Variety music editor Andrew Barker trains the spotlight on a few rising talents whose recent accomplishments have already generated buzz among those in the know:
A Universal Music Group signing with a proven track record for penning smash singles (she co-wrote Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” with hitmaker-of-the-moment Dr. Luke), Jessie J is gearing up a solo career push, with her first record, “Who You Are,” due next year. Single “Sexy Silk” appeared on the “Easy A” soundtrack and elicited enough attention to win the spitfire chanteuse a slot on the U.K.’s widely watched “Later With Jools Holland” earlier this month. A video for new single “Like a Dude” has already amassed more than 100,000 YouTube views in less than a week.
The Band Perry
Alabama-bred and signed to Republic Nashville, this familial trio may well rep the hottest tip for country music investors at the moment. The group’s full-length debut climbed the Billboard charts to No. 4 after its release last month, with one of its singles already reaching gold status. Their cred is bolstered by having first been discovered by Garth Brooks’ manager Bob Doyle, and having their record produced by Paul Worley, fresh off his work with similarly structured, multiplatinum-selling trio Lady Antebellum.
Buzz has been building steadily for this London-based duo, which bridges dreamy pop with trance and hip-hop influences. Even though they have yet to cut an album or sign a record contract, a video for their single “Hold On” has been making the rounds of U.K. music sites, and their sophisticated, at times strangely genre-less pop suggests a modern, more downtempo version of the Eurythmics. If La Roux’s eventual conquest of the U.S. market is any indication, these fellow synth-poppers could be ones to watch.
The pop world has seen an ever-increasing number of songwriters step out from behind the scenes to commandeer their own recording careers of late — Lady Gaga, The-Dream, Bruno Mars and Keri Hilson, to name a few — and Jean is hoping to join their ranks. The songwriter scored her first hit penning Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy,” and co-wrote her current single “Just a Guy” with hitmaker collective the Matrix. As always, having high-profile support from Clive Davis shouldn’t hurt her cause.
The hip-hop beatmaker and songwriter is poised to make splashes on two of the biggest new rap releases on the horizon, contributing tracks to the newly omnipresent Nicki Minaj’s debut LP, as well as recently unincarcerated Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter IV,” his anticipated follow-up to “Tha Carter III,” which stands as the biggest-selling rap release of the last five years. Wansel co-wrote and produced Minaj’s breakthrough, “Your Love,” which topped the rap singles charts last June.
Though hardly a young face, multitalent Ross is revealing more and more sides to his. Ross first passed across most industryites’ radars when he teamed with Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor as a producer for the band’s “With Teeth,” followed by several other projects, but it’s as a film composer that he’s making the biggest waves. Nominated for the Discovery of the Year honor at last month’s World Soundtrack Awards in Ghent, Ross turned heads with his score for “The Book of Eli,” and his collaborative soundtrack to David Fincher’s “The Social Network” (composed with Reznor) is even garnering Oscar buzz.
Composed of Pete Wentz, songwriter and bassist for now defunct pop-punk band Fall Out Boy, and a coterie of fellow emo castaways, Black Cards is an electro- and reggae-oriented project with an unnamed album due next year. (Fall Out Boy, of course, became one of the most successful rock bands of the late 2000s, with Wentz the group’s most visible member.) Fellow emo heartthrob Ben Gibbard also broke through to a then-untapped alt-dance market with his Postal Service side project, a fact that will likely not be far from Wentz’s mind as the group hits the U.K. on its first tour this month.
The hip-hop mix-tape scene hasn’t exactly become the surefire launchpad to success that many predicted several years ago; for every Drake or B.o.B. who successfully parlays free downloads into a major label career, there are just as many Wales or Jay Electronicas who disappear into the ether. Highly blogged-about L.A. native Blu could go either way — his recent output has been sporadic, and his 2011 Warner Bros. debut, “NoYork!” still has no release date. But if anyone can translate the burgeoning SoCal underground-rap scene into palatable pop product (the record features production from wunderkind experimentalist Flying Lotus), this innovative young MC would seem the one to do it.
Chipper young country thrush Smith has scored a promising run on her first-ever single, “Getting Married,” and her Dolly-and-Reba-leaning retro style could strike a chord. A guest spot on Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Home at Last” record helped the Georgia native through the door, and her first LP is expected next year on Columbia Nashville.
The all-female California band just released its debut full-length in October after drumming up considerable local attention with a 2009 EP, and that attention should continue to grow as they tour into the new year. Their atmospheric, vividly sensual sound is something of a piece with last year’s breakout Brits the xx, and ought to find steady employment on film soundtracks. At the beginning of the month, NME declared the quartet “the best live band you’ll see all year.”