Ah, the Brits Critics’ Choice: the award where every critic votes for who they think everyone else will be voting for and who is most likely to be successful next year which is almost guaranteed seeing as every critic who voted for them, and even those who didn’t, will then write about them in order that the critics don’t look stupid for having backed the wrong horse. Essentially, it’s the self-fulfilling prophecy Brit Award.
To be fair, since its inception in 2008, it’s done a pretty good job of picking artists who’ve gone on to enjoy long and acclaimed careers, with the full list of winners reading: Adele; Florence and the Machine; Ellie Goulding; Jessie J (hey, she’s still big in China); Emeli Sande; Tom Odell; Sam Smith; James Bay; Jack Garratt; Rag’n’Bone Man and Jorja Smith. It does tend toward the middle-of-the-road, but then middle-of-the-road is what the majority of the British Public actually enjoy isn’t it?
So, without further ado, these are the three nominees this year.
Lewis Capaldi will end up winning this, because he’s already amassed way more streams than the other two, has a ‘big voice’ (ie. is a good singer and isn’t good-looking), sounds a bit like James Arthur, Hozier, James Bay, Rag’n’Bone Man and Paolo Nutini and is already being hammered on Radio 1; in fact, he was already long-listed on the BBC Sound of 2018 list, which is an indication that acts are taking longer than ever to break through into the mainstream. He’s 22-years-old, is from Glasgow, is signed to Virgin Records and his breakout moment (before this) was his self-released track ‘Bruises’, which was the first-ever unsigned track to reach 25 million streams.
Key track: current single ‘Grace’, in which he sounds very much like he’s shouting at you throughout but which does have a good video
24-year-old Geordie Sam Fender was also longlisted for the BBC Sound of 2018 and has had a quietly effective year, gradually building up streams and radio plays while hitting the road. Signed to Polydor, he writes indie anthems that grapple with ‘social consciousness and political awareness’. There’s shades of The National, the Twilight Sad and even early U2 and late Kings of Leon in there, which is all very pleasing.
Key track: The haunting ‘Dead Boys’ is a song about male suicide, “particularly in my hometown,” Fender told NME. “I lost some friends very close to me because of that. This song came from that place, and I have been playing it to other people ever since. It’s raised a conversation and I realised how much of a present issue it is. Everybody that I spoke to from all different parts of the country have all got a connection to someone they’ve lost.” It’s a very, very good song.
Leicester born, Birmingham-based 19-year-old singer/songwriter Mahalia Burkmar has been signed to Asylum - home of Ed Sheeran and Rudimental - since the age of 13. She’s actually toured and collaborated with Sheeran, but her sound is much more towards classic R&B - she’s cited Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu as influences and if she turns out half as good as either of them then we’re in for a treat. Feels like it’s still a little early for her to break through into the mainstream but a nomination will give her a nice shot of exposure.
Key track: ‘Sober’ is a gorgeous slice of laidback soul to lie back in like a nice warm bubble bath