On 9th January, the latest victor of the BBC’s highest new music accolade will be crowned; setting them on the path to a million selling debut album and festival ubiquity. Past winners include Adele, Ellie Goulding and Haim, as well as Michael Kiwanuka, Corinne Bailey-Rae and The Bravery (lol). Each year the same criticisms rear their heads: the 2014 winner, Sam Smith is a talented vocalist but a songwriter so beige that he’d get lost in a Dulux warehouse; it’s weighted in favour of performers already signed to established labels; and for all the token leftfield choices one eye is always kept on the Radio 1 playlist. Nonetheless it offers a first glance at the sounds that might come to define 2015 (spoilers: this year will feature innumerable men in hats). So, joining past giants like Say Lou Lou, Little Green Cars and Dot Rotten, who are the nominees for British music’s most high-profile self-fulfilling prophecy 2015? George The Poet – Spoken word laureate from inner London with three minute tales that rise from the gutter to the stars. After the success of Kate Tempest and Dizzee Rascal’s descent into garish cartoon buffoonery, Lahhndan needs an authentic new voice. Expect to see him standing rather awkwardly next to Michael Rosen at some middle class literature fair. His heart’s in the right place though. James Bay – Lets just get this out of the way, he’s got a big fuckin’ hat and he’s gonna have some big fuckin’ hits. Think of Hozier without the charm, unique voice or questing tremulousness, plucked from nowhere to sell a ton of records to the kind of people who thought that Jake Bugg was just too edgy. The inevitable winner. Kwabs – Electronically accentuated, Ghanaian-born soul singer, with a smash hit in Germany. Probably not edgy enough for an urban audience and not poppy enough for the charts. qmunicate cannot confirm or deny that his moniker is taken from how Jonathan Ross requests seafood. Låpsley – A Liverpool teen signed to XL Recordings (Adele, Damon Albarn) who makes slow and moody bass music that sounds like James Blake trembling over minimal Burial beats. Most likely to nick your hubcaps AND play them like steel drums. Novelist – British hip-hop newcomer, whose rhymes are more pavement than penthouse, offering a fresh and grimy sound. Like the fantastic Young Fathers, the bass pumps and kicks like an ostrich on ecstasy but it’s hard to see him shifting a lot of copies. Rae Morris – Occasional Bombay Bicycle Club affiliate making piano-based pop reminiscent of a pre-Calvin Harris Ellie Goulding. Her video sees her cavorting with a gang of dancers in morphsuits in a way that makes you vaguely wish Florence and the Machine would put down their bouquets of flowers and “problematic” headdresses and make another record. Raury – Set to be the biggest star out of Atlanta since Outkast, his debut single builds on a wall of handclaps into a jam worthy of King Krule, touching on blues and gospel as well as hip-hop. He’s rather excellent and it’s actually quite hard to be rude about this one. Shamir – Recent single ‘On the Regular’ is a massive tune, as at home on the dancefloor as it is on the Pitchfork Top 100 list so Las Vegas has good reason to have high hopes for the young singer. From the moment that distorted voice declares “It’s totally absurd” you’ll be hooked. Sadly, the prize always goes to a Brit so watch Shamir be cruelly ignored then rub it in the BBC’s face when he gets a number one. Shura – Blissful dance-pop not the Islamic decision making process. Sounds a bit like Banks so expect a couple of ridiculously hyped singles then a bloated, mediocre album that even Pitchfork struggle to pretend lives up to the early promise. Slaves – With snotty vocals, sharp shirts and a drummer who plays standing up, Slaves seem a little unsure which gimmick they should play up. The music is gnarly garage rock, like the Jim Jones Revue or Drenge. Don’t expect them to dispense cosmic wisdom or even carry a tune but they’ll find plenty of fans among those convinced that skinny white boys playing guitars is still the progressive face of popular music. SOAK – You can tell SOAK is young by the fact that she’s done that Generation Y/Tumblr thing of leaving the capslock on to prove that this is SERIOUS BUSINESS. Actually she sounds like Stornoway if they were left out on the doorstep overnight. Nice melodies though. Stormzy – Yet more post-Dizzee/Tinie grime, this time with the incendiary spirit of The Prodigy harnessed to autotune era-rap. He’s the most energetic of the hip-hop acts on this year’s list and probably an outside bet for the prize. Sunset Sons – Lumbersexual surfer quartet making bland, middle of the road pop-rock that sounds like One Republic or Kings of Leon at the point where they lost the plot and started cavorting with little kids in their videos. More likely to inspire a new haircut than a revolution. Wolf Alice – Gnarly NME darlings fronted by the charismatic Ellie Rowsell. They’re not afraid to play around with their sound, moving from playful grunge yelps to fuzzy My Bloody Valentine wall of noise within the space of a couple of singles. As one of the more established acts on the list 2015 is make or break for the London quartet; they won’t win the prize but look out for them playing live this year. Years & Years – Fronted by Olly Alexander, a wimpy looking actor famous for roles in Skins and God Help the Girl, Years & Years distil the sounds of the early twenty-teens into a synth-pop smoothie. They’re a little lightweight but with some famous friends and the kind of danceable tunes that will inevitably end up soundtracking shit BBC Three comedies, they’ll probably do alright for themselves.
[Max Sefton – @maxsefton]