On 6 January 2017, R&B vocalist Ray BLK was announced as the BBC’s Sound of 2017 – and given that there’s a whole host of ‘Introducing’ and ‘Critics’ Choice’ awards inundating the Brit Awards and its counterparts, this may seem quite uninteresting. But Ray BLK and runners-up Rag ‘n’ Bone Man and Raye could be in for a huge year, if past winners and runners-up are anything to go by.
Given that Sam Smith’s ‘The Writing’s on the Wall’ took home an Oscar for Best Original Song, this year’s winner Ray BLK could be in for a bit of success
Previous recipients include Adele, Sam Smith, Years & Years and Ellie Goulding, and a few people have heard of them, haven’t they? Given that Adele’s 25 sold 20 million copies and Sam Smith’s ‘The Writing’s on the Wall’ took home an Oscar for Best Original Song, this year’s winner Ray BLK could be in for a bit of success. She’s the first ever unsigned artist to top the poll, but it’s safe to say that it was well-deserved. Despite having grown up singing with a particularly strict choirmaster, there’s a distinct sense of originality to Ray BLK’s sound. Most notable is her scratchy-beautiful vocal tone, showcased to stunning effect on ‘My Hood’ – an absolute must-listen.
But that’s not to say that Ray BLK will be the only one from this year’s Sound Of list to find success. Florence + the Machine, Frank Ocean and even Lady Gaga all failed to snatch the title in their respective years on the list. Although, Michael Gove had left the BBC by the time Gaga appeared at a measly sixth place on the poll in 2009, so unfortunately I can’t blame him for that oversight. First runner-up Rag ‘n’ Bone Man has already attained huge success with his Gold-certified, worldwide smash ‘Human’, and his upcoming album of the same name is already a top-selling iTunes pre-order. His patented brand of anthemic, gritty soul showcased on his debut single continues on his recent release ‘Skin’, and it’s not one to be missed.
Florence + the Machine, Frank Ocean and even Lady Gaga all failed to snatch the title in their respective years on the list
Third-place finisher Raye has become rather ubiquitous in recent months, as the featured singer on floor-fillers ‘By Your Side’ and more recently ‘You Don’t Know Me’ by Jax Jones. After a 2016 in which Rihanna took a distinctly more urban direction with her eighth album Anti, Raye’s similarly R&B-tinged vocals are showcased in immensely satisfying fashion on powerful pop melodies. After all, somebody’s got to give the world their ‘Umbrella’s and ‘We Found Love’s.
It might seem lazy and obvious to compare Raye to Rihanna, but it only serves to demonstrate her potentially world-dominating potential. Her recent appearance in the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge was slightly shaky, but how many pop superstars are truly incredible singers? Raye has already got a hit single lined up and ready to go with ‘I, U, Us’, so watch out for Raye in 2017. Rag ‘n’ Bone Man and Ray BLK both spoke to The Guardian recently about the intense pressure placed on artists on these lists of recommendations, but I’m confident we’ll be seeing a lot more of them this year.