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Sound of 2020

Sound of 2020 Shortlist

1st Celeste

• 25-year-old Celeste Waite has already been tipped for big things, winning both the Brits’ Rising Star Award and the BBC Music Introducing artist of the year.

• Born in Los Angeles but raised in Brighton, she grew up listening to jazz and soul greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Otis Redding, Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin.

• She wrote her first song, Sirens, at the age of 17, in tribute to her Jamaican father, who had died of lung cancer a year earlier; and Lily Allen released her first EP, Milk & Honey on her Bank Holiday Record label.

• Now signed to Polydor, Celeste has been praised for her “timeless” songs and emotional, storied lyrics. She says her goal is simply to “be able to make music for a long time, and music that actually matters to people.”

“You don’t expect that it’s you that it happens to” BBC Music Sound Of 2020 Winner Celeste

Celeste talks about her hometown Brighton, her influences, and duet with Paul Weller.

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

I think this may have been at a singing competition on one of those classic “English summertime” holidays, maybe Haven or Camber Sands, haha! Either way I was prepared, I put on my sparkliest one shoulder top and sang my 9 year old heart out to the tune of Shirley Bassey’s “Big Spender”.
Me and my band, whom I love so much, after playing our first show together in February 2019 at the Lexington for BBC Introducing and it was also the first time I ever performed “Strange”.
Going on Jools Holland a moment I will never forget, I remember feeling very nervous when I arrived, but was soon put at ease by all of the wonderful people around me.
Falling onto the sofa of London nightclub Laylow after a month long residency, this was after my last show of many, a moment of ecstasy and relief that everything had gone to plan.

2nd Easy Life

• Leicester’s Easy Life are hard to pin down but easy to love, with their headily optimistic blend of (deep breath) hip-hop, jazz, indie, pop, afro-beat, slow groove, ambient house, psychedelic electronica and witty, incisive lyrics.

• The quintet formed “on a whim” in a pub two years ago, after spending several years scattered around other bands in the city.

• Frontman Murray Matravers was raised on his parents’ farm, and spent his formative years tending to chickens and picking potatoes.

• His lyrics discuss everything from insomnia (“Nightmares”) and money problems (“Pockets”) to love gone awry (“Frank”).

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"We all feel very connected to where we come from" Easy Life on their hometown and touring

Easy Life open the doors to their studio and the farm where frontman Murray grew up.

Easy Life's journey to the Sound Of 2020 Shortlist in their own words and pictures...

Cass age 3 at home in the house he grew up in starting his very own band in his playroom.
Age 12, on parade for Remembrance Sunday, Lewis learnt how to play the drums in a marching band before going on to pick up a guitar.
A sold out UK tour in October 2019, we had to get a picture at Rock City in Nottingham, it just felt right.

3rd Yungblud

• Hyperactive, outspoken and boldly vulnerable, Yungblud is challenging the definition of what it means to be a rock star.

• Born Dominic Harrison, the 22-year-old isn’t afraid to sing about gun control (“Machine Gun”) and self-hatred (“Original Me”); over a collision of hip-hop beats, jetstream guitars and unassailable pop melodies.

• He often takes to the stage in a dress, telling the NME: “Boxes are for cereal. Labels are for clothes. We are human and the need for division is becoming less relevant every day.”

• The singer’s fans call themselves The Black Hearts Club, based upon two heart-shaped tattoos on his middle fingers (one complete and one broken).

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Yungblud speaks to BBC Music about his fans, success, and what Yorkshire means to him...

"I was alone going hello is there anybody out there" Yungblud on finding his place

Yungblud speaks to BBC Music about his fans, success, and what Yorkshire means to him.

4th Joy Crookes

• The first record Joy Crookes remembers owning was The Clash's London Calling – and the band’s musical inquisitiveness and celebration of London’s diversity remain touchstones for her own music.

• Born in London to a Bangladeshi mother and an Irish father, she was exposed to a huge range of music as she was driven to her weekly Irish dancing lessons. “My dad wanted to give me a real education. From Nick Cave to King Tubby to all this Pakistani music,” she says. “He’d say, ‘This is from your ends of the world, you should hear this.’”

• After teaching herself piano, bass and guitar, she started writing her own music in her teens, inspired by the "mad honest" lyricism of Amy Winehouse and Lauryn Hill.

• Her honey-dipped vocals and relatable lyrics have soundtracked several viral videos, from the cover of Hit The Road Jack that got her a management deal, to a stripped-down BBC performance of Don’t Let Me Down that became one of the most-talked about TV moments from this year’s Glastonbury Festival.

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Joy Crookes performed at Radio 1's Big Weekend back in 2019...

Joy Crookes - Hurts

Joy Crookes performs Hurts at Radio 1's Big Weekend 2019

5th Inhaler

• Inhaler were formed by school friends Elijah Hewson, Robert Keating, Ryan McMahon and Josh Jenkinson, who bonded over their love of bands like Joy Division, The Strokes, The Stone Roses and The Cure.

• If you notice something familiar about Eli’s soaring, searching vocals, that’s probably because his dad, Paul, is better known as U2 frontman Bono.

• “For me and for us as a band, we’ve known that there’s going to be doors open,” he told the NME about his family connections. “But those doors will shut just as fast as they open if we’re not good.”

• But rather than trade on his dad’s name, Inhaler have grafted hard, playing tiny pubs and clubs and building up a loyal following for the scrappy post-punk melodies of My Honest Face and Ice Cream Sundae.

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Inhaler's journey to the Sound of 2020 Shortlist in their own words and pictures...

This photo was taken on the day of Josh’s first gig and the start of Inhaler. We looked even more clueless on stage than we do in the photo.
Polaroid from our first headline show in the upstairs part of Whelan’s in Dublin on the 8th of September 2018. That was one of the first times we saw a few faces in the crowd other than our friends and that excited us a lot.
Since we were starting out it’s always been Inhaler’s dream to go to America. In November 2019, we got to join our friends Blossoms for some shows around the US. It was as surreal as you’d imagine and we still haven’t gotten over it.

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.

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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'

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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.”

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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.

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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

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