The U.K. has produced some of the biggest male pop stars of recent years—Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Calvin Harris, Mark Ronson, Hozier, just to name a few. Singer/songwriter wunderkind George Ezra looks poised to follow suit with his gritty mix of folk and rock. The former Fuse Favorite earned a remarkable five nominations this year: British Breakthrough Act, British Album, British Male Solo Artist, British Single and the coveted Critics' Choice Award. Even more remarkable: The dude is only 21.
Whether you recognize Jess Glynne by name or not, you'll know her soulful vocals. The 25-year-old Londoner has scored three nominations at this year's BRITs thanks to hits she's been featured on: Clean Bandit's "Rather Be," a GRAMMY-winning hit that went to No. 1 in the U.K., and Route 94's "My Love," which also topped the British charts. With a burgeoning solo career, she's the BRIT-approved diva to watch.
The drum 'n' bass duo owe a lot of their success to Kanye West. Cameron Edwards and Joe Lenzie reworked Kanye's "Bound 2" into "Nobody to Love," an EDM jam that kept all the best parts of the Yeezus single (i.e. the "uh huh, honey" sample) and shot straight to No. 1 in the U.K. The duo earned another chart-winner with the also-excellent follow-up, "Changing," featuring Paloma Faith. "Nobody to Love" is up for British Single and British Video.
Paloma Faith wows as much with her visuals as she does with her voice. The soulful chanteuse's combination of funk, jazz, rock and pop has won her critical accolades (including a nod for Best British Female at this year's BRITs, her third nomination overall), a fan in Pharrell (who produced her 2014 single "Can't Rely on You"), and millions of YouTube views with her music videos boasting eccentric outfits, popping colors and unexpected storylines.
Duke Dumont is on the brink of EDM superstar status. With two No. 1s in his native U.K., the DJ has yet to make a major impact stateside even though he's earned GRAMMY nominations both this and last year for "Need U (100%)" and "I Got U." His records recall '90s house anthems by C+C Music Factory. His excellent live shows incorporate a similar feel-good attitude, and his videos always come with a quirky video. Just check out "Won't Look Back" (his latest single that hit No. 2 in the U.K. last September) above and look out for another GRAMMY nod come 2016. "I Got U" is up for British Single and British video at the 2015 BRITs.
British rock duo Royal Blood are making waves on both sides of the pond with their blend of garage and blues rock. Bassist/singer Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher have earned a No. 1 album in U.K. with their self-titled debut while singles "Out of the Black" and "Figure It Out" both charted in the Top 3 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Songs chart. They scored three nods at the 2015 BRIT Awards for British Album, British Group and British Breakthrough Act.
Perhaps the artist to keep your eye most closely on is the rookie singer-songwriter-guitarist who's already won the 2015 BRIT Awards' Critics' Choice Award, which is announced ahead of the show. James Bay joins an extremely impressive list of past recipients that includes Adele, Sam Smith, Emeli Sandé, Ellie Goulding and Florence + The Machine. A listen to "Hold Back the River," his breakthrough single in England, will help you figure it out—that unmistakable, raspy delivery effortlessly jumps from soft coos to impassioned belting. Is James Bay the next crossover sensation? His debut album, Chaos and the Calm, drops next month.
The BRIT Awards take place Wednesday, Feb. 25 at London's O2 Arena. Catch the show exclusively on Fuse at 11:30/10:30c, right after the Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce Season 3 premiere at 11/10c!
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