List season, y'allll. The BBC published their annual Sound of... list last week and now it's time for us to follow suit with our very own annual list. We're going to stick with the whole Sound of... route in terms of criteria - artists can't have had a Top 20 single or album to date, can't be a solo project from an established artist or someone who's already achieved fame by other means (sorry Willow), etc - and what follows are our 15 picks for superstardom in the new year.
We've got a habit of being a bit far-sighted with our lists in the past - many of the acts on last year's list still are yet to release their debut albums and thus a few will make repeat appearances this year, but all in all we like to think we've got a pretty decent track record with these things. After overshooting our mark in years past with bands that failed to get an album out in the following calendar year, we'll be focusing this list on bands that will definitely have albums hitting the streets in the next calendar year, with another list of fresh up-and-comers set to make their first foray into the limelight in 2011 to follow at the beginning of the year. But for now, let's get down to the business with our very own Sound of 2011 presentation.
JESSIE J // You can't fuck with Jessie J. With an absolutely killer voice, swagger for miles and the writing chops to match (homegirl wrote "Party In The USA"), not to mention fans in Justin Timberlake and Dr. Luke, she's already blowing up (debut single "Do It Like A Dude" is currently at #29 in the UK charts) and is about as close as you can get to a lock for superstardom in 2011 on both sides of the Atlantic.
STREAM: "Do It Like A Dude" (Labrinth Remix) - Jessie J
STARSMITH // With Calvin Harris' recent announcement that he's retiring from the limelight of pop stardom to focus on his DJ and production work, the door's been opened for a new producer-cum-popstar to take the throne. And who better than Starsmith, who in the last 18 months alone has definitively established himself as the best pop producer in the UK under 25, with principle songwriting and production credits on four #1 albums in 2010 alone. Though massive, his debut single "Give Me A Break" (released on Neon Gold last month) is but the tip of the iceberg, as 2011 finds Starsmith set to release a debut album of more straightforward (yet still entirely banging) pop and vocal tracks featuring his own vocals as well as contributions from Alphabeat's Stine Bramsen, Daley, Ellie Goulding and many more.
STREAM: "Give Me A Break" (Starsmith Remix) - Starsmith
CLARE MAGUIRE // We've been preaching the gospel of Clare Maguire for nearly two years now, but 2010 saw her finally make the first steps towards her superstar destiny on debut single "Ain't Nobody", and with her debut album slated for early 2011 and featuring such surefire megahits as "Last Dance" and "Sword & Shield", the girl with the golden voice looks set to at long last fulfill the promise that's made her the talk of the industry since 2008.
STREAM: "Ain't Nobody" (Breakage Remix) - Clare Maguire
BROTHER // First things first: Brother are not the future of music. They're pretty fucking great at what they do though, and with their naturally controversial disposition, big hooks and fuck-off swagger, they'll make headlines as one of the most polarizing bands of 2011 but could ultimately outsell every single artist on this list. With their signature by-the-people-for-the-people "gritpop" sound and a music industry desperate for the return of big guitar bands to Britain, Brother are destined to make a lot of noise in 2011, whether you like it or not.
STREAM: "Darling Buds of May" - Brother
THE NAKED & FAMOUS // Up against The Vaccines to nab the token indie spot on the BBC's shortlist, our Neon Gold darlings look set to follow in the footsteps of their Down Under contemporaries The Temper Trap as an absolutely massive 2011 looks albeit inevitable for the Kiwi five-piece. Nevermind the fact that their album's already out in New Zealand and Australia (and thus already making its rounds on the internet), when you've got an chart-toppling single like "Young Blood" - not to mention brilliant ace-in-the-hole set up singles like "Punching In A Dream" and "All of This" - in your repertoire, big things are bound to happen. Expect to see this lot EVERYWHERE next summer.
STREAM: "Young Blood" - The Naked & Famous
ALEX WINSTON // We love Alex Winston like one of our own, and it's with ear-to-ear smiles that we've watched her absolutely smashing the game to bits over the second half of 2010. A refreshing departure from the at times painfully now cred-pop ladies of recent times, her style refuses to welcome lazy comparisons as she establishes her own niche in the current landscape of pop music. She's got less than ten live shows under her belt to this point, but anyone lucky enough to see her perform can attest to how special she is as an artist and performer. Homegirl is an absolute superstar, and while her best tracks remain unheard - expect that to change with her debut mini-album on the way next month - you can rest assured she'll be making serious waves in the new year.
STREAM: "Choice Notes" (Labyrinth Ear Remix) - Alex Winston
PENGUIN PRISON // Our flagship artist and the coolest thing to come out of the NYC pop scene in a long minute, Penguin Prison is set to turn serious heads when his debut full-length arrives in the first half of 2011. With three Neon Gold singles already under his belt (including the amazing "Golden Train" out this week), he's no stranger to the carousel of hype that defines this industry, but with massive singles "Don't Fuck With My Money" and "Multi-Millionaire" still awaiting deployment in the new year, you should trust us when we say you ain't heard nothing yet.
