Main content

Sound of 2021

THE SHORTLIST

Meet the 10 artists tipped to take 2021 by storm...

1st - PA SALIEU

For fans of: AJ Tracey, J-Hus, Fredo

Where I come from, we lack compassion. It's going to have to come from me. My message is just build, build, build. Break down or make it out. Protect your energy. Protect everything.
Pa Salieu
  • Born in Slough, Pa Salieu Gaye spent his early years in Gambia, living with his grandparents on his family's farm; before moving back to the UK and settling in Coventry.

  • He started making music at his local youth club (Positive Youth Foundation), and released his debut single Never Had in September 2018.

  • Not afraid to experiment with different sounds and styles, he draws on everything from dancehall and drill, while incorporating the hand-drummed sounds of his Gambian heritage. “I don’t do genres,” he said in one interview, ”I do everything”.

  • In November, he released his debut mixtape Send Them To Coventry, featuring collaborations with M1llionz and Mahalia. The Guardian called it “too fresh and inventive to ignore”, while the NME dubbed him the “UK’s next star”.

BBC News: Pa Salieu wins BBC Sound of 2021: 'I am the voice of the voiceless'

Related Links

Meet Pa Salieu on BBC iPlayer

We've got an exclusive profile of the Sound of 2021 winner, plus his performance from 1Xtra Live 2020

>> Meet Pa Salieu

>> Pa Salieu (feat. Backroad Gee) - My Family

:: More Sound of 2021 on iPlayer

Pa Salieu's journey to the Sound Of 2020 Shortlist in his own words and pictures...

Cover Star

One of the maddest things ever is to walk into a shop and see my face on the cover of a magazine for the first time ever. I don’t think that could ever feel normal!

Video Shoot

From the shoot of my B***K video shoot with the living legend, the artist Abe Odedina. Crazy that he pulled up for the shoot and so happy that he was there for this celebration of black culture.

Coventry Scene

This is me with some of my COV family. So much talent in the ends. Each person on their own journey. These are some of my first ever links ups in music.

2nd - HOLLY HUMBERSTONE

For fans of: Lorde, Bon Iver, Maggie Rogers

That's what I aim for: If it doesn't look like a really dodgy, tattoo-on-the-arm lyric, then it doesn't go on.
Holly Humberstone
  • A former violinist for the Lincolnshire Youth Symphony Orchestra, Holly Humberstone got her big break after uploading the song Hit And Run to BBC Introducing.

  • Since then, she’s toured with Lewis Capaldi and played at Glastonbury, while building up a passionate fanbase for her dark, wonky pop songs.

  • Her intensely personal lyrics all have to pass a quality control test. “They have to be lyrics that someone would get tattooed on their skin for life,” she told one interviewer. “If they're not tattoo lyrics, then they don't make the record.”

  • During lockdown, her older sister filmed the video for her single Overkill on the family’s old VHS Camcorder.

BBC News: Holly Humberstone wants her lyrics to be tattoo-worthy

Related Links

Watch Holly Humberstone's performance on BBC iPlayer

Holly Humberstone performs for BBC Music Introducing LIVE 2020

>> Holly Humberstone - Vanilla

:: More Sound of 2021 on iPlayer

Holly Humberstone's journey to the Sound Of 2020 Shortlist in her own words and pictures...

Cool Parents

My parents have the most amazing music taste, and music would always be playing in the kitchen or in the car, literally all the time. They would listen to anything from Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd to Radiohead, Bon Iver and Damien Rice.

Supporting Lewis Capaldi

These are photos from touring around Europe with Lewis Capaldi in February 2020. Things had escalated rapidly! Off the back of a video of me performing Deep End at the Deaf Institute in Manchester I had been offered to support on the tour.

Glastonbury Debut

This is a photo from Glastonbury Festival 2019. I’d always dreamt about performing at Glastonbury and some how in 2019, before I’d even released a single song, BBC Introducing offered me a slot!

3rd - BERWYN

For fans of: Frank Ocean, George The Poet, Jorja Smith

I'm fortunate to be blessed with the curse of having so many songs. We're sitting on 150 plus...We've just got to make an album out of that.
BERWYN
  • Blessed with a sensitive, soulful voice, Berwyn Du Bois was born in Trinidad and Tobago, but moved to London when he was nine.

