At last, after a lot of deliberation by our international panel of music experts, here are the finalists for the Next Big Thing 2007:
Listen to these top five and all nominations for the longlist
Choosing the finalists
Here's what the panellists had to say about their favourites:
Maya McCallum embodied in her voice and vibe a lot of what I've always loved about the music of France, but the instruments used in the arrangement were beautifully unusual, the rhythm is magnetic, and there is a lovely dark and sexy vibe through the whole song.
The Noam Faingold Orchestra blew me away! The strings are gorgeous, the lyrics and arrangement are wonderful, and I absolutely love how dramatic the choruses are. I also love how many turns and twists this quirky, delightful song takes.
My third choice is Vrelo, and again, I was totally amazed by this song. The combination of tribal-sounding voices with that dark, insistent rhythm and metal guitar-work is nothing short of stunning. The electronic production is slick, and a lot of power comes across on this commanding piece of music."
Caspar Llewellyn Smith
Maya McCallum also impressed: managing to create a dark, noir blend of triphop but without the usual cliché of sampling old records and bolting on beats. Instead the song weaves itself around a hypnotic and compelling clarinet part, while McCallum's own breathy vocals gently flirt then drag you into the song's night-time world.
Finally The Noam Faingold Orchestra stood out. Sharing a world view with the likes of (I suspect) Wes Anderson and Arcade Fire, the song's kooky classical arrangements were impressive because they never out-muscled the simple vocals, creating a delicate yet compelling balance between innovation and soul.
J Cee, Fangu and Instiga deserve honourable mentions, too.
Think large orchestras, musicals, Rufus Wainwright, Queen, Antony & The Johnsons, and you almost have Jeremie Johnson's sound. This is a theatrical performance and I would love to seem him perform it live.
Yunasi deliver a catchy track, fast, danceable with strong vocals. One of the band members, a French woman, plays accordion which may sound odd on paper but actually compliments the East African instruments very well.
Though Axis's references are clear (Blur/Radiohead), their song-writing is very strong as is their playing and their bold performance lifts. This song way above the average indie fare.
Jeremie Johnson is ace! Camp, sentimental, yet sincere, managing to reference Justin Timberlake as well as Queen. This is pop music with ideas way above its station.
Maya McCallum comes in second place for me. It's dramatic, unpredictable. I didn't have time to get my French dictionary out, but the arrangement and production are excellent. It's eclectic and theatrical.
In third Jeremie Johnson - the chap singing falsetto is excellent - the only problem being the slightly too-clean production. If Dr Dre actually produced this it would be very cool.
I listened to the 20 tracks all day. I set my alarm at 4am when the world was asleep to listen to these fabulous songs again and again.
I came up with these three original and well-interpreted songs. I have found them very easy to listen to. I trust my ear and I hope it wouldn't lie to me this time.
I believe these guys deserve to be among the finalists: Yunasi, King Tut and Hraun.
Nina de Man
Sherieta Lewis - Yes man! Love that old school reggae. This reminds of steele pulse, top quality and well executed. Miss Lewis's voice is very reassuring atop the steady rockers' style, I'm glad to hear that not everything you hear from Jamaica is about slackness, there is nuff deeper than that!
Jeremie Johnston - Fantastic use of orchestral sounds, I didn't know it was heading down the R&B route but when it happened it made sense. Even though the orchestra was synthetic it still had the desired effect to bring the overall vibe to a high level
Sherieta Lewis demonstrates songwriting talents that should be nurtured. She has a great voice. The production and arrangement of the track is sufficient enough to demonstrate that she should be considered.
Hraun brings a unique approach and demonstrates talent through their esoteric style. Although this is not a commercial type artist, this track interests me enough to want to find out more.
Maya McCallum - Humide is probably the most original song on the long list and she performs it with an almost embarrassing intimacy backed by great instrumentalists. It sounds like the finished article - quirky, confident and new.
Psy'aviah - The vocals are dark and compelling and this song draws you in against your will. The poetry is stronger than the music, but the combination of lyrics, performance and insistent beats bring it off.
Hraun combine beautiful vocals with a very haunting and emotional quality, reminiscent of Sigur Ros and Damien Rice.
Psy'aviah are bold, brash and provocative - great production.
Jamaica's Sherita Lewis has combed a reggae beat and chopping guitar style with modern R&B and a dash of '70s soul to great effect. She has an excellent voice filled with conviction, although she needs to write a real pop gem to do it justice. It's promising, but not quite there yet.
I've never come across French accordion combined with East African rhythms until hearing Uganda' s Yunasi and their song has a compelling groove and a catchy refrain reminiscent (though distinct from) Manu Dibango's Afro-pop classic Soul Makossa.
DJ Youdai Zhang
Shortcut Therapy has a cool modern electric sound, cutting edge.
Vrelo is mixed up with many flavours: folk, rock, metal, electronic which makes their sound unique.
King Tut - fresh, dark and crazy, these guys are going their own way, they have no rules in creating musical lines and arrangement. It seems to me that they play not for popularity, promotion and the rest of such stuff, but only to express their inner world. May be I'm wrong, anyway, I like it!
Fungu - I'm sure they can be really big! They are full of creative energy, the main riff is excellent; there is no way to get it out of mind. (Besides I like their sense of style and Zeynep's voice.)
Axis - It is really hard to choose the third one, at least four of the candidates are practically equal for me, but I finally chose Axis. They are young, they evidently listen to great English Indie-rock bands, such as Radiohead, and they can write catchy songs themselves. It seems to me that they are the potential hit-makers. I'd like to listen to more tracks from the band to prove it.
Maya McCallum - Sweet decay of the French joie de vivre, very theatrical and somewhat decadent, yet full of passion.
Fungu - Sheer energy, powerful voice, river of hormones (and she doesn't care). Mesmerising.
Hraun - I can sense the atmosphere of Iceland, I imagine they are more talented than this song, and I wanted to hear more.
Axis - a solid track, well performed, it portrayed a sense of theme and space.
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