16 things you need to know about the Sound of 2018 longlist
The Sound of 2018 longlist is here! It's a who's who of exciting, innovative new musical talent ready to take the world by storm.
16 acts make up this year's Sound Of, all stemming from different corners of the globe and different sides of the musical spectrum. There's excitable indie, strung out country, buzzing Afrobeat, wide eyed Scandipop and bubblegum psych. Pretty much everything, really. But what do this year's Sound Of acts have in common? We've done some digging.
Without further ado, here are 16 things you need to know about this year's longlist.
The Sound of 2018 Top 5 will be revealed on BBC Radio 1 from Monday 8th January 2018.
1. This year’s Sound Of longlist is ridiculously young
Put it this way: only one of the Sound of 2018 longlist would feature in The X Factor’s over 25’s category. That honour belongs to singer-songwriter Tom Walker, who turns 26 on December 17.
And in LA pop prodigy Billie Eilish, we have the youngest ever Sound Of act, at just 15 years old (she turns 16 in December).
In fact, this year’s Sound Of is so young, some of the acts even point it out in their stage names. We’re looking at you, Yxng Bane.
2. We have a language first
Brooklyn-based producer Yaeji is the first Sound Of act to sing in Korean. Her style is more of a whisper, where English and Korean phrases enjoy a quiet back and forth over subtle, sweltering house tracks. Early songs, like the smoothed-out 'Drink I'm Sippin' On', were written during her morning commute - she wrote and produced tracks while holding up a day job. That's a much more productive way to start the day than scrolling through Instagram.
She’s almost the first Sound Of act to sing in their native language, but Swedish duo Say Lou Lou pipped her to the prize in 2014.
3. Eight-pieces are in
No grand assemblage is too big for the Sound of 2018. Especially when it comes to Superorganism.
The jet-setting group met via different corners of the globe. Founding members Emily and Harry discovered 17-year-old singer Orono after playing a show in Japan with their previous band. They stayed in touch, sending Orono a demo of a new track while she was studying in Maine, America. Things went crazy when the group put out debut track 'Something For Your M.I.N.D.' in early 2016, and they've since moved into an east London home-slash-studio together. They’re eight members strong, making them the biggest group to ever feature in the Sound Of.
And if you think you can only spot seven musicians in the band photo, that's because it was taken while one member, backing singer Seoul, was still living in Sydney.
4. Manchester is buzzing
This year, three Manchester acts make the cut, and they’re all from completely different musical worlds. The unorthodox, heady RnB of IAMDDB, the goth-pop charm of Pale Waves and the soul-searching songwriting of Glasgow-born, Manchester-residing artist Tom Walker are nothing alike, but they all proudly fly the flag for their city of choice.
5. Not to mention the rest of the UK
No Sound Of comes complete without a showcase of London talent. This year we have the introspective pop of Nilüfer Yanya, the bubbling dancehall of Yxng Bane and Not3s, plus multi-faceted force Superorganism.
But there’s also a diverse bunch of non-London acts to get excited about. Lewis Capaldi hails from Whitburn; Rex Orange County grew up in the small commuter town of Halsemere, Surrey; Sam Fender is Newcastle and proud; while Jade Bird was born in Hexham, Northumberland and spent her teens travelling around the UK with her family.
6. It’s a huge year for dancehall and Afrobeat
If there’s one genre making a big breakthrough in the Sound of 2018, it’s Afrobeat.
That’s the generally accepted name for the vibrant, street-soundtracking strand of dancehall currently taking over the airwaves. Sound of 2016 longlister J Hus is credited with helping innovate the sound, making a breakthrough in 2015 with his 'Dem Boy Paigon' track before cracking the top 10 and earning a Mercury Prize nomination this year with debut album Common Sense.
This year, Not3s and Yxng Bane follow close in his footsteps, and both have their sights firmly set on chart stardom. Yxng Bane's 'Rihanna' track is a glowing ode to the genre-bending pop star, while Not3s made huge waves with his 'Addison Lee' track in 2017.
