BBC SOUND OF 2013 – High hopes or safe bets?

BBC Sound of 2013 long list: High hopes or safe bets?

The BBC has announced the long list of candidates for their Sound of 2013 top tips list. After the shocker of a list they came up with for 2012 (full review here) I better give it the once over and save everyone else the effort..
2013 is just on the horizon and a whole new year of pop music is within thrusting distance.  Lady Gaga will unleash her new 50-track, life-coaching, pompously-titled ARTPOP (I still have to shout it), hopefully just focussing on decent tunes this time rather than all the nonsense of leaking the lyrics, releasing 5 singles at once on iTunes, preaching the good word about our lord and saviour and rapping about cake; After releasing three pretty decent singles, Little Boots may finally get around to finishing her second album,  rather than messing around with DJ sets for crowds who don’t care and Marina will probably attempt to release How To Be A Heartbreaker again before 679 tell her they’ve run out of money/ she’s too ugly/ people stopped paying attention in June.  
However! Aside from all that, a new crop of ‘artists’ will be rocking up with fresh and exciting debut albums (before the inevitable label pressure and sophomore burnout). The burnout is a year away, at least, so we’ll focus on who made it onto the Sound Of long list this year. When the BBC names their tips for the year, they always include an embedded first single or a ‘buzz single’, so that’s what we’ll judge them on.  It’s not unfair: if you want people to buy your book, give it a decent cover. [EDIT: The buzz single nonsense isn’t working out this year, as the BBC is instead pimping live sessions. Screw that]
So we have, in alphabetical order:

A*M*E

Summary: Fled Africa and came to UK as a child, broke free from the choir, signed by Gary Barlow. Likes horses.
Decent artist name?: Her name is Amy, she stylises it as A*M*E. Not very clever.
Popstar image? She wears a hat with horses sticking out the side of it, of course she looks like a popstar.
Buzz single: Ride or Die
Video budget?: £300. A lot of green screen going on but the numerous horses make it worth watching.
Is the song any good?: It has Nadia Oh style moombahton sirens, but they are not used to good effect or with the same enviable, robotic, deadpan expression.  
Worth getting excited about?: Potentially. A good amount of horses but needs more hooks. She’ll probably make the top 5.
One for… Maybe Heart if she distils the pop a bit more.

ALUNAGEORGE

Summary: She sings, he does the electronic music. See La Roux, or 10,000x better, Goldfrapp. One  of three nominees for the Brit Critics’ Choice award.
Decent artist name?: She is called Aluna, he is called George. It’s as half-arsed as you can get.
Popstar image?: Not  an unattractive pair, a fair amount of serious face, but if you saw them in the street you would think they were going out for a fancy meal at Prezzo rather than going on Top Of The Pops.
Buzz single: The song on the Sound Of site was a Live Lounge set and I’m only here for studio recordings, so the first one that pops up on Youtube is called Your Drums, Your Love.
Video budget: £100. Filmed in what looks like a fancy art gallery with several slow dancers but it’s not exactly fireworks and lasers.
Is the song any good?: Not really. It’s forgettable and it not a future wedding disco staple.
Worth getting excited about?: Only if you get excited about having a salad. Might make the top 5 depending on how dull the others are.
One for… Midday Radio 1

ANGEL HAZE

Summary: She’s a rapper, she raps about a troubled past.
Decent artist name?: Sounds like a stripper.  
Popstar image: Unlikely to have a circus themed world tour.
Buzz single: New York
Video budget: £0. There doesn’t seem to be one on the official youtube account.  
Is the song any good?: Of course not. Hand claps with rapping over it. A chorus of ‘I run New York’. As for songs about New York go, it won’t have you crooning ‘START SPREADIN’ THE NEWS’ and it ranks way behind Paloma Faith and Alicia Keys/Jay Z.
Worth getting excited about?:  Angel Haze will not make the top 5 and will surely not have any hits.
One for... 1 Xtra

ARLISSA

Summary: The girls they call her London, cause she is based in London.
Decent artist name?: There have been several famous female singers who go by their Christian name, so it’s a safer bet than calling yourself too wacky.
Popstar image: Attractive female with nice hair and good legs. Like a pop version of Sugar from teen lesbo-drama Sugar Rush.
Buzz single: Hard to Love Somebody Ft. Nas
Video budget: Probably had some money thrown at it due to the rapper feature.
Is the song any good?: She sings well but there’s too much rap. If you look for other songs elsewhere, such as Sticks and Stones, she sounds a bit more like early Marina. She sings well live and she’s quite enchanting.
Worth getting excited about?: I’m getting excited, but I always do get excited about curly hair in pop.
One for... Radio 1 and Radio 2.

