Round up, round up – it’s that knockout time of year again! We pit this year’s longlist against each other as they clamour to be crowned champion…
Everyone loves a good poll, don’t they? And the BBC’s annual Sound of… Poll has always been a good forerunner as to who will be successful in the year to come. Sure, they’ve thrown in a few curveballs along the way – think Electric Six, Duffy or Glasvegas – but by the large, they’ve been bang on the money.
Past winners have included megastar Adele, Ellie Goulding and Sam Smith who have all gone on to have international success with their music in the years since. So who should be crowned this year’s champion? We had these artists fight it out…
Not3s vs. Yxng Bane
Hackney-born UK rapper Not3s immediately impressed critics with his premier cult-smash hit ‘Addison Lee’, with opening lyric “Peng ting called Maddison” attracting the unlikely attention of Louis Theroux on twitter (a self-described ‘highlight’ of Not3s career so far). But with the attention of documentary filmmakers aside, Not3s is far from a one hit wonder, with his awesome mix of UK grime, dancehall, bashment tunes.
In the blue corner, also hailing from East London, is rapper and singer Yxng Bane, who apparently took inspiration for his name from the Batman villain of The Dark Knight Rises. Signing to Tinie Tempah’s label, Disturbing London, Yxng Bane captured the attention of listeners with his dancehall remix of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ earlier this year. With the release of his debut track ‘Rihanna’ soon after, Bane solidified his signature afro-fusion sound.
With both artists contributing to the huge sound and success of UK afrobeats and grime in 2017, it’s certainly fair to say these two East London artists are fully deserving of their place in BBCs 2018 longlist. The question is, will either of them make it to the top 5? We certainly hope so. James Makin
IAMDBB vs Khalid
IAMDBB (short for I Am Diana DeBrito)’s self-titled ‘urban jazz’ is a force to be reckoned with. The 21-year-old Mancunian rides sharp hip-hop and trap beats, with a spring-loaded, elastic flow that alternates between rapping and singing. With support from artists such as Jorja Smith and Bryson Tiller, IAMDBB is an artist you shouldn’t miss out on, with a well-deserved spot in BBCs longlist.
19-year-old Texas-based R&B artist Khalid uses similar hip-hop inspired beats, but for his more soulful vocals. With his debut album American Teen reaching the top 10 in the US charts, it seems the singer-songwriter is headed for similar success in the UK. His debut track, ‘Location’ attracted attention from Kylie Jenner, who posted the track on her snapchat, giving Khalid a well-earned boost to his media coverage. Writing about heartache, the perils of youth, love and loss, Khalid says that the main goal of his music is to “create happiness”.
With both artists receiving support from celebrities and artists alike it seems both of them are set for a busy 2018, with the longlist from previous years including names such as Adele and Sam Smith. Could Khalid be the R&B Sam Smith, and IAMDBB the urban-jazz Adele? We’d like to think so. JM
Yaeji vs Alma
Rapper, singer, DJ and producer Yaeji is possibly one of the most unique artists on the BBC’s list for 2018. From turning bass-heavy bangers into comedic and intimate tracks, to serving curry at her live shows, 24-year-old Yaeji is definitely an artist to watch. With a focus on phonetics and cadence, Yaeji chooses to flow between Korean and English lyrics, tackling heavy and personal themes such as depression and the dual identity of being Korean and American, but also on the surreality of beauty and make-up regimes. Beneath the veneer of bass-heavy club tracks, introspection and emotion are an important aspect of Yaeji’s music.
Finland-born singer-songwriter Alma is a similarly unique artist, with her signature brand of ‘punk-fuelled-pop’ hitting the charts by storm earlier this year with her track ‘Chasing Highs’ reaching the UK top 20. With the hopes of Finland’s pop-future resting on her shoulders, Alma’s brand of pop is one with a certain don’t-give-a-damn attitude, that encapsulates her whole persona, right the way down to her neo-fluorescent hair. Her music, whilst still residing comfortably in the realms of pop, strikes a discord with the ideas of social norms and the ‘swipe-right’ culture.
Both of these women are powerfully independent artists, who go against the expected norms of musical culture in creating their own signature sound, so it’d be great to see at least one of them hitting the BBC top 5. JM
Sam Fender vs Rex Orange County
Rex Orange County is an artist with a vibrant flair for the jazzy, with sumptuous, catchy hooks and enough indie-pop charm for a generation. The young London singer-songwriter produces honest, often vulnerable music centred around themes of love, and has played live with Skepta and Frank Ocean, even appearing on two guest slots on Tyler the Creator’s album.