  • He was later separated from his parents and forced to fend for himself, often finding himself homeless.

  • Sadness and loss permeate his music – but there’s also a sense of resilience and determination. As he raps on his breakout song Glory: “Sleeping in the car only filled me with drive”.

  • An accomplished multi-instrumentalist, he plays drums, piano, guitar and violin “but I’m not even sure if I play them properly because I taught myself”.

BBC News: Berwyn's breakthrough songs of 'blood, sweat and tears'

Find out more

Watch BERWYN's performance on BBC iPlayer

BERWYN performs live from home for Later... with Jools Holland

>> BERWYN - Glory

:: More Sound of 2021 on iPlayer

BERWYN's journey to the Sound Of 2020 Shortlist in his own words and pictures...

Baby BERWYN

This is a picture of me and my dad when I was a baby, it's the only baby picture of me in existence. I was mad cute, obviously.

First Piano

Photo of me by my first ever piano I ever owned myself, it's taken by the window in my studio. It's mad rare to have a window in your studio so my studio is elite basically.

Childhood in Trinidad

This photo is of me and my grandmother sitting on the porch of the house I grew up in in Trinidad. She's a G I'm a G, we're both G's.

4th GREENTEA PENG

For fans of: Erykah Badu, NAO, Childish Gambino

I moved to Mexico, did lots of soul searching... Watching musicians on the street drumming, dancing and singing. It properly woke something up in me
Greentea Peng
  • Psychedelic soul singer Aria Wells started singing at the age of four, encouraged by her dad, who previously starred as The Artful Dodger in a West End production of Oliver!

  • Her stage name comes from a brand of green tea called Green Tea Seng. “The woman on the packet is really peng [attractive] so I was like oh, ‘Greentea Peng,’” she explains. ”It’s not that deep.”

  • Her tripped-out, spiritually-enriched soul is inspired by her attempts to relax and unwind. “I’ve got a busy brain,” she told The Face. “I’m always thinking about some madness.”

  • But her music took a political turn in 2020, with the release of Revolution, which she called “a product of this pain and also the anger we’ve been struggling to move through”.

BBC News: Greentea Peng claims fourth place

Related Links

Watch Greentea Peng's performance on BBC iPlayer

Greentea Peng performs live for Later... with Jools Holland

>> Greentea Peng - Hu Man

:: More Sound of 2021 on iPlayer

Greentea Peng's journey to the Sound Of 2021 Shortlist in her own words and pictures...

Jam On Rye

This was my first festival I think, Jam On Rye in Peckham with my band the SENG SENG FAMILY! Local tings, love it!

Spice Up Your Life

I was about 5 here, this is from a home video we filmed at my Aunt's house in Oxford. Lots of adults, lots of Spice Girls (my favourites at the time) . I remember Prodigy Fire Starter came on after this and I started to cry. I hated that song as a kid!

Supporting Neneh Cherry

Neneh Cherry and me, supporting her for the second time in Paris. Neneh was my first ever support gig, I love and respect her a lot. An amazing woman to look up to.

5th - GRIFF

For fans of: Billie Eilish, Lorde, Taylor Swift

This whole year feels super, super-surreal ... I still feel like I should be doing my homework
Griff
  • 19 year old Sarah Faith Griffiths isn’t just a singer – she’s a producer, songwriter, stylist, video director and designer (she makes all of her own clothes).

  • She discovered music after hearing Stevie Wonder’s Pastime Paradise at the age of five and learned to sing in her church choir; but she says “the first album I think I really loved out of choice was Taylor Swift’s Fearless”.

  • Like Swift, she writes relatable, personal lyrics – using her songs to diarise the life of a 21st Century “hormonal teenager”.

  • After being nominated for an Ivor Novello Rising Star Award this summer, she was chosen to sing Love Is A Compass – the emotional ballad that soundtracked Disney’s Christmas advert.

BBC News: Bedroom pop star Griff takes fifth place

Find out more

Watch Griff's performance on BBC iPlayer

Griff performs a stripped back Piano Session for Radio 1's Chillest Show

>> Griff - Love Is A Compass

:: More Sound of 2021 on iPlayer

Griff's journey to the Sound of 2021 Shortlist in her own words and pictures...

