It’s barely December, but already music industry experts are looking ahead to 2014 to tell us who is gonna be the ‘Next big thing’.
This year’s BRIT Awards Critics’ Choice nominees were announced this week as Chloe Howl, Ella Eyre and Sam Smith.
As well as that, the much over-hyped BBC ‘Sound of..’ long-list for 2014 has also been revealed, which also includes the three BRITs nominees too.
A lot of music fans will already be aware of 21 year old Sam Smith for his features on Naughty Boy’s ‘La La La’, Disclosure’s ‘Latch’ and perhaps his own solo track ‘Lay Me Down’, which was a massive online hit earlier this year. He is noticed for his frequent falsetto arrangements and his songs tend to fall on the emotional and grand end of the musical spectrum, which he says was inspired by his love of Whitney Houston and Chaka Khan.
Brit School graduate Eyre, meanwhile, was a guest vocalist on Rudimental’s hit ‘Waiting All Night’ in April and has sung with Tinie Tempah and Bastille, as well as featuring on Naughty Boy’s ‘Thinking About You’. It is these guest vocalist spots that may hinder her chances of winning either. The singer releases her own single ‘Deeper’ on December 15.
There was a surge of buzz around 18 year old Chloe Howl earlier this year after she put out ‘No Strings’; a quintessentially British pop song about those “s**t village hall parties you go to when you’re 17” (her words).
Signed to Sony Records at 16, she was put to work with Florence + the Machine and Rebecca Ferguson hit-maker Eg White. After initially taking a rockier route, she quickly saw sense and started turning out brilliant pop songs like her latest single ‘Paper Heart’; and has been likened to Lily Allen, Katy B and Robyn.
Of this year’s nominees, Howl probably needs it the most, given the others already have a relatively high profile. But more than that, her sound very much feels like ‘next year’s thing’, rather than simply more of what we’ve heard over the last 12 months.
Among the list are a few lesser known names, along with some that have been bubbling on the surface for a bit awaiting a big profile launch, including MNEK and Chance the Rapper.
Uzoechi Osisioma Emenike, aka MNEK, from London, is moving in front of the microphone after making his name writing songs including Duke Dumont and A*M*E*’s club anthem Need U (100%).
Chicago’s Chance The Rapper, who was named 2013’s Hot MC by Rolling Stone magazine, is flying the flag for hip-hop. The 20-year-old – real name Chancelor Bennett – appeared as a guest vocalist on James Blake’s Mercury Prize-winning album Overgrown.
More obscure and exciting entries on the Sound of 2014 list also includes artists like Jungle, a mysterious West London electro-funk duo who have created an online buzz but have not yet revealed their identities.
Brighton’s riff-heavy Royal Blood are the sole representatives of rock music. They have been likened to the White Stripes and Queens of the Stone Age and will support the Arctic Monkeys next summer.
While Say Lou Lou are Swedish-Australian twin sisters Miranda and Elektra Kilbey, who create dreamy electro-pop.
The most competitive area that seems to be emerging for next year’s competition is the male singer-songwriters.
Some in that category include Nick Mulvey, a former member of Mercury-nominated jazz artist. Now solo, the 26-year-old is signed to Communion Records, owned by Mumford and Sons’ Ben Lovett.
Also, the sound of Luke Sital-Singh, from Surrey, ranges from rousing Mumfords-style choruses to the simple songcraft of Damien Rice.
The gruff voice of Bristol’s 19-year-old George Ezra, meanwhile, makes his folk-blues ballads particularly distinctive.
With a mellow soul voice that has already been heard on records by SBTRKT and Drake, Londoner Sampha is looking to launch his solo career.
George Ergatoudis, Head of Music for the BBC, said one of the dominant styles for 2014 would be “indie R&B” – R&B made with an independent, experimental mindset (spearheaded by Alunageorge from 2013’s lists).
Female vocalists Kelela – aka the sonically adventurous 30-year-old Los Angeles-based Kelela Mizanekristos – and the eerie-voiced Londoner FKA Twigs, who is signed to the label that launched the xx, fall into that bracket.
And Banks, the stage name of 25-year-old Jillian Banks, from Los Angeles, has gained a devoted fan-base with her moody, intimate R&B.
The tastemakers whose tips were used to compile the list included radio DJs and producers, TV presenters and producers, newspaper critics, magazine and website editors and respected bloggers.
The list seems to suggest that bands are out of fashion, as it is compiled of seven solo male artists, five solo females and three duos.
Making these lists does not guarantee future success, last year’s winners being proof of this . Since coming top of the Sound of 2013 list, HAIM have gone to number one on the UK albums chart with their debut release Days Are Gone. Critics Choice winner, Tom Odell, however has failed to break through despite a strong album and numerous public performances.
The Critics Choice winner will be announced in a blaze of publicity in the imminent weeks to the Awards Ceremony itself, while the ‘Sound of…’ long-list will be narrowed down to a top five in the week of 6 January, with the winner to be named on 10 January.