BBC Music Sound Of 2020 has revealed its longlist of artists who are tipped for success next year. The longlist has been chosen by a panel of 170 global industry experts and alumni artists including Billie Eilish, Lewis Capaldi and Chvrches.
All participants were asked to name their three favourite new acts, from any country and any musical genre, signed or unsigned, but could not have been the lead artist on a UK Top 10 single or album before 21 October 2019.
Last year saw rapper Octavian top the list, which also included the likes of King Princess, Rosalia and slowthai. Previous winners of the annual Sound of poll include 50 Cent (2003), Adele (2008), Haim (2013) and Sigrid (2018).
The Sound of 2020 longlist contains several female artists representing the rise of British R&B, and less grime and UK rap artists that have featured heavily in recent years. The full longlist in alphabetical order is below, an introductory playlist of the nominees is here, and the Sound of 2020 winner will be announced on Thursday 9 January 2020.
Style: Blissed out trip-hop for Generation Z
Sleeve notes: Still only 19, Londoner Arlo parks brings a winningly weary worldview to tales of unrequited crushes and adolescent ennui. The singer-songwriter, whose musical journey began after she started writing poetry, cites influences as diverse as Fela Kuti, The Doors’ Jim Morrison and poet Sylvia Plath. Songs like Sophie show almost Lorde levels of irresistible hooks, while Super Sad Generation is a quiet anthem for Extinction Rebellion times.
Critics say: “Arlo Parks has carved out a niche in committing to music the joyous highs and crushing lows of the emotional rollercoaster that is adolescence.” (The Guardian)
Fans say: “She’s from Hammersmith – same as me… Honestly, this song [Cola] just knocked me off my feet.” (Lily Allen)
Song to start with: Sophie
Follow on: @arlo.parks
Style: Nineties indie pop reinvigorated for the 21st Century
Sleeve notes: Bea Kristi, also known as Beabadoobee, is a Filipino-British singer-songwriter heavily influenced by indie legends such as Pavement, Belly and Lush. Her father bought her a secondhand guitar, and Beabadoobee wrote her first song, Coffee, in her bedroom in 2017. A friend uploaded it onto Spotify and Bandcamp, where it received hundreds of thousands of plays within weeks. When Kristi dropped the track I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus in September, even the erstwhile New Yorker sat up and took notice.
Critics say: “Beabadoobee’s brand new EP, Space Cadet… is catnip for a new generation of music lovers, like herself, crying out for a new breed of guitar hero.” (NME)
Fans say: “This tripzz me out” (Stephen Malkmus)
Song to start with: She Plays Bass
Follow on: @radvxz
Style: Beguiling soul from a spellbinding voice
Sleeve notes: Celeste has been named BBC Music Introducing’s Artist of the Year 2019 and the BRITS Rising Star, earning comparisons with Amy Winehouse and Billie Holiday thanks to her bluesy melancholic voice. Born in LA, Celeste was three when her parents split, and she moved to the UK with her mother. She began singing around 10 years ago when she was inspired by hearing Elton John’s Your Song, and wrote her first song at 16. She released an EP with Lily Allen’s Bank Holiday Records label in 2017. The following year, Celeste signed to Polydor and toured with label-mate Michael Kiwanuka, who himself topped the BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll.
Critics say: “Celeste is a once-in-a-generation talent. With a voice that balances the fragility of Billie Holiday against the sheer power of Aretha Franklin, she’s the finest British soul singer to emerge in years.” (NME)
Fans say: “I cannot stop listening to @celeste this is her song Strange. It’s sensational. I dare you not to love her. I dare you” (James Corden)
Song to start with: Strange
Follow on: @celeste
Style: According to NME,“jazz-tinged R&B you can mosh to”.
Sleeve notes: Leicester five-piece Easy Life formed in the summer of 2017 and released their first single, Pockets, via indie label Chess Club Records. Since then, they’ve won plaudits for chaotic, energetic live gigs which often see frontman Murray Matravers surfing the crowd. As for the sound, even the band will admit that it’s eclectic, thanks to formative years spent in swing and reggae bands.
Critics say: “Coating bittersweet lyrics dissecting everyday life struggles with a hip-hop-meets-indie veneer, then mixing it in with a slacker rock attitude, their music sounds like what it feels like to just sit back and go with the flow.” (DIY Mag)
They say: “It feels like there’s no genre for us. We’re working with people miles away from what people think we should be like.”
Song to start with: Pockets
Follow on: Instagram: @easylife
Style: Downbeat dance for the selfie generation
Sleeve notes: A descendent of dance royalty, given that Georgia Barnes’ father is one of the founding members of British electro legends Leftfield. A young Georgia was a promising footballer (Queen’s Park Rangers and Arsenal trials, in fact) before music came calling; an 11-year-old Barnes duly named her pet hamster Missy Elliott. Barnes drummed for the likes of spoken word artist Kate Tempest before releasing her own material in 2015. Now 29, this self-assured solo artist won’t be pinned down – her material so far fizzes with energy and abandon, drawing comparisons to everyone from Massive Attack to MIA and early Bjork. She’s already proven a hit at Glastonbury. Could she be about to crack the big time?
