Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thoughts On BBC's The Sound Of… Poll's Past

Much like the Critics' Choice Awards at the BRITS, another indicator of what to listen for next year is the BBC's own The Sound Of… Poll! This time around the nominees can come from anywhere in the world and represent some of the most buzzed about artists of the past year or so. Blogs have to nominate 5 acts they think will become the next big thing for the upcoming year and a long list of 15 will be posted in December, with the top 5 revealed over the course of the first week of January.

Somehow, Nonstop On Top Pop was not notified of the deadline for submissions so the pop elements in the list for 2015 may be on the low side. But don't worry! The Sound Of Poll is one of the more reliable lists that focuses more on artistry rather than international success and even introduces some talent that I have never heard of but quickly gain an unhealthy obsession with. Starting in 2003, the Poll has been pretty accurate with winners including 50 Cent, Keane, Corinne Bailey Rae, and MIKA! So let's have a look at some of the past years' winners!

2008: Adele

Was This a Correct Decision: YES!

Adele might as well copyright the phrase "world conquerer" because even back in 2007, everyone knew she would be everywhere. From "Chasing Pavements" to "Hometown Glory," Adele constantly strikes at the heart of what makes human relationships special and her reflections can really teach humanity a little something about love. 

Could Another Nominee Have Been A Winner: YES!

There could have been 2 in fact! Inferior soul singer Duffy was tipped as much more talented than our Adele and indeed, she had gained international success much faster than Adele. However, considering there was only 1 good song on her second album before she disappeared, it looks like Duffy was too fluff for the prize. The other winner has done a bit better for themselves: The Ting Tings! One of the most exciting bands of the 2000's, The Tings also managed US success before Adele and songs like "Shut Up And Let Me Go" were great anarchist anthems. This year, their 2nd album has at least 2 great songs so... still beating Duffy!

2009: Little Boots

Was This A Correct Decision: YES!

Probably more than any other popstar, Little Boots was responsible for making me fall in love with music. Her debut album Hands was spectacular from start to finish, "New In Town" was my favorite song in high school, and I trust no one else with making dark disco better than Ms. Boots. She may not have been the earth shattering popstar that the BBC may have wanted but any pop fan of the past five years must own a Little Boots album.

Could Another Nominee Have Been A Winner: DEAR GOD YAAAAAAASSSSSSSS!

The nominees for 2009 were among the best assembled group of popstars ever created. Here's a quick rundown:

 Frankmusik: pop producer to the stars and overall amazing person, first album was amazing, second album was amazing, third album was mostly amazing, fourth album had potential to be amazing. Overall, AMAZING!
VV Brown: the comeback queen of 2013 whose album Samson & Delilah is one of the most artistic and immense sounding collections of the decade.
Florence & The Machine: The second best redhead in pop and Lungs was so innovative Steve Jobs should have asked her for some tips on Apple products.
Empire Of The Sun: Australian duo making disco guitar music and Elton John is a big fan. Also, "Walking On A Dream" is brilliant.
Lady Gaga: Gaga came in 6th this year in the poll. That's pretty ridiculous, isn't it?

2010: Ellie Goulding

Was This The Correct Decision: YES!

Oh, how much I adore Ellie Goulding. The voice of an angel with the talent of musicians that don't seem to pop up anymore. Ellie embodies the purest form of a popstar, a muse for producers that is never afraid to take on a challenge. Most importantly, her signature vox makes you recognize her before anything else. If popstars in America were half as good as Goulding, maybe the world would take us a little more seriously.

Could Another Nominee Have Been A Winner: Just One

Though this year included some almost-good artists like Hurts, Everything Everything, and Two Door Cinema Club (actually, they were pretty good), there was only one other true competitor to Ellie: Marina & The Diamonds. Marina represented another standard for what a popstar should be: an avant-garde sound, a strong sensibility of what melodies make pop music great, and a charismatic person that can charm anyone into liking her music. If Marina had won, it would have been well-deserved but Ellie had "Starry Eyed" at the time, so that clearly put her that extra bit above the Diamonds. Since winning, the two appear to have album battles with each campaign. I wonder who will win in 2015?

2011: Jessie J

Was This The Correct Decision: By A Longshot

The critics and blogs in 2010 must've gone through an indie phase because there was not a lot of promise for the Sound of 2011. This made permanent belter Jessie J seem like gold next a pile of shit. At the time, Jessie provided a nice mix of true popstar persona with the vocal chops of legends like Adele and Leona Lewis. And honestly, her first album was pretty great in a "I have no idea what I'm doing but it sounds catchy enough" kind of way. Oh well, if she can pop out one catchy song a year that would be nice.

Could Another Nominee Have Been A Winner: NO!

The other nominees included indietronica artists (James Blake, Jai Paul), nearly tolerable indie-pop bands (The Naked and Famous, Anna Calvi), and rock bands (one of whom was appropriately named Yuck). The only other nominee to do rather well in 2011 was Nero, whose rise was basically caused by everybody wanting dub step. But can their talent stand the test time? I guess we'll see in 2015.