CHVRCHES

Summary: Scottish, a good start. Electronic, an even better start. Male and female vocalists, everything is looking good.
Decent artist name?: No. I suppose you would pronounce it ‘Churches’ rather than trying to squeeze out a chain of 6 consonants. As well as the unnecessary V, it’s written all in CAPSLOCK, which is also a pain. WE ARE CHVRCHES OR CHURCHES! LOOK AT US WE’RE NEW!
Popstar image: They have beards and T-shirts , well the men at least, but not everyone has to be a Freddie Mercury or Debbie Harry.
Buzz single: The BBC are making it hard this year, pimping out their own live performances of each artist so you don’t know which one is THE buzz single.  I’ve plumped for The Mother We Share.
Video budget: I’m not even sure if that’s an official video. It has a baby walking around in a forest. I hope we don’t have another one of these bands who are camera shy. What’s the point in that?
Is the song any good? It is actually rather nice, good mashing of keyboard keys, the girl’s vocals are better than those of the gentleman which feature on another song I listened to. This is worth more than one play though.
 Worth getting excited about?: Surely worthy of a top 5 placing. I think CHVRCHES will most likely be favoured among the cool kids but never quite scaling the top of the charts.
One for… Radio 1
 

HAIM

Summary: Three sisters in a rock band.  They apparently used to play with their mum and dad in a band, which is not desirable.
Decent artist name?: It’s their surname. How lazy are this lot getting?
Popstar image?: They look like Hansen fronted by Avril Lavigne.
Buzz single: Don’t Save Me
Video budget: The amount it costs to rent out a basketball court. Basically they’re playing basketball a lot.
Is the song any good? Not particularly aggressive female-fronted soft rock.  Probably one for fans of Florence’s less pop moments.
 Worth getting excited about?:  Does anyone get excited about girl rock bands?
One for… Absolute Radio

KING KRULE

Summary: Guitars and a teenage boy moaning about his quality of life in the city.
Decent artist name?: Absolutely not.  It’s a bit Krusty Krab.
Popstar image?: He’s a ginger teen and wearing a camouflage jacket.  Pop is not kind to ginger men, but he doesn’t seem to be making an effort with image. Certainly no horse hats here.
Buzz Single: Rock Bottom
Video budget: The bus fare to the sea front.
Is the song any good?:  “I’ve hit rock bo’om” . Summing up his placement on the list.
Worth getting excited about?: i wouldn’t even be excited if he were my brother.
One for... Absolute Radio, if anyone.

KODALINE

Summary: Warning, Irish rock band with a member called Vinny. Abort!
Decent artist name?: Sounds like a blood pressure tablet.
Popstar image?: Shove the good-looking one at the front! Everyone else hide behind him!
Buzz single: All I Want
Video Budget: The cost of facial prosthetics. Quite an engaging video about a man with a non-human face and his struggles with love and office life. Perhaps the best video of the lot.
Is the song any good?: It’s a bit Coldplay, so it’s not really for me.
Worth getting excited about?: Doubtful.
One for... Absolute

LAURA MVULA

Summary: Woman singing slow inoffensive songs. The second of three nominees for the Brit Critics’ Choice award.
Decent artist name?: It’s just her name, which doesn’t exactly scream creativity.
Popstar image?: Buzz cut and wearing a collared shirt and jacket, also holding a flower. Hardly the bloodied pumps and mile-high hair favoured by our dear old Winehouse.
Buzz single: She.
Video budget: £0. It’s a picture of a flower.
Is the song any good?: She sings well enough but if the BPM were any lower I would be in a vegetative state.
Worth getting excited about?: Not one for me.
One for… Radio 2

LITTLE GREEN CARS

Summary: Five-piece mixed gender American folk /rock band.
Decent artist name?: It doesn’t sound very cool.
Popstar image?: Not exactly extroverts.
Buzz single: The John Wayne.
Video budget:  Not huge but they feature in it and there is a range of scenery so that is appreciated. Someone also gets a fistful of cake in their gob.
Is the song any good?: It’s certainly listenable. There are some nice harmonies. It’s a bit Mumford though.
Worth getting excited about?: This isn’t so much one to excite but I think they could sell  a bucket load of records to dads who like to have CDs in the car.
One for… Radio 2 or Absolute.

