It’s December and that means only one thing, The BBC Sound Of 2012 poll is upon us. The biggest up and coming names, the odd choices and the art house concessions all take their place in what has become one of the most influential lists in the music industry today.
This year list reeks of playing it safe with a selection of artists who made big names for themselves in 2011, but is that the BBC’s fault? In many ways 2011 was a year defined by our collective desire to look forward as the hopes of 2011 were quickly dismissed (Brother, Jamie Woon, Mona, James Blake) in favour of the bright young things that populate today’s list.
The BBC haven’t always got it right, especially when it comes to the winner, but last year they hit the jack pot. The insipid Jessie J topped charts on both sides of the Atlantic and runner up James Blake’s debut album was released to the usual mix rave reviews and critical backlash, nevertheless, the singer ended the year with a sold out tour.
So enough blathering let’s look at the list:
A$ap Rocky: Get with the times BBC, A$ap Rocky already runs this town, he earned rave reviews across the world when he launched LiveLoveA$ap earlier this year. His style has already had a huge influence all the way up Rap’s food chain, with his drunken woozy swag laden sound. Rocky won’t win this poll, but he doesn’t need to.
Azealia Banks: It’s everyone’s favourite cunnilingus loving rap superstar. Another lady who needs no introduction, Banks already has an amazing sense of style, a flair ultra cool beats, and a huge club hit under her belt. Banks is already a winner, and she has a real shot at winning this poll if the BBC are ready to back hip hop. Azealia isn’t the second coming of Nas, so don’t get too excited, but she is everything that Jessie J promised to be (or more specifically everything she’s pretended to be), a sassy, smart, independent, tough, sexual and genuine female superstar. Most importantly of all she possesses a stunning turn of phrase: “Your Rocking With The Man Crook/You Could Get Your Man Took/Quicker Than Your Hand Shook”. (Indie fans check out the “Slow Hands” cover)
Dot Rotten: Similar to former Strictly New Band favourite Random Impulse, Dot Rotten is one of London’s finest young MCs..scratch that…not so young MCs. Rotten has been doing his thing for seven years, has dropped two Mixtapes and his own underground album. Well he looks set to escape the underground scene in favour of the mainstream in 2011. He has a charmingly understated delivery and an ability to switch tones that should stand him in good stead if he attempts to launch an assault on the charts.
Dry The River: I covered this band pretty comprehensively in the build up to Reading, for fans of Mumford and Sons and the nu-folk gang, Dry The River aren’t the most exciting act in the world but they have a full live sound and have been winning fans over with some hard touring.
Flux Pavilion: Another man who needs no introduction, this esteemed dub step producer conquered the charts with his cross over hit “I Can’t Stop” and earned a whole host of celebrity fans including Jay-Z, Kanye West, P Money and Katy B. He has a soft commercial sound and a flair for big bass drops, he might be on dub steps low-art end, but damn if it doesn’t sound good.
Frank Ocean: This list may be old hat, but I think I love it, Frank Ocean was the most important voice in R’n'B in 2011 (seriously The Weeknd will be coming up next at this rate). His embrace of soulful understatement, fragility and regret turned the oversexed, overpaid and overly false emotion of modern R’n'B on its head and started the ball rolling on a year on innovation. Listen to “Swim Good” now.
Friends: Okay so I’ve bored the majority of you to tears by hyping Friends constantly, but these sexy brooklyn hipsters specialise in gorgeous hooks, funky beats and spunky self assured choruses. For more, click Here and here.
Jamie N Commons: Yes seven names down and finally one I don’t recognise, time for some investigation…okay…so Jamie N Commons has been compared to Tom Waits, in critical terms that’s as good as it gets. Are the comparisons accurate? Not really, Waits is wilder, more inventive, less literal, but no more earnest. Commons has an astoundingly earthy timbre to his voice and he strongly recalls a Mid Western Nick Cave. Suffice to say, Commons has the style and the sound, whether he has the song writing chops remains to be seen.
Lianne La Havas: Is a quaint English singer songer writer and mulit-instrumentalist who has a flair for inverting expectation. Mixing folk, soul and the blues to create a sound that feels both vintage and thoroughly modern. Unsurprisingly, much like Corrine Bailey Rae before her, Lianne has already become a firm favourite among Jools Holland viewers. Very pleasant.
Michael Kiwanuka: Is another soulful prospect from London who has drawn comparisons to Bill Withers. Unlike the soul stars of the past, Kiwanuka operates in a gritty folk reality of flickering guitars, clomping beats and breezy bristles. There’s a rustic country charm to his soul, it’s smooth, but far from characterless.
Niki & The Dove: We’re Back to more familiar Reading territory with Niki & The Dove. I’m still torn on The Dove, I love the concept of twitchy synth pop from Stockholm but Malin’s vocals are thin, alluringly so, but still thin. Nevertheless with tunes as creepily addictive as “The Drummer” and “Winterheart” it’s next to impossible to not at least enjoy this latest quasi-goth outfit.
Ren Harvieu: Gives us another dose of soul, and this British starlet is a frustrating case, at times she’s sounds loose and sexy, and in other moments she’s overwraught and painfully generic. Her choice of chorus and arrangement often prove cloying and while there is commercial potential, it’s hard to get excited by Ren, if only she’d take a few more risks.
Skrillex: I suspect the majority of you are familar with the most divisive man in dub step, and I can’t lie, I’m a hater. I think Skrillex’s sound is crass (not in a good way), predictable and thoughtless, but it’s also easy to see why he’s much loved. His tracks, and his collaborations with Korn, kick, and kick hard. He has plenty of thrills up his sleeve and he knows how to generate excitement. As subtle as a punch to the face, but hey, sometimes that’s exactly what you need.
Spector: Beloved Dalstonites Spector are today’s Strictly New Band so read Simone’s article for an indepth introduction, otherwise enjoy this introductory slice of indie joyfulness.
Stooshe: I love Stooshe! They’re not particularly good, and their obnoxiously in your face and garish, but it’s great to see some British females having a good time and seeing the lighter side of life (even if the subject matters can be bleak or dirty). Stooshe have character to burn and are diametrically opposed to the moribund Gothicism of 2008-11, so just wind them up, and watch them go! Proper ADHD pop.