Sound of 2021
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”.
Meet Pa Salieu on BBC iPlayer
Pa Salieu's journey to the Sound Of 2020 Shortlist in his own words and pictures...
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.
Watch Holly Humberstone's performance on BBC iPlayer
Holly Humberstone's journey to the Sound Of 2020 Shortlist in her own words and pictures...
Supporting Lewis Capaldi
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”.
Find out more
Watch BERWYN's performance on BBC iPlayer
BERWYN's journey to the Sound Of 2020 Shortlist in his own words and pictures...
Childhood in Trinidad
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 meGreentea 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”.
Watch Greentea Peng's performance on BBC iPlayer
Greentea Peng's journey to the Sound Of 2021 Shortlist in her own words and pictures...
Jam On Rye
Spice Up Your Life
Supporting Neneh Cherry
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 homeworkGriff
- 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.
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Watch Griff's performance on BBC iPlayer
Griff's journey to the Sound of 2021 Shortlist in her own words and pictures...
Black Lives Matter
Dream Come True
Live from the Tate Modern
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.
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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.”
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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.
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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.
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.