PALMA VIOLETS

Summary:  Four piece indie (gulp) band who formed at Reading festival, which means they are probably hooligans, but we can’t assume that’s the case. Their song Best of Friends was voted single of the year by NME.
Decent artist name?: If you’re going to name yourself after a sweet, don’t choose the worst one of them all. What’s wrong with Sugar Mice?
Popstar image?: Need I bother?
Buzz single: Best of Friends
Video budget:  Enough to pay for drinks for all the ‘fans’ after the performance.
Is the song any good?: It’s more landfill indie, the singer sounds awful and the drums are so loud that they block out the rest. Dangerous lack of synthesisers.
Worth getting excited about? if you were in a coma between 2005 and 2009
One for... Fearne Cotton

PEACE

Summary: Another band. Indie rock, all wearing sunglasses. That kind of Foals thing.
Decent artist name?: Will cause problems when googling.
Popstar image: Standard indie rock chaps image.
Buzz single: Bloodshake
Video budget: £0. A static image of a watermelon cut into a peace sign. Best static image of the list though.
Is the song any good?: It’s not what I’m looking for. It’s more inoffensive soft indie rock.
Worth getting excited about?: No.
One for… Radio 1

SAVAGES

Summary: Androgynous female (I think) four-piece rock/punk noise.
Decent artist name?: Acceptable. I’d like it if they were bloodthirsty pirates but this is the music scene, not offshore Somalia.
Popstar image?: Again not aiming for the pop market. Gender is anyone’s guess. Haircuts all match.
Buzz single: Husbands
Video budget: No video. A nice hand-drawn picture of a bird preying on a snake though.
Is the song any good?: Not if you’re looking for trousers round your ankles pop. There was some whispering and some shouting and I was glad it finished before someone started screaming.
Worth getting excited about? Not at all.
One for... NME Radio

THE WEEKND

Summary: RnB, electronic fellow who seems to have been bubbling under for a while now.
Decent artist name?: Proving that you don’t need as many E’s as everyone else to have a good time.
Popstar image: Good hair.
Buzz single: I don’t know which is the right one again, so youtube offered me Wicked Games.
Video budget: It looks like it has been filmed by someone who has made a video before! Hooray! But it is all black and white, so not a treat for the eyes.
Is the song any good?:  He has a good voice but he swears more than is necessary.  It’s not an uncomfortable listen.
Worth getting excited about?: He has got the potential to deliver something above par.
One for... Radio 1

TOM ODELL

Summary: Guy singing folky songs with ‘confessional lyrics’. The last of three nominees for the Brit Critics’ Choice award.
Decent artist name?: Just simply his name and it’s no ‘Simon Le Bon’.
Popstar image?: Not one for the red carpet.
Buzz Single: Another Love
Video Budget: £5. He sits in a chair for a while and a woman tries to interact with him.  Sometimes the camera zooms out, sometimes it zooms in. A real rollercoaster.
Is the song any good?: It gets better as it goes along and the pace picks up a little bit. It’s a nice enough song but it is unlikely to achieve worldwide success.
Worth getting excited about?: Maybe he’ll front the John Lewis Christmas campaign next year.
One for… Radio 2 through and through.
So popwise, and we are really only looking for pop here, this is a pretty dull list. You’ve got your usual emotional, introverted singer-songwriters, your loud rock bands who sink without a trace, electronic duos, token rapper and record label high hopes. As for the Brits Critics’ Choice Award, I could not care less. Why does it always have to be someone so boring and inoffensive? I’d suggest Tom will be the first man to take it.
Who would I put in my top 5 though? If we’re going on who interests me most it would be:
1. CHVRCHES – That electro pop sound I love
2. Arlissa – If her label gets some good songs out of her, I have high hopes
3.  The Weeknd – The best out of the ‘emotional’ ones.  Could be good if he perks up a bit and washes his mouth out.
4.  A*M*E – If she gets some more catchy hooks into her songs, she has the image and attitude to carry herself rather far. HORSES.
5. Little Green Cars – I’m toying between LGC and AlunaGeorge for 5th plays. I expect it’ll be the latter, although I’d prefer the former, but I think we can expect Laura and Tom to creep in there to take the edge off things.
 
I expect I’ll be way off and these things are never predictable, but you can certainly see who will be nowhere near the top. I would happily place money on it, if I had some, but I’d rather give them all a slap around the ear with a slipper and tell them to cheer up a bit. I want to dance like it’s 2013 and that’s not going to happen if you keep reminding me how we’ve all hit rock bottom. After Psy’s introductory effort with all the horse nonsense, A*M*E is making sure 2013 will once and for all be the year of the horse. Which Chinese year is it for 2013? I bet it’s the year of the horse!

Nay. It’s snake.  

But fear not, 2014 is our year! Start making preparations now! You’d be a foal to miss out.

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