Entertainment & Arts

BBC Sound Of... hits and misses

The five rising stars at the top of the BBC Sound Of 2012 new music list are revealed next week. This is the 10th time the annual list of hotly-tipped new acts has been published.

The acts on the list are determined by a panel of tastemakers - made up of music critics, editors, broadcasters and bloggers - who name their favourite new artists. Of the prospects tipped over the last nine years, which have fulfilled their potential and which have fallen flat?



When Adele came top of the BBC Sound Of 2008 list, she was an unknown 19-year-old who could sit in the pub without raising an eyebrow.

Today, she is one of the biggest pop stars in the world - an elegant chanteuse whose piercing voice and timeless soul have led to huge commercial success without sacrificing artistic credibility.

Her second album 21, which came out this January, has sold 12.5 million copies around the world, been number one in 24 countries and was the biggest-selling album of 2011 in the United States.

Expect her to sweep the board at the Brit Awards and the Grammys this spring.

She pipped Duffy to the top spot on the Sound of 2008 list, and the pair's first albums were both big hits in the UK. But in 2011, Adele has gone to the next level while Duffy struggled to live up to her early success.

Dizzee Rascal

The British rap star came fifth on the first list, Sound Of 2003, six months before his debut album Boy In Da Corner was released.

It went on to win the Mercury Prize later that year and marked a breakthrough for British grime and hip-hop, blazing a trail for artists like Tinie Tempah, Tinchy Stryder and Wretch 32.

But he did not really make it into the big time until his fourth studio album Tongue N' Cheek, released in 2009, on which he embraced pop and electro in a big way, scoring four number one singles.

Plan B

When Plan B came fourth on the Sound Of 2006 list, he was a hardened rapper writing songs about drugs, crime, murder and rape.

"Yeah, I'm being very blunt and I'm using bad language but I'm just trying to portray something that's real that happens in everyday life," he said at the time.

The resulting album Who Needs Actions When You Got Words reached number 30 in the UK. But then he mellowed and reinvented himself as a soul singer, using his lyrical prowess on the follow-up album The Defamation of Strickland Banks.

A concept album about a soul singer who is sent to prison, it was the fifth biggest-selling album of 2010.

Florence and the Machine

Florence and the Machine came third on the Sound Of 2009 list and her debut album Lungs was in the UK chart for 109 weeks, ending up among the 10 best-selling albums of 2010.

Lungs won the Brit Award for best British album, she was nominated for the best new artist Grammy and a song was covered on Glee.

She won the Brit Awards' Critics' Choice - which replicated the Sound Of... concept - while the Sound Of 2009 list was topped by Little Boots.

Jessie J

Last year's winner Jessie J is out-and-out pop, and her debut album Who You Are has become the best-selling debut album by a UK artist.

She has had four UK top 10 singles, including Price Tag, which was one of the year's biggest hits.

She was forced to perform many gigs in 2011 sitting on a bespoke throne after breaking her foot, which required a bone transplant and forced her to pull out of a tour with Katy Perry in the US.

Next year she will be a coach and a mentor on the BBC talent show The Voice.

Other artists to have appeared in the top fives of Sound Of... lists over the years include Keane, Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, Corinne Bailey Rae, 50 Cent, Joss Stone, Mika, Klaxons, Ellie Goulding, La Roux and The Vaccines.


The Bravery

New York synth-rock contenders The Bravery came top of the Sound Of 2005 list, surfing the buzz of a fantastic single (An Honest Mistake), a hip image and a huge marketing push from record label Universal.

An Honest Mistake reached number seven in the UK chart and the debut album went to number five, but listeners soon decided the rest of the album did not live up to the early promise, a backlash began and they were swiftly usurped by arch rivals The Killers.

"When all that hype starts, a lot of people are going to say 'you're going to be the biggest band since The Beatles'," said singer Sam Endicott a year later. "And then a lot of people are going to say 'you're the worst band ever."

Neither of their subsequent two albums was released in the UK. They had a track on the Twilight Eclipse soundtrack last year and Endicott has embarked on a songwriting sideline, co-composing the hit She Wolf for Shakira and Christina Aguilera's Monday Morning.

The band are still going and are negotiating a new record contract after their Universal deal ended. In the meantime, bassist Michael Hindert has started his own record label, guitarist Michael Zakarin is studying for an MBA and keyboard player John Conway has become the spokesman for his family's wine business.

Sadie Ama

R&B singer Sadie Ama, who came fourth on the Sound Of 2007 list, is the only artist to have appeared in a Sound Of... top five but not released an album.

The little sister of Brit Award-winner Shola Ama, she was signed to the Ministry of Sound label and released one single, Fallin', which reached number 68 in February 2007.

She declined to discuss what happened next, as did the label and contacts who worked there with her at the time.

She popped up on a single Woman's World with fellow singers Selah, Mz Bratt and Duchess, and was attached to grime godfather Wiley's planned record label last year - but nothing more has emerged. Yet.

Clare Maguire

Big-voiced singer-songwriter Clare Maguire came fifth in last year's list and won the Next Big Thing prize at the Q Magazine Awards last October.

She emerged after being rumoured to have signed one of the largest record deals for a new act in recent years, snapped up by Polydor, home to Take That, Cheryl Cole and The Saturdays.

