Let’s Get Cynical About: The ‘BBC Sound Of 2012’ Longlist

Apologies for the belated, truncated version of my usual take on this, but I found the BBC Sound Of 2012 poll particularly uninspiring in comparison to previous years. So, instead of my usual artist-by-artist breakdown, I’m going to lump artists together into nebulously defined genre categories. Oh, and for anyone who’s still confused about the lack of Lana Del Ray and Emile Sandé, they weren’t eligible due to already having had a UK Top 20 hit – you’re welcome. Positions in the final top 5, where relevant, are in brackets.


I’m no expert on any of these genres (hence the fact I’ve crassly lumped them all together), but I think it’s fair to say that, overall, this general style of music has had the strongest showing in this year’s list. While it is quite amusing that a critical darling such as Frank Ocean (#2) is still eligible for the list, there’s little denying he deserves the nod – after all, anyone who can turn the phrase “I CAN’T FEEL MY FACE!” into a memorable R&B lyric deserves props. Elsewhere, bratty Azealia Banks (#3) is sure to turn heads with her amusingly crass style, and A$AP Rocky sounds like someone smushed together Snoop Dogg and Kanye West. In the absence of the ineligible Maverick Sabre, Dot Rotten is the UK’s sole representative here – listening to ‘Keep It On A Low’, I’m not sure if he wants to be Professor Green or an auto-tuned R&B star.


So long, James Blake – this year’s list is all about ‘brostep’, and in the world of deafening you with the most abrasive, hideous noises possibleSkrillex (#4) has proven himself king. As such, he tends to polarise opinion – either you think he’s the best thing since sliced wobble-bass, or you’ve probably already written a post on your favourite dubstep forum about how he and his ilk are a rancid stain on the genre. Now I’m no dubstep expert, but I tend to prefer the more subtle side of things myself. Also on the longlist is Flux Pavilion, who is possibly the UK’s answer to Skrillex. Although that does beg the question as to whether we really need an answer to Skrillex…

Singer-Songwriter/Radio Friendly*

His nomination for this year’s Critic’s Choice award at the Brits may have been a giveaway to his eventual victory in this year’s ‘Sound Of…’ poll, but Micheal Kiwanuka (#1) doesn’t feel in any way like an undeserving winner. He’s got a great voice, and there’s a timeless feel about a song like ‘Tell Me A Tale’ that makes it feel like it’s been transported directly from another era. I initially though Lianne La Havas was “this year’s Amy Winehouse” – but she’s more of a Corrine Bailey Rae I guess, so sorry about that Lianne. It’s Ren Harvieu who wins that dubious accolade, with both her soulful tones and the oh-so-tasteful backing are clearly aiming for a 60s vibe. The end result screams ‘Radio 2 playlist’ loud and clear – in that sense, at least, Harvieu feels like an almost guaranteed success. And finally, Jamie N Commons makes the shortlist thanks to being able to do a pretty good impression of Nick Cave – there’s a nagging feeling that his retro schtick is a little contrived, but it sounds authentic enough.

*I’m aware that neither of these are actually genres, but it’s a convenient way to group all these artists together. Call me lazy, I don’t mind.


Those looking for some respite from the constant proclamations of the death of guitar music weren’t going to find much to cheer them up in on this year’s shortlist. Apparently the best we can do is limp-wristed Mumford-a-likes Dry The River and the snooze-worthy indie-pop of Spector. Which makes Brookyn’s Friends the de facto saviours of indie, I guess? Well, no – while I enjoyed the funky, lo-fi sass of ‘I’m His Girl’, there are other names outside the shortlist that I’d point you to first – 2:54, FOE and Islet all spring to mind.


I was almost tempted to lump Niki & