When it came to deciding who we wanted to work with for the glorious return of ShortList’s live gig series – for which we’ve teamed up again with Lynx – we asked ourselves a few key questions. Who’s doing innovative things at the moment? Who matters? Who looks like they’d be quite good fun howling along to while pressed up against a total stranger? With all that in mind, we’re excited to announce the four acts taking part over the next couple of months: grime trailblazer JME, a man totally committed to doing things his own way; Slaves, the gobby punk lads responsible for this year’s angriest record; dance duo Sigma, quietly dominating the electronic music market in 2016; and Tom Odell, the man most likely to make you weep forlornly into your pint (in a good way). We wanted to hone in on what makes each artist an exciting prospect right now, so we asked some of their biggest fans why they’re such a big deal ahead of their gigs over the next couple of months. See you at the front.
SBTV founder Jamal Edwards, MBE, on the grime artist’s ambition, independence and hustle
JME is a true beacon of individualism. When you’re releasing music and you’re a grime artist, you don’t need to be signed to a major – you do it on your own. That’s happening in 2016, but in respect to JME, he’s been independent since God knows when. He’s always flown that flag. When other people talk about him, from the fans through to other artists, they always say: “Yeah, he’s a man. He keeps it true to himself.”
For that reason, he’s content. When I talk to him, his outlook is: “I’ve got my wife, my car, my house – I’m content. If you like me, you like me; if you don’t, you don’t.” One time when we were in Holland Park on a Pokémon hype and some guys came up to us asking for a picture. JME said to them: “Man’s not a jpeg, init? You got my tune on your phone?” The guy didn’t have any of JME’s tracks, so he walked off. It was so awkward, but it’s real. You hear it in his tunes, but I’ve seen it first-hand – he backs what he says. That’s the whole individuality of him as a character, there’s no bullsh*t. And that’s why he is where he is today.
And JME’s presence on stage is electric. He’s got this magnetic energy, jumping on stage like ‘Boy Better Know, serious’ – getting the crowd hype, hype, hype. Yet he’s got this way of spitting quite complex things in a real simple way. It’s so exciting.
And he knows how to tap into the aspirations of a generation just by being himself. In 2016, having talent is one thing, but personality is what drives the talent. The way JME connects with his fans is mad: one time he drove to a guy’s house and sold him a PS4 for 5p.
He’s always been at the forefront, whether it’s selling merch or the Boy Better Know Sim cards. He’s a pioneer – always has been. Always will be.
Gig location revealed 29 November at ShortList.com/48Hours
2016’s Crowning Achievement
Conquering the main stage at London’s Wireless Festival this year with the rest of the Boy Better Know crew, pinballing between bangers like Man Don’t Care, Pow! (Forward) and That’s Not Me with the likes of Pharrell, Lethal Bizzle and big bro Skepta. That, and he gave an interview with the official Pokémon company hyping up his relentless pursuit of an ultra-rare, shiny Charizard trading card.
ShortList’s editorial director and magazine veteran Phil Hilton on anger you can believe in
The year was 1980-ish and I was watching punk-rockers The Damned, and this bloke next to me threw up near the singer’s feet. We were all pressed up against the stage and the puke was about a foot from my face. Couldn’t move, I was crushed, inches from his vomit. I remember thinking, “Life will not be this good forever.”
However, a thousand years later at Latitude 2014, I see Slaves for the first time as I’m making my way to the jerk-chicken stand. I’m hearing a fuzzed guitar and some shout-singing, and the singer is playing drums standing up like he has too much energy to sit down. There’s only two of them, and hang on… I stop. F*ck the jerk chicken.
So initially I stopped because they reminded me of the days when people made short, exciting songs and I wore black jeans my mum had taken in for me, and every gig was the most intense thing in my crappy teen existence.
But I was wrong. I stopped for the wrong reason. Slaves aren’t punk-rock battle-recreationists, they’re made of now. They’re angry but not that fake, blank, art-school anger that many Seventies punks tried on. Theirs is the anger of the call-centre generation, who can’t buy houses and fiddle with social media, despite themselves. The thrill of punk but not punk.
I’ve seen bands do their hair and pull on the narrow, black jeans of rock. But none of them, not one, have made me feel like I have puke near my face. Thank you, Slaves.
Gig location revealed 18 October at ShortList.com/48Hours
2016’s Crowning Achievement
Recruiting Beastie Boy Mike D to kindly produce their outrageously aggressive new album Take Control, supply a guest rap on it and then take the p*ss out of him for it, with frontman Isaac Holman barking on People That You Meet: “He used to be a Beastie Boy, but now he works for me."
Radio 1’s Danny Howard on Sigma’s domination of dance music
The way Sigma have brought their music through the underground and merged it with radio-friendly songs makes them a force to be reckoned with.
It feels like a sudden accident, but they’ve been working at it for years on the drum’n’bass scene. It’s testament to the graft they’ve put in that they’re now finally getting the props they deserve.
They’re talented producers, and they’ve created a good entry level for new fans of the genre who may not necessarily be into drum’n’bass. People may like their vibe and then go on to discover what else is out there – legends like Andy C and Goldie. That’s what Sigma have done – they’ve brought great pop records to the table while sticking to their roots.
So many brilliant singers have already collaborated with them – even Take That. It would be great for them to work with a big-name US artist like The Weeknd. But it almost doesn’t matter who the vocalist is, because they’re such great producers and songwriters – they understand how to write a massive song, so it’s always going to be a good record.
As a duo, Sigma have their own identity and sound. They create great songs matched to great beats; it’s a formula that works over and over again. The result? Headlining stadiums and festivals.
But the key thing to them is their versatility. They can go from playing Radio 1’s Big Weekend in front of Taylor Swift fans, and then play a drum’n’bass night and kill it. It’s a unique position to be in.
And they’re amazing at playing gigs, too. The whole performance is high-energy. It’s like they’re having a party on stage. When you’re in the crowd watching it, you just feel a part of the vibe that they bring. The singers, the MCs – they all get involved, too. Their live show really sets the bar as far as drum’n’bass nights go. So expect a huge party – with great vibes.
Gig location revealed 15 November at ShortList.com/48Hours
2016’s Crowning Achievement
Same as 2015, really. And also 2014. Basically, the duo’s breakout track Nobody To Love being absolutely everywhere this summer – whether it was Sigma playing it on the festival circuit, a crowd-pleasing DJ sticking it in their set or a tinny PA system blaring it out as you queued for a £6 cup of Tuborg. Everywhere.
Brit songwriter and Odell collaborator Jamie Scott on why the crooner’s heartfelt honesty is the real deal
To be a successful singer-songwriter in 2016 requires you to be yourself, because people can see through you otherwise. I was so excited to work with Tom on his upcoming record, because I’d listened to his debut [2013’s Long Way Down] and was taken by the level of honesty his music had. Our time together blew me away; Tom lives and dies by his music, he throws everything into it. He’s a natural.
We wrote a track on his new album together called Silhouette, and the minute he started singing the stuff he’d worked on, the song sounded like a classic; something that will stand the test of time. I’ve worked with a lot of people in the industry at various levels, and you rarely see that knack for making something timeless in someone so young. The way he plays the piano, the melodies, the lyrics – it works.
He’s like an old soul in a young man’s body. He has a way of writing popular melodies that sound classic the minute you hear them, and that’s a complex thing to pull off. You listen to James Taylor play the guitar and you can feel his guitar playing, his style and his mannerisms. Take Billy Joel in the Seventies, or Paul Simon – you hear those guys play, and you know it’s them, it’s unmistakable. That’s what it takes. His natural ability to be himself is astonishing.
You’ve got to have the musical equivalent of what I’d call a musical ‘turn of phrase’, a way with an instrument that you can just hear, and his piano playing is absolutely brilliant. He merges the idea of being an old-fashioned crooner with someone who just has the sensibility of being a modern pop star.
Gig location revealed 1 November at ShortList.com/48Hours
2016’s Crowning Achievement
A memorable set on the Other Stage at Glastonbury just a few weeks after new album, Wrong Crowd, went to number two in the UK album charts. And in the Swiss album charts, for that matter. And – best of all – persuading Kevin Spacey to run up a never-ending staircase for his Here I Am video.