The label then paired her with one illustrious (and expensive) songwriting partner after another, working for three years to hone her sound.

Her debut album Light After Dark entered the UK albums chart at number seven in February, but dropped out of the top 40 two weeks later. Just one single reached the chart, with The Last Dance spending two weeks in the top 30.

She is now working on her second album.

The Twang

Birmingham five-piece The Twang had a cocky frontman, anthemic choruses, feet on the ground and head in the clouds. They came second behind Mika in Sound of 2007 and won the Phillip Hall Radar Award for best new band at the 2007 NME Awards.

They were likened to the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses, but said they were more influenced by Oasis and The Streets. Their debut album Love It When I Feel Like This reached number three in 2007, while the single Either Way went top 10.

And yet a backlash soon followed, perhaps another case of the music not quite living up to the hype, coupled with the fact that it was easy to dismiss them for being derivative at a time when the tide was turning against "landfill indie".

Their second album reached number 20 in 2009 and was their last for Polydor. The group still have a loyal and enthusiastic fanbase who are hungry for rousing, heart-on-sleeve guitar music. A third album is planned for next year.

Little Boots

It feels a bit cruel to brand Little Boots as a "miss". After topping the Sound Of 2009 list, the Kylie-meets-Saint Etienne starlet sold 200,000 albums and her biggest hit Remedy spent a month in the top 10.

Yet it could have been better. The "tastemakers" took to her after hearing a string of fantastically infectious cosmic disco tunes led by the standout Stuck On Repeat.

But when she was launched upon the wider world, she was pitched by her record label Atlantic as a teen-friendly pop idol rather than as the electro dance queen she is, with the more simplistic New In Town picked as the first full single, accompanied by an expensive but ill-conceived video.

The follow-up Remedy was better received and was her biggest hit. However the third single Earthquake missed the top 40. Her second album will be out in 2012.

"Sound of 2009 opened a lot of doors for me and some amazing opportunities that I was really really grateful for," she said 12 months after winning. "But it did put a huge amount of expectation on the album."

As well as those that have appeared on the list, lots of great and huge acts have not - like Tinie Tempah, The Arctic Monkeys, The Arcade Fire...

So what does this all mean?

Musicians do not have to be on the list to become popular, and those on the list will not necessarily make it big. And besides, commercial success is not the be all and end all.

The list is compiled by asking those with their fingers on the pulse to name their favourite new acts - not to name those with the most hype or the biggest marketing budgets.

But many will be riding on the buzz from a couple of great tracks and maybe a bit of promotional muscle. Some will end up finding adoration within a limited scene rather than global stardom, while others will be generally judged to be not that amazing after all.

The real test comes when the artists unleash their finished and fully-formed creations. Then people make up their own minds. The list becomes irrelevant and it becomes all about the music.

The full lists from previous years are:


  1. 50 Cent
  2. Electric Six
  3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  4. The Thrills
  5. Dizzee Rascal
  6. Interpol
  7. Audio Bullys
  8. Mario
  9. The Datsuns
  10. Sean Paul


  1. Keane
  2. Franz Ferdinand
  3. Wiley
  4. Razorlight
  5. Joss Stone
  6. McFly
  7. The Scissor Sisters
  8. The Ordinary Boys
  9. Tali
  10. Gemma Fox


  1. The Bravery
  2. Bloc Party
  3. Kano
  4. The Game
  5. Kaiser Chiefs
  6. KT Tunstall
  7. The Dead 60s
  8. The Dears
  9. Tom Vek
  10. The Magic Numbers


  1. Corinne Bailey Rae
  2. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
  3. The Feeling
  4. Plan B
  5. Guillemots
  6. Sway
  7. Chris Brown
  8. Marcos Hernandez
  9. Kubb
  10. The Automatic


  1. Mika
  2. The Twang
  3. Klaxons
  4. Sadie Ama
  5. Enter Shikari
  6. Air Traffic
  7. Cold War Kids
  8. Just Jack
  9. Ghosts
  10. The Rumble Strips


  1. Adele
  2. Duffy
  3. The Ting Tings
  4. Glasvegas
  5. Foals
  6. Vampire Weekend
  7. Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong
  8. Black Kids
  9. MGMT
  10. Santogold


  1. Little Boots
  2. White Lies
  3. Florence and the Machine
  4. Empire of the Sun
  5. La Roux
  6. Lady GaGa
  7. VV Brown
  8. Kid Cudi
  9. Passion Pit
  10. Dan Black


  1. Ellie Goulding
  2. Marina and the Diamonds
  3. Delphic
  4. Hurts
  5. The Drums

Also on the longlist:

  • Daisy Dares You
  • Devlin
  • Everything Everything
  • Giggs
  • Gold Panda
  • Joy Orbison
  • Owl City
  • Rox
  • Stornoway
  • Two Door Cinema Club


  1. Jessie J
  2. James Blake
  3. The Vaccines
  4. Jamie Woon
  5. Clare Maguire

Also on the longlist:

  • Anna Calvi
  • Daley
  • Esben & the Witch
  • Jai Paul
  • Mona
  • The Naked & Famous
  • Nero
  • Warpaint
  • Wretch 32
  • Yuck

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