Entertainment & Arts

Rag N Bone Man wins Brits Critics’ Choice Award 2017

Rag N Bone Man with his Brits trophy Image copyright John Marshall
Image caption The singer wins a trophy designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid

Blues singer Rag N Bone Man has won the Brits Critics' Choice Award, singling him out as one to watch in 2017.

The musician, real name Rory Graham, beat two other newcomers, Anne-Marie and Dua Lipa, to the prize.

His victory comes a week after he entered the charts for the first time with his touching soul ballad Human.

"I thought they had made a mistake," said the singer. "I was up against two pop giants. I'm crazy happy. Proper massive grin."

One of the surest indicators of success in the music industry, the Critics' Choice award has previously been won by Adele, Sam Smith and Emeli Sande.

Since it was established in 2008, all but one winner has scored a platinum disc for their debut album.

The exception is last year's winner, Jack Garratt, whose first record Phase is currently certified silver, representing 60,000 albums sold.

Rag N Bone Man hails from Uckfield, near Brighton, and started his musical career as an jungle MC before his parents encouraged him to sing.

Inspired by bluesmen like John Lee Hooker, he combines rootsy, soulful melodies with hip-hop beats and the occasional nod to gospel.

In 2012, he supported one of his musical heroes, Joan Armatrading, after his girlfriend sent promoters some of his early recordings - including videos of him singing on the toilet.

"I didn't know anything about it," he told his local newspaper The Argus. "But I'm pretty glad she did send them in.

"I made some of my early recordings while sitting on the toilet... They seemed to like it though."

The musician chose his stage name after watching episodes of vintage sitcom Steptoe and Son, reckoning that Rag N Bone Man sounded like a classic blues singer in the mould of Muddy Waters or Howlin' Wolf.

His current single Human was a major hit in Europe before reaching the UK - it has spent 10 weeks at number one in Germany.

It was propelled into the UK's top 40 last week after being covered by X Factor contestant Emily Middlemas.

The singer's debut album is due to be released in February and he is also nominated for the BBC's Sound of 2017. He recently announced a headline tour for April, culminating in two shows at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire.

Previous Critics' Choice winners

  • 2008 - Adele
  • 2009 - Florence + The Machine
  • 2010 - Ellie Goulding
  • 2011 - Jessie J
  • 2012 - Emeli Sande
  • 2013 - Tom Odell
  • 2014 - Sam Smith
  • 2015 - James Bay
  • 2016 - Jack Garratt

The recipient of the Critics' Choice award is chosen by a team of experts - including music journalists and music programmers at major TV and radio stations - and more than 100 artists were considered for this year's shortlist.

Rag N Bone Man will perform on the Brit Awards launch show live on ITV on 14 January. The main ceremony will be held on 24 February at the O2 Arena in London.

Singer Michael Buble is due to host - but it is unclear whether he will be able to fulfil the role after his son was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.

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