Black Lives Matter

Me in some old family pics. I’m from a mixed heritage family and grew up in a white suburbia. I spent a lot of my childhood tryna minimise my blackness, when it was never something that should’ve made me feel inferior or less than anyone else. I see that now and I’m proud of who I am. Summer 2006

Dream Come True

Been dressing up and singing Disney songs since day 1. And now I’m singing on the Disney Christmas ad!

Zedd Collaboration

It was so surreal for Zedd to want a new artist like me to sing on this track, and I’m super grateful and excited to be involved in this.

Live from the Tate Modern

Got to play a show at my dream venue. Not in person :-( but we streamed it live for everyone to be there no matter where they were

THE LONGLIST

Alfie Templeman

For fans of: Declan McKenna, Ed Sheeran, David Bowie

• 17-year-old Alfie Templeman started making music by banging pots and pans in his family kitchen in Bedfordshire. After mastering those, he also taught himself bass and guitar.

• As a child, he hated singing and his first original songs were all instrumentals, until his mother encouraged him to take singing lessons. “I can’t thank her enough,” he said. “It’s all down to her that I even sing.”

• Alfie has released four EPs since 2018, and his recent single Forever Isn’t Long Enough was named Annie Mac’s Hottest Record in September.

• The singer has spent most of 2020 shielding, as a childhood lung condition made him vulnerable to Covid-19.

Find out more

Bree Runway

For fans of: Missy Elliot, Rina Sawayama, Kelis

• East London’s Bree Runway has concocted an unlikely, but successful, brew of trap, R&B and hardcore metal on songs like ATM and Little Nokia.

• Born Brenda Wireko Mensah in 1992, she was given early encouragement by Michelle Obama, who heard the then-teenager performing at school and told her: “Just keep singing”.

• Mensah was raised in Hackney’s so-called “Murder Mile” but says the environment gave her “thick skin” and “taught me to have a voice and stand by it”.

• With influences as diverse as Lil Kim, Madonna and Shania Twain, she bristles at being pigeon-holed. “I’m not just a rapper,” she told Gay Times. “Like, that’s completely impossible. I’m literally everything.”

Find Out More

Dutchavelli

For fans of: Stormzy, Headie One, Dave

• The younger brother of rap star Stefflon Don, Dutchavelli was born in Birmingham but raised in the Netherlands – hence his stage name.

• Known for his gruff voice and ominous beats, he released his first song, New Jack City, in 2016.

• His career was put on hold in 2018 after he was arrested on a firearm and robbery charge, but was eventually acquitted when a jury found him not guilty.

• He made up for lost time this year with his mixtape Dutch From The 5th, which reached number eight in the album charts, and a guest slot on Tion Wayne’s I Dunno – which saw him trading bars with Stormzy.

Find out more

Girl In Red

For fans of: Beabadoobee, Florence + The Machine, The 1975

• Norwegian lo-fi artist Marie Ulven scored a viral hit with her first ever song, I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend, in 2017, which has since been played 80 million times on Spotify.

• Born in the quiet North West Norwegian town of Horten in 1999, her early obsessions were The Simpsons and fingerboarding, until she was given a guitar at the age of 12.

• Her stage name was inspired by the first girl who broke her heart – who will forever remain unaware of the tribute. “I haven’t told her and I’ve never said her real name anywhere,” she said.

• Ulven has been called a queer icon, but she hopes her lyrics will one day be unremarkable. “We need queer art to make it normal,” she told the New York Times.

Related Links

The Lathums

For fans of: The Killers, Arctic Monkeys, Blossoms

• Full of youthful vigour and witty lyricism, indie quartet The Lathums are already heroes in their hometown of Wigan.

• Led by singer-songwriter, Alex Moore, the band were formed at music college, and played their first gig at a hen party.

• After finishing a sold-out tour in February, the band were supposed to be gigging with Blossoms and Paul Weller. Instead, they had to settle for a live-streamed gig from the circus ring at Blackpool Tower, surrounded by clowns.

• In July, they topped the vinyl album charts with The Memories We Make – a compilation of all their recordings to date. Since then, they’ve started working on their debut album.

Related Links

Sound of 2020