On the other end of the romantic spectrum, Sam Fender takes a far more political approach to his music. Behind the heavy twang of his guitar and raw, gritty vocals are themes of disillusionment and the challenges faced by the youth. Perhaps most distinctively, not one of his tracks is a classic love song. Fender never shies away from his social conscience, especially in tracks such as ‘Play God’ and new release ‘Millennial.’
So, who will you choose? Does love always win in the end, or will the dream be shattered by gritty realism? JM
Billie Eilish vs Jade Bird
It’s Britain vs United States this round! American singer Billish Eilish, at the ripe old age of 15, has already begun releasing her own original material (including an EP), produced and co-written by her older brother Finneas O’Connell (of The Slightlys) and is signed with Interscope Records. Billie’s music consists of down-beat rhythms and spacey reverb, exuding a feeling of isolation whilst maintaining a certain degree of warmth, complimenting her refined, sultry vocals. Is that enough to beat her opponent?
Surprisingly, it’s Britain’s Jade Bird who takes an american approach with her modern country melodies and Americana inspired guitars. At age 16, the British song-writer moved to London where her hard work yielded the stripped down, raw and emotive EP Something American and a piano session with Huw Stephens on BBC Radio 1 in October 2017. It’s minimalism and acoustic intervention in this corner of the ring. Is that enough to beat her opponent Billie Eilish?
Perhaps less is more… Rahul Bhogal
Pale Waves vs Superorganism
Next up, it’s battle of the bands. Superorganism take the 70’s prog rock approach when it comes to band members. The eccentric group consists of eight musicians from the UK, Japan, Australia and New Zealand; seven of whom now live in east London in their HQ-turned-recording studio. The music that comes out of this diverse outfit is just as eccentric, taking influences from anywhere and everywhere which intertwine with their experimental style, incorporating everything from fashion to visual arts. Playful melodies and textures exude pure magnificence from this outstanding octet.
Although nowhere near as complex, Pale Waves couldn’t have had a better start to their career. After building up a cult following in Manchester, they caught the eye of The 1975’s Matt Healy, who co-produced their first two singles and brought the band on The 1975s mammoth North American tour. The singles ‘Television Romance’ and ‘There’s A Honey’ then went on to amass over 4.3 million plays on Spotify. Icy, heart-piercing ‘New Year’s Eve’ now takes that number up to a whopping 5.4 million.
Describing themselves as “Nineties inspired indie-pop feels, drenched in reverb and glitter”, the combination of intoxicating, gothic visual appeal and gloom-ridden lyrics has become somewhat of an aesthetic cult sensation. Can their hooks knock Superorgainsm out the ring? RB
Sigrid vs Tom Walker
Norway’s Sigrid only started making music four years ago, when her brother needed a song for a gig. The pop sensation is no stranger to success, having achieved international acclaim for her track ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’. Her contagious, signature vocals and subtle pitch changes are what separates her from the rest of the crowd, catapulting her beyond the stratosphere as she flies closer to becoming a bona fide star. Now 21 years old, the fact she has already triggered a bidding war between labels and been signed is evidence of her prowess. It’s no wonder the edgy, electrifying musician is on her way to becoming a pop heavyweight.
Pitting against her is Glaswegian powerhoue Tom Walker. His raspy voice serves as an outlet to heartfelt emotion, catalysing his eclectic concoction of music. Whilst is is difficult to define his work by genre, he describes it as “a mix between hip hop, a tiny bit of blues, a bit of pop with a splash of reggae”. Having earned 32 million streams on one song only proves this lads undeniable talent. It’s good ol’ gasoline versus galvanised electro-pop. RB
Nilüfer Yanya vs Lewis Capaldi
Inspired by Nina Simone, Amy Winehouse and Pixies, Nilüfer Yanya seems more than ready to take on the heavyweight champions of pop with her raw, guitar-powered indie soul. Rejected twice from a popular music degree, she sought her own path. After gaining attention from performing in open mic nights around London, she made it to BBC Radio 6 Music’s playlist with her breakthrough grungey single, ‘Baby Luv’. Nilüfer’s fight is like no other and is sure to punch out a few big hits in the forthcoming years.
Add huge stadium vocals and a deft touch to a piano and you have Lewis Capaldi. The Scottish singer self-released his debut single ‘Bruises’ in 2017 and saw it rocket up the Spotify charts. After gaining approval from Ellie Goulding and Niall Horan, he’s now supporting Rag ‘N’ Bone Man on tour. His minimalist, stripped down approach to music contrasts the intricate beats and guitar work of Nilüfer Yanya, however, the two rivals have one thing in common: provide refreshing rhapsodies to send us mere mortals into raptures. If the hooks of this exciting pair haven’t hit you yet, they will soon.
So who will deliver a knockout? Sit tight: the top five shortlist will be revealed on January 8th… RB