It’s not just the Mercury Prize that the music industry pays close attention to when it comes to awards from BBC. The BBC Sound of has an excellent track record of showcasing the artists who will be absolutely killing it in the following year. Previously, the awards have been a platform for the likes of Sam Smith, Adele, Years and Years (2015 winners), Ellie Goulding and Jessie J, all of whom have gone on the achieve great mainstream success and become distinctive, major players in the music industry.
The BBC Sound of 2016 longlist has finally been revealed, collating the favourite new acts by a panel made up of 140 influential music industry experts. What has resulted is a list of 15 rising acts who deserve your attention, highlighting the various trends that are all over radio at the moment, and the artists or groups that are channeling those trends into the next big ‘sound’.
Manchester band Blossoms are representing for guitar-driven rock, while indie-pop acts like Rat Boy and Izzy Bizu are also on the list, right alongside Mabel, who is the daughter of veteran singer Neneh Cherry. Singer-songwriter Dua Lipa, who was discovered by Lana Del Rey’s manager gets a nod, as does Canada’s rising R&B star Alessia Cara. There’s plenty of UK rap as well, which makes sense seeing as the likes of Stormzy (who made the Sound of 2015 list) and Skepta have been made a huge impact this year; now the genre is represented by the likes of J Hus, WSTRN, and Section Boyz.
The top five acts will be revealed at the beginning of January, with the 2016 winner announced on January 8.
Check out the full list below and give them all a listen. You hipster.
Like her talented parents – Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack producer Cameron McVey – Mabel seems to be a natural when it comes to mixing progressive sounds like trip-hop, jazz, and soul into something potent and comprehensive. Her style is addictive, she’s got a brilliant sense of melody, and songs like “Know Me Better” are bound to end up on all good end-of-year lists soon enough.
We’d be very surprised if Mura Masa doesn’t end up on the shortlist this year, the producer has delivered some truly impressive, artful electronica that easily straddles the fine line between the commercial and hipster crowd. The 19 year old beatmaker/singer has a knack for bringing out the best in his guest vocalists (as you’ll hear below) with clean, charming beats that blend electronica and R&B.
These South Londoners are smooth on the mic, structuring their flows in a similar pattern to the spaced-out, post-trap that’s been inescapable for the past year or so. They adapt this sound with their own raw, aggressive style and create a sound that continues the crossbreed of trap and grime.
This West London trio is made up of three very different voices and they all complement each other well over pop-friendly, bouncy beats. They are almost like an R&B, UK version of Rae Sremmurd but instead of unabashed turn-up, WSTRN seem to lean toward a melodic, conventional sound; the production isn’t anything too different from modern R&B, but it’s the dynamic style between all three which colour the beat enough to stick out and justify the hype around their debut single “In2”
“Young, dumb, living off mum, waiting on the right time to come”, Rat Boy (born as Jordan Cardy) waxes on one of his most well-known songs to date, “Sign On”, and it’s hard not to fall for the simplistic charm of his energetic indie-pop that pulls on rock and rap. He grew up listening to The Streets, and you can definitely hear that influence shining through this 18 year old Essex kid.
British R&B singer-producer NAO is definitely justifying her spot on the list with tracks like “Inhale Exhale” and “Bad Blood” (thankfully, nothing like the hyper-repetitive Taylor Swift hit). Her songs have structure and substance, roping in interesting, 90’s inspired production that is undeniably new-wave and progressive, tied up with a clean, elastic voice.
She’s got a sharp, jazzy voice allowing her to change tone throughout a single song and still make it flow so well, Izzy’s definitely a bright, refreshing singer with a love for eclectic production. Recent single “Give Me Love” has a big, bright hook and a feel-good, energetic sound that shows off how versatile she can. This South Londoner is definitely in with a good chance and winning this whole thing.
This Canadian R&B singer already has a solid following; it’s not hard to hear why. Her honest lyrics have attitude and are as bitey as her free-flowing style. The Issac Hayes-sampling “Here” has racked up almost 30,000 views on YouTube since it was released earlier this year, exuding the same cool as Hayes’ original and displaying a talent that’s going to make an impact irrespective of a win.
This thoughtful South London rapper has a heavily emotive approach to lyricism, spun into a really intricate flow that switches rhyme structure throughout a track with fluidity and style. His poetic wordplay is best showcased in debut single “Tierney Terrace” off his A Little Late EP, refreshing in his commitment to lyricism over the easier route of fist-pumping refrains.
This Manchester band represent deep drums, deep bass, and some really killer riffs. Their heady rock is seductive and melodic, catchy and moody with obvious influence from Arctic Monkeys both in instrumentals and lyrics, topped with a vocalist who is just as captivating as Alex Turner, in Tom Ogden, who oozes psychadelica with his smooth, confident voice.
This Berkshire born singer-songwriter has a tender, charming voice that sounds so damn good over piano-driven ballads like “Grow”, which are patient and take their time building in big, powerful moments. Case in point:
This one-man-band multi-instrumentalist has a sound that’s as close to James Blake as it is to Ed Sheeran, with lyrics just as good as both big profile artists. He seems to be a fan of vibrant, stadium-sized hooks and intimate, immersive melodies, as evidenced by the brilliant “Weathered”.
This London-born singer has a spirited voice that lends itself to glossy, colourful productions like “Be the One” and off-kilter pop hit “New Love”. She doesn’t have much material out, but she’s proving to be a consistently powerful rising star on the UK pop scene.
Her haunting, breathy vocals sound so good floating over gorgeous acoustic backdrops, beautiful even when she’s singing lyrics full of pain, torment, and aggression like on her cover of Royal Blood’s “Out of the Black”. Oh yeah, and she’s only 16.
J Hus’ biggest hit so far, “Lean & Bop” is a slick dance-rap cut from a 19 year old on the cusp of becoming a global superstar, though it’s “Dem Boy Paigon” which best shows off his infectious style. He isn’t vibin’ on the grime wave with everyone else, rather pulling on other influences like afrobeat and dancehall to carve his own slice of the UK rap resurgence.