forthcoming debut album, NC-17, on which she’s rumored to be working with hitmaker Max Martin
Khalid: Most ShyGetty Images
Breakout song: “Location,” the world’s sexiest song about dropping a pin
How he ruled 2017: His critically acclaimed debut, American Teen, dropped in March and introduced the world to his soulful takes on millennial love. Since then, he’s won a VMA for Best New Artist and proven himself a cross-genre chameleon with features on Calvin Harris’s “Rollin,” Marshmello’s “Silence,” and Logic’s “1-800-273-8255,” just to name a few.
What’s next: Basking in his five Grammy nominations, including that oh-so-coveted vote of confidence, Best New Artist
Katherine Langford: Class HeartbreakerGetty Images
Breakout role: As suicidal teen Hannah Baker on Netflix’s controversial but mega-popular series 13 Reasons Why
How she ruled 2017: The native Australian was plucked from obscurity for 13 Reasons, and has since become a (Golden Globe-nominated) star in her own right; so much so, that — (spoiler alert!) — even though Hannah’s beyond the grave, you can expect to see more of her in season two.
What’s next: The coming-of-age teen drama (and vital coming-out story) Love, Simon
Tiffany Haddish: Class ClownGetty Images
Breakout role: As a rowdy, comedic hurricane in Girls Trip
How she ruled 2017: After thoroughly dominating the summer with her big-screen breakout role, she released her first stand-up comedy special, Tiffany Haddish: She Ready! From the Hood to Hollywood. Then, she made history as the first black female comedian to host Saturday Night Live. And THEN, she released a hysterical book of personal essays, brilliantly titled The Last Black Unicorn.
What’s next: More joke-hurling in the Kevin Hart-starring Night School and the upcoming TBS series The Last O.G. with Tracy Morgan
KYLE: Most School SpiritGetty Images
Breakout song: The playful and flirty hit “iSpy,” featuring Lil Yachty
How he ruled 2017: Maybe this was just the year the world needed “happy rap”; the native Californian won fans over with unrestrained positive energy and feel-good vibes.
What’s next: Possibly an album announcement for the string of promotional singles he’s been steadily releasing
Gal Gadot: Most Likely to be PresidentGetty Images
How she ruled 2017: Gadot, a former Israeli combat instructor and ex-beauty queen, beautifully brought Wonder Woman to life after 75 long years. And it was worth the wait — the power of watching a woman save the world was monumental, and for many women viewers, filled a hole they didn’t know they had. Representation matters!
What’s next: Reprising her prized role in Justice League Part Two, Wonder Woman 2, and Flashpoint