7. Scandi-pop is better than ever
And it’s all thanks to Sigrid, the pop sensation hailing from Ålesund, Norway. She’s the first Scandinavian act to feature in the Sound Of since Sweden’s Say Lou Lou in 2014 (although 2016 act Mabel was raised in Stockholm).
Slightly outside of Scandinavia, the brilliant Alma – raised in Finland and once a consestant of her home country's version of Pop Idol - adds more Nordic magic to 2018’s list.
8. Loads of the acts have been supported by BBC Music Introducing
BBC Music Introducing is dedicated to supporting new acts from the ground up, so it’s no surprise to see plenty of Introducing-backed names making this year’s Sound Of.
Over half of this year’s longlist have flown into the Introducing radar, as explored here. Jade Bird first uploaded her smart take on Americana all the way back in 2013, and Pale Waves first found support on BBC Music Introducing in Stoke before finding a home on The 1975's label Dirty Hit.
9. One act has worked with Kendrick Lamar
Khalid has uncredited vocals on ‘The Heart Part IV’, a taster track preceding Kendrick’s 2017, hugely acclaimed album DAMN. "I can't believe that my voice is on a Kendrick song. This is insane," he tweeted back in March.
That’s not his only accolade so far: he’s toured the world with Lorde, and he’s nominated for five Grammys in 2018, including Best New Artist. Not too shabby. Khalid is pretty much a part of the big league already.
10. Family matters
A quick glimpse down the Sound of 2018 family tree, it seems plenty of this year’s acts cite parents as key to their musical stardom. Khalid might make rich RnB in the vein of Frank Ocean, but he says his biggest influence is his mother. Until recently, Nilufer Yanya was still living with her folks in west London.
And Sigrid essentially grew up with an entire family of music teachers. Her dad helped teach guitar, her grandmother gave piano lessons, her sister gave what she calls “low-key singing lessons”, and she first started writing music professionally when her brother needed a new song for one of his shows.
11. Plenty of acts are self-taught
Not everyone can boast Sigrid’s super-musical family, but many of Sound of 2018’s longlist taught themselves to play. Nilufer Yanya studied music in a Pimlico, West London secondary school, but only casually, and her unconventional style stems from being mostly self-taught.
Similarly, Tom Walker taught himself how to play drums, guitar, bass and piano, before enrolling at London College Of Contemporary Music to study songwriting. Yaeji did it all herself, learning everything she needed to know about production without any outside influence.
12. Rex Orange County is in huge demand
You might have heard Rex Orange County before without even realising. During 2017’s Mercury Prize ceremony, the 19-year-old could be seen playing guitar for Skepta for a performance of ‘Man’, on stage alongside a parked sports car. Casual.
Before that, he appeared twice on the excellent latest album from Tyler, the Creator. Rex was approached by Tyler on Twitter, and jet-setted off to LA to record with the former Odd Future ringleader - and this was before anyone had heard his own solo material.
13. Unsigned acts are still going strong
BBC Sound of 2017 poll-topper Ray BLK was the first ever unsigned winner. Could history repeat itself?
In 2018, we have two unsigned acts: Manchester newcomer IAMDDB is going it alone as an independent, and Nilufer Yanya has only release a handful of songs via singles label Blue Flowers Music, and she’s yet to sign a deal for her debut album. In a world where some of the biggest acts are independent - Chance the Rapper, Stormzy and JME to name a few - don't be surprised to see more unsigned Sound Of winners in the future.
14. One act has the approval of a Sound of 2017 shortlister
15. Country music is back in vogue
Country rarely features in Sound Of - despite genre veterans like Shania Twain being more popular than ever - but it makes an appearance in 2018.
Jade Bird’s British spin on Americana makes her a captivating listen, and in a longlist that has just about everything, she still manages to stand out.
Could 2018 be the year country comes out on top?
16. 16 is the magic number
This is the 16th ever Sound Of, and out of pure coincidence, the first time we have 16 acts on the longlist. A grand total of 173 tastemakers had their say on tips for the future, but the love was shared between so many acts, the traditional 15-strong longlist became 16.