STREAM: "Golden Train" (The Royal Palms Remix) - Penguin Prison
JAI PAUL // Standing out from every single other artist on this list, Jai Paul is the UK's next great hope for an alternative male pop star. Your quintessential XL artist (with whom he signed earlier this year), he sounds like nothing else around at the moment, blending a broad spectrum of styles and genres with athletic ease. It's still early days with debut track "BTSTU" his only real offering to speak of, but with XL at the helm and their nigh-on immaculate track record of late, we can easily see Jai Paul coming out of left field to make considerable noise in 2011.
STREAM: "BTSU" - Jai Paul
JAMIE WOON // With dubstep creeping further and further into the mainstream with each passing year (see Skream's gamechanging remix of La Roux in 2009 and Katy B and Magnetic Man's chart success in 2010), the nexus of 2010 and 2011 sees a new movement emerging from the genre with Woon (and fellow crooner James Blake) turning heads with their soulful electronic, "post-dubstep" sound. It's Blake who's the industry darling at the moment , but it's Woon who gets the nod from us here - his Burial-produced lead single "Night Air" stands out as one of the sexiest tracks of 2010 and has us champing at the bit to here more from the Polydor-signed up and comer.
STREAM: "Night Air" - Jamie Woon
MNDR // Already finding main stream success via her feature on Mark Ronson's Top 10 hit "Bang Bang Bang", the seeds have already planted for MNDR (née Amanda Warner) to do big things in 2011. With her phenomenal debut release E.P.E. and it's triumphant singles "Fade To Black" and "I Go Away" already garnering her a burgeoning fan base and rampant critical acclaim, she's got starpower for miles (just check her brilliant one-woman live show for proof) and some serious anthems - "Sparrow", as performed with The Business Intl. as her backing band on the Ronson tour, is an absolute belter - waiting in the wings, it's time to welcome the new heir to the cred-pop (*cringe*) throne.
STREAM: "I Go Away" - MNDR
GROUPLOVE //I mean, have you SEEN this band live? They absolutely crushed as the breakout band of CMJ, with one of the most thoroughly entertaining and invigorating live performances we've seen in a long minute, and with their debut single "Colours" arriving on Chess Club in February and an album following on Atlantic/Canvasback later in 2011, we can't wait to see what these kids have in store for us next year.
STREAM: "Gold Coast" - GROUPLOVE
MR. LITTLE JEANS // Mr. Little Jeans is kind of a wildcard. Photographs of her are few and far between, she's yet to play live outside of Scandinavia, and there's no shortage of confusion surrounding the fact that this Mister is really a Miss, but we're yet to hear a single song from her we haven't absolutely loved and if she can keep up the gold standard of songwriting and hold her own in the live realm we can see things really taking off for the Danish chanteuse in 2011.
STREAM: "Rescue Song" (The Naked & Famous Remix) - Mr. Little Jeans
MORNING PARADE // Like Delphic if last year's list darlings hadn't gone so full-on electronic and weren't so mind-numbingly dull, Morning Parade fuse electronic elements with a classic Britpop sound on their epic, arena-ready anthems. Sky-scraping melodies, flitting electronics and ocean-sized guitar riffs converge on lead single "Under The Stars"and "In The Name", like a distinctly 2011 take on the "new British invasion" sound of the mid-2000s, and with what's apparently one of the best live shows in the game, we expect Morning Parade to rock a lot of faces off in the months to come.
STREAM: "Under The Stars" - Morning Parade
YADI // Jessie J and Clare Maguire are the talk of the industry as 2011 creeps over the horizon, but next year's new wave of female pop icons can hardly be considered complete without Yadi in the mix. With the vocal prowess of La Roux and all the swagger and power of Marina & The Diamonds - not to mention solid gold hits like "Guillotine" and "Gold" already in her arsenal - Yadi is one of the most exciting prospects for superstardom in the years to come. With the ink still drying on her major label deal, it's still quite early days for Yadi and she may end up more likely to top hotly-tipped lists for 2012 than to get an album out next year, but either way she's one to keep an eye on in the new year. Expect BIG things.
STREAM: "Guillotine" - Yadi
CLOCK OPERA // Having rapidly become one of our favorite bands since we put on their first London show back in 2009, Clock Opera will at long last release their debut album into the world in 2011. We've heard a good deal of it and can say with confidence that it will undoubtedly be one of the best records to come out next year, a beautiful compilation of haunting torchsongs and cinematic epics that has is sure to awe and inspire listeners in equal measures. They're hardly the stuff Radio 1 dreams are made of, but keep an eye on Clock Opera as a Mercury Prize darkhorse next year.
STREAM: "Once And For All" - Clock Opera
And while that concludes our Sound of 2011 longlist, we've got a few more contenders we expect to see making waves in 2011 that are more than worthy of your attention below.
The Knocks // The Vaccines // Wolf Gang // James Blake // 1, 2, 3 // Fenech-Soler // Cults // Sunday Girl // Spark // Mona // Theophilus London // Jakwob // Dom