The BRIT Awards are the crowning night in British music, with the British Phonographic Industry naming the year's best albums, songs and artists. Many of those artists—David Bowie, Arctic Monkeys, Ellie Goulding, Disclosure—are well known to American audiences, though many more are not.
But it's a mistake to ignore them: BRIT Award breakouts from previous years—Adele, One Direction and more—eventually dominated America, so we should be paying attention. Here are singers and producers you should get familiar with ahead of this year's show.
Fuse has the exclusive U.S. television broadcast of The BRIT Awards 2014, which air on Wednesday, February 19 at 8:45/7:45C.
Four-member production unit Rudimental ruled British dance and pop in 2013, though their ascent began in late 2012 with the UK No. 1 hit “Feel the Love.” They were an unstoppable train from that point forward, ruling radio and festival stages with drum-and-bass skyscrapers like “Waiting All Night,” and conquering clubs with soulful house tunes like “Spoons” and “Baby.”
Sam Smith rose to fame alongside Disclosure, singing on their instant classic “Latch.” He hit UK No. 1 later in 2013 on Naughty Boy’s “La La La” and is now pushing “Money on My Mind,” the new single off his forthcoming debut album In the Lonely Hour. It has not yet been officially released in the UK, but if Taylor Swift’s endorsement means anything, it will be a smash, too.
Birdy, a 17-year-old folkie, broke out in 2011 with a cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” that was a chart smash all across Europe. She followed that up with her debut self-titled album, which featured covers of songs by indie superstars like Phoenix, The xx, and Fleet Foxes. But “Wings,” the lead single off her all-original 2013 album Fire Within, established her as more than a gimmick. She worked with pop kingmakers like Sia and Ariel Rechtshaid on that album, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if she eventually worked her way up the American pop charts.
Jake Bugg was yet another teen sensation, winning one for Golden Age Brits who think the best songs are written on guitars with his acoustic-and-garage self-titled debut. With last year’s Shangri La, produced by Rick Rubin and named after his California estate, Bugg’s popularity actually dipped in Britain, but he scored his first American radio hit with the scuffed up “What Doesn’t Kill You.”
Singer-songwriter Laura Marling has been around longer than most on this list, but her popularity in America has been a slow climb. That said, the the 24-year-old’s fourth album Once I Was an Eagle debuted in the Top 50 over here, her best number by a wide margin. She has kept up a steady pace of a new album within 24 months, so she may be able to keep her momentum on this side of the Atlantic rolling.
Young trio London Grammar reimagine The xx as fronted solely by a powerful female vocalist with a fussier rhythm section. That combination that led to a strong debut album and a Top 20 hit in England. American listeners, though, might recognize the name from Disclosure’s debut album Settle, in which London Grammar vocalist Hannah Reid assumes a starring role on the sighing closer “Help Me Lose My Mind.”
Laura Mvula sung in a number of vocal groups—including family ones—before her dropping her debut album last year in her late twenties. Though she sings like a classic soul vocalist, Mvula's Sing to the Moon shows a heavy jazz influence, along with flecks of junkyard percussion.
John Newman scored three UK No. 1s in 2013: One for his debut album Tribute, another for its lead single “Love Me Again” and a third as the vocalist on Rudimental’s “Feel the Love.” Newman is a dramatic, showy vocalist, and though his Big Band skronk isn’t quite tailored toward American audiences, he may hit our shores if he continues to work with dance-oriented producers.
Tom Odell’s 2012 EP Songs From Another Love helped him win the Critics’ Choice Award at the 2012 BRIT Awards, and his piano-heavy first full-length Long Way Down debuted at UK No. 1 in June. With bands like OneRepublic and the Fray still scoring hits on American radio, Odell might soon one have one of his own.
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