It’s that time of year again when pop pundits do their best to predict who’s going to strike it big next year.
There’s no real suprises on the BBC Shortlist, certainly not in the inclusions, but there may be a question as to why Lana Del Rey has been edged out by Lianne La Havas and Ren Harvieu - I for one certainly think Lana is doing more interesting things vocally and melodically than those two.
I was never that bowled over by Nicki Minaj - sure she’s done some mean raps / flows, but for me she’s not nearly as consistent as say her predecessor Missy Elliott, nor quite as interesting as NME’s favourite newcomer Azealia Banks, who is a little potty-mouthed for sure, but is fresh and dynamic, and somehow more genuine and arresting than Ms Nicki.
One of my favourite albums this year has been Frank Ocean’s ’Nostalgia, Ultra’; in particular the ’Novacane’ track - slick, laidback, mature hip hop, superbly produced - he certainly deserves a high place on this listing.
Skrillex (aka Sonny Moore) has been a very busy boy this year, co-producing a number of records, including nu-metallers Korn’s latest album, as well as numerous remixes and own productions. Skrillex’s ’Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ EP came out last year, but has been on fairly regular rotation for me this year on my iPhone jukebox. I love this kind of Dubstep / Electro House hybrid sound, which some naysayers are unfortunately trying to denigrate by calling it brostep - obviously they don’t like to dance!
I really hope Niki & The Dove (Gustaf Karlöf and Malin Dahlström) win the award this time - they’re like an even catchier ’The Knife’ as if fronted by Kate Bush. This is glorious, quirky pop which does not sacrifice melody to artifice as often happens. Pretty much everything they have released so far is excellent - DJ Ease My Mind, The Fox, Gentle Roar, The Drummer, Mother Protect, Last Night - really great, inventive pop music.
The full BBC Sound of 2012 shortlist is as follows:
A$AP Rocky - rough and ready, urban US grimey hip hop (Not UK grimey!), some great tracks (e.g. Palace) but does not quite rise up to the lofty heights of Azealia Banks or Frank Ocean - who are superior in the rap category
*Azealia Banks - smart, witty, innovative flows with clever changes in tempo and delivery - will be great if she can maintain her quality and consistency - along the lines of the quite superb ’212’ track
Dot Rotten - another diminutive Brrap Pack alumni, interesting to see if he can get beyond Tinie Tempah’s shadow, not heard enough yet to make a sound verdict, but does not sound overly dynamic or inventive enough to stand out from the Tinchy, Chipmunk chasing pack
Dry The River - next year’s Fleet Foxes / Mumford & Sons - more populist alt folk; I infinitely prefer Iceland’s ’Of Monsters and Men’ for this kind of material
Flux Pavilion - Joshua Steele has a very populist take on dubstep, lacks the pop invention and maturity of someone like Rudi Zygadlo or the dancefloor destruction of Bar-9, Datsik or Skrillex
*Frank Ocean - majestic, laidback hip hop, smooth and effortless, Frank’s ’Nostalgia, Ultra’ may very well be my favourite album for this year, check out Novacane or Swim Good
Friends - Brooklyn 5-piece punk-funkers don’t seem to add anything new to the punk-funk canon - Santigold, Ladyhawke and the like have all done it better before
Jamie N Commons - gravelly, smoky vocalled Brit - who sounds like an American whisky-inflected nu-country star, but actually comes from Bristol, which I suppose in some ways is kind of the Wild West of the UK
Lianne La Havas - kind of like a new Corinne Bailey Rae - soulful singer songwriter, but with more indie leanings
Michael Kiwanuka - old-school soul inspired by Otis Redding, great vocals and authentic production, but songs lack sparkle on choruses
*Niki & The Dove - ’The Knife’ with even catchier melodies and as if fronted by Kate Bush. Gustaf Karlöf and Malin Dahlström make the most sublime, inventive, quirky but catchy pop - my top pick for this year followed by Frank Ocean, Azealia Banks and Skrillex - will be happy if any of those 4 win
Ren Harvieu - Salford chanteuse evokes the sound of yesteryear and smokey subterranean jazz clubs, and occupies a space just leftfield of Melody Gardot and Madeleine Peyroux
*Skrillex - Sonny Moore releases on Deadmau5’s Mau5trap label alongside Feed Me, both create similarly dynamic, dancefloor-aimed kinetic electro-house / dubstep hybrids, more tasteful and considerably less cheesy than Flux Pavilion. Check out Skrillex’s new track ’First of the Year (Equinox)’
Spector - Next year’s trendy indie art rockers, the UK heirs to ’The Strokes’ supposedly; Strokes never did much for me, watched these on Jools Holland - don’t see them setting the world alight really
Stooshe - light-hearted UK female Hip Hop trio likened to Salt-N-Pepa, but much closer to a female version of US party rappers ’The Fat Boys’ - fun, but slightly light-weight really, and nowhere close to the scale of impact or artistry of Frank Ocean or Azealia Banks
* - Personal Favourites / Top Picks!