Critics say: “Brilliant, brilliant songwriting and production in a world of identikit pop-dance records.” (Annie Mac, BBC Radio 1)
She says: “I didn’t think Started Out would be the one to connect to people because it’s really a bit of a weird song. It’s not really your normal pop song, it doesn’t really have a chorus to it…it’s very dance-influenced. But I think the lyrics are strong: ‘Wicked and bold.’ I think people picked up on those lyrics.”
Song to start with: Started Out
Follow on: @georgiauk
Style: Gothically energetic indie rock fronted by Bono’s son
Sleeve notes: Inhaler don’t sound like U2 until Elijah Hewson opens his mouth – then it’s like you’ve gone back in time, 40 years to witness Bono and company’s first faltering steps in a sweaty, smoky Dublin club. Elijah has clearly taken a keen interest in the family concern – Inhaler’s clutch of single so far are impressively melodic, from the hook laden It Won’t Always Be Like This to the Killers-esque splendor of My Honest Face.
Critics say: “Inhaler displays a maturity to their songwriting that belies their young age.” (Northern Transmissions)
Fans say: “They’re a bit like the [Echo and the] Bunnymen and early U2, which is a surprise.” (Noel Gallagher)
Song to start with: It Won’t Always Be Like This
Follow on: @inhalerdublin
Style: Sad boy soul
Sleeve notes: From the east end of Glasgow, Joesef sold out his debut gig at the infamous King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in his hometown earlier this year, before he had released a track. The only artist to have done this before him was Lewis Capaldi, who rose to number one on the Billboard chart this year. So expectations are large for the blue-eyed soul man with a lo-fi sound that melds Motown, jazz and hip-hop beats, matched with a voice that commands comparisons with Amy Winehouse and Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall. His singles so far – all of which he wrote, played on and produced – were written in the midst of his first break up, and candidly cover the trials and tribulations of being in love.
Critics say: “At his best, he writes dreamy Al Green-inspired hooks which insinuate themselves instantly within the boudoir of your mind.” (The Scotsman)
He says: “People in Glasgow can smell bullshit from afar. So you need to be honest, otherwise you’ll get laughed at. I think that comes through my music.”
Song to start with: Limbo
Follow on: @joesefjoesefjoesef
Style: Hypnotic neo-soul that dares to bare all
Sleeve notes: Another singer earning comparisons with Amy Winehouse, the Bangladeshi-Irish Londoner wraps brass and trip-hop percussion around her gentle, husky vocals. Crookes has absorbed the multicultural sounds and influences of south London, and delivers with-filled lyrics offering a fearless and candid view love, loss and the machinations of the music industry.
Critics say: “[Single] Sinatra braids trip-hop atmosphere with deeply considered soul melodies and just the right amount of orchestral strings, to give the song’s romantic turmoil some sense of stakes. In its most majestic moments, Sinatra is like a Bond theme you can smoke to.” (The Fader)
She says: “I’m not here for five minutes and I want to make sure of that. I see myself growing, getting older and having more and more to write about.”
Song to start with: Hurts
Follow on: @joycrookes
Style: In their own words: “The Coronation Street theme tune played on flutes by angry children”
Sleeve notes: The Brighton band’s opus, the seven minutes of sick funk called The Cleaner, comes on like a collision between The B-52s and The Fall – a group aiming to be the next Coldplay this is not. The spirit of Postcard Records luminaries such as Orange Juice and Josef K can also be heard amidst the angsty, nervous twitch of their music.
Critics say: “Their unconventional nature is their most appealing asset. There’s no established frontman, no three-minute pop songs, and yet somehow they made the BBC6 A-List with a track about houseplants.” (DIY Magazine)
They say: “We are the first generation that’s been brought up with the internet in developing periods of our lives. It means that genre is much less definable, it’s not about living in the same city, it’s having something else that draws you together.”
Song to start with: The Cleaner
Follow on: @squidbanduk
Style: Rebel-rousing voice of the underrated generation
Sleeve notes: Doncaster-born singer Dominic Harrison is the most high-profile name on the list. He’s worked with Marshmello, dated Halsey, and with 11 million monthly listeners on Spotify, he has more listeners than all the other artists on the list combined. A “woke” poster boy for the new sound of punk, Yungblud wears his heart on his androgynously dressed sleeve about topics like sexual assault, gun control and mental health.
Critics say: “Is there hope for the underrated youth? With Yungblud around – you bet.” (NME)
He says: “I never want to be predictable. If people know what I’m going to do next, then I’m completely shafted.”
Song to start with: Original Me
Follow on: @yungblud
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