2012: Michael Kiwanuka

Was This The Correct Decision: Absolutely Not!

One of the best things about the Sound of… Poll is that it judges more on artistry and creativity rather than just the dollar bills the singer would make for labels. HOWEVER, Michael Kiwanuka's brand of folk-soul was not what we needed in 2012.

Could Another Nominee Have Been A Winner: YES x5

While the obvious choice for a winner would have been Frank Ocean (and he was lovely at the time) or Skrillex (not so much), the more unknown artists really had it this time around. Here they are in the order of how satisfied I would be if they won:

5. Ren Harvieu: Somehow Ren made an album that has guitars, violins, and a male choir that perfectly wraps up soul, country, and jazz with a nice little pop bow. Still a classic to this day.
4. Stooshe: There's nothing better than a girl band. That's a pop fact. Luckily, Stooshe were a girl band that cursed and joked like teenagers! If they had won, their album would have been better than it actually was but "Fuck Me" and "Slip" are still amazing.
3. Niki & The Dove: There's nothing better than Scandinavian pop sung by a female. That's a pop fact. Luckily, Niki & The Dove were a duo made of a male producer and a singer, so basically Swedish La Roux! Bringing some Robyn realness to 2012 would have been lovely and "DJ, Ease My Mind" may have been the best video of that year.
2. Lianne La Havas: It's hard to describe why I love Lianne other than her voice should be in the dictionary next to "gorgeous." The beauty in her artistry lies in the simplicity behind a lot of her songs. "No Room For Doubt" speaks volumes with just two guitars and two singers. And winning the poll might have made her the international superstar she deserves to be.
1. Azealia Banks: COME ON! "212" was nearly the best song of 2011 and if Broke With Expensive Taste was released in 2012, it probably would have been album of the year. Maybe getting third in the poll was what caused those anger management issues? Shame on you, BBC!

2013: HAIM

Was This The Correct Decision: In A Sense, Yes

Haim brought that retro, cool, California rock sense to a pop world that needed a little shaking up. Were they popular? Yes. Was their music good? They officially had the 11th best album of 2013, so yes. Could you call them popstars? Maybe not, but you wouldn't call Paris Hilton one until you hear "Stars Are Blind." So overall, congrats girls!

Could Another Nominee Have Been A Winner: A 50% Yes

This year was split into bands vs. popstars. While Palma Violets, Savages, Kodaline, and Peace had their charms, we are still in an age when people need to learn when guitars are good. Tom Odell and The Weeknd probably would have made the most money but artistry wasn't exactly on the top of their priorities for their albums. This brings us to proper popstar territory. Arlissa was pretty much unknown but her unique voice really could have taken her somewhere. Angel Haze could have made a really powerful rap album if people weren't such assholes to female emcees. CHVRCHES made a wonderful electro album last year but nobody really noticed, even though "The Mother We Share" was amazing.  A*M*E still has the potential to make one of the best pop albums of the decades and "City Lights" can be listened to on repeat without getting bored for at least 14 hours. And Alunageorge, oh god, how much I adore Alunageorge! Just listen to the above song and think about how amazing the world would be if this was number one in at least 50 countries?

2014: Sam Smith

Was This The Correct Decision: Ugh, I Suppose

I may be the only person alive who hasn't jumped on the Sam Smith cryathon but his dance music was much more interesting. Sorry! However, he has been the biggest name in music of the past year so I suppose he WAS the Sound of 2014. Maybe make a disco album next Mr. Smith? I know some people who would help make it pretty great!

Could Another Nominee Have Been A Winner: Yes x5

Once again, there were 5 pretty good alternatives to Sam Smith that would have probably made 2014 more interesting and less depressing. Chance The Rapper and FKA twigs may have been fan favorites but neither really captured the excitement that these 5 captured. They do receive honorable mentions for making something different and not making me cry.

5. Banks: Jillian Banks pretty much put avant-garde R&B on the map and her siren-like voice made for the perfect background for anyone's nightly escapades. And in 2014, Banks even put a pop twist on her signature sound, making Goddess even more amazing than anticipated!
4. MNEK: One of the greatest writers in pop history is MNEK. Responsible for some of the best songs of the century, MNEK has been a pop superstar in the making for quite some time. So far, he has a 50% success rate for making killer music solo but hopefully his debut album brings all of the amazingness he pulls out of the hat for The Saturdays and Florrie.
3. Ella Eyre: Ella has a number one under her belt and her mix of R&B and pop is probably the catchiest form of anyone else in the industry at the moment. Also, "Comeback" is likely to be in the top 10 songs of 2014. So yeah, she might have deserved to win.
2. Chlöe Howl: NSOTPop favorite and overall funny, young up and comer that could take over pop if someone would just help her release her album!
1. Say Lou Lou: The best twins in music and their debut album Lucid Dreaming is already the best of 2015, even if it has just the songs they have released so far.

So there you have it. The BBC Poll is one of my favorites and stay tuned for my coverage of the 2015 list and who will likely be THE SOUND OF 2015 based on NSOTP criteria*

*This pretty much means make amazing pop music

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