- Words by Mr Dan Cairns
A word of advice to anyone - fan, pundit, self-appointed expert, insider, observer - minded to stake their reputations on predicting the pop newcomers who will break through in the course of the coming year (or next year; in fact, any year). Don't. The temptation to view a heavily hyped artist or band as a safe bet, a sure thing, can be irresistible, of course. I mean, look at the evidence. The world, his wife and the blogging lodger line up to shortlist the most-likely-to wannabes whose songs - or, more plausibly, marketing teams - are making the numbers and winning the right friends, and whose genre (retro-house, alt-R & B, blue-eyed soul, call it what you will) is causing a stir. Yet such predictions ignore the innate whimsicality of the music marketplace, never mind the tendency among major record labels to sign copycat, pale-imitation versions of the latest craze.
A new artist can have every component present and correct for a breakthrough - killer single, hit-maker producer, cover-friendly image, social-media presence, support from radio playlisters and TV programmers - and still the vital component will be missing. The one called luck. Which you can't rely on, plan for or predict. It's that slippery. Sure, you can want, will, your favourite band to succeed. If there is any justice in the world, you think, band X or singer Y will own the charts this year. That's fine - because wanting an artist you love to reach a wider audience is natural, if the music they make enraptures you. Indeed, loving an artist is, still, the only thing that matters. Whether they do or don't hit the jackpot is, however, impossible to predict. That's not in our hands. What is is our love for what they do, a love based not on their likely commercial prospects, but on the fact that the music they make overwhelms us.
Here are six new artists that are overwhelming me at the moment. Almost without exception, they operate within the genre of experimental electronic soul, arguably the most exciting and vibrant in music right now, its melding of the lushness of Quincy Jones' work with Michael Jackson, the neosoul of Maxwell et al in the 1990s, the spare alt-R & B as pioneered by the likes of Drake, Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, and the crepuscular, after-hours neosoul of Jessie Ware and Kelela, producing a thrilling hybrid that is beyond easy categorisation. Will they make it? I genuinely haven't a clue (it's up to luck; not me, not you). Should they? Well, if there's any justice in the world...