Royal Blood, a “power duo” from Brighton, are the last hope for rock music, according to the BBC’s Sound of 2014 list, which tips soulful singer-songwriters and purveyors of electronica-tinged R&B as the new artists to watch next year.
Endorsed by Arctic Monkeys, Royal Blood, a guitar and drums two-piece who have prompted comparisons to The White Stripes, are the only “rock” contenders among the 15 artists which have made the longlist, voted for by music bloggers, broadcasters and other “ taste makers”.
The winner, announced in January after a daily countdown, will follow Adele, Jessie J and Ellie Goulding, whose early careers received a boost after topping the influential poll.
However the Sound of…list, one of many published before Christmas, has been criticised for favouring a select group of artists aggressively pushed by the music industry.
An article in The Independent last week predicted that Disclosure collaborator Sam Smith, Brit school graduate Ella Eyre and Royal Blood would appear prominently in next year’s “ones to watch” lists. All three subsequently appeared in MTV’s Brand New list and the BBC survey.
Bastille, one of this year’s biggest pop breakthroughs, were widely ignored by list compilers.
The Sound of 2014 is heavily skewed towards solo artists performing “on trend” electronica-based music. Sampha from South London has collaborated with Jessie Ware whilst MNEK, a Lewisham singer has produced tracks for dance act Rudimental.
FKA twigs, the performing name of Tahliah Barnett, 25, hailing from Gloucestershire, has been described as a cross between Portishead, The XX and Janet Jackson.
Luke Sital-Singh, a confessional London singer-songwriter described as the “British Bon Iver” and George Ezra, a Bristol singer who has attracted support from Radio 1 breakfast DJ Nick Grimshaw, fly the flag for acoustic performers, still in vogue following the success of Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard.
Singer-songwriter Nick Mulvey was formerly part of the Mercury-nominated jazz band, Portico Quartet and has toured with Laura Marling.
The BBC poll is also open to international acts – US sisters Haim topped the list in 2013. The 2014 tips include Chance The Rapper, and the LA-based R&B singers Kelela and BANKS.
A prominent place in the final list is vital for the record companies seeking to launch the artists’ careers, since it should guarantee high-profile support from Radio 1 and the BBC’s other music outlets. The front cover of i-D magazine, one of the taste-making publications polled, is more important than NME in the list, which increasingly favours visually-striking, fashion-conscious artists.
Nick Grimshaw said: “I can't wait to introduce everybody to the Sound of 2014. Get excited to hear some brand new music on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show.”
Listen to the artists tipped for success on the BBC's Sound of Music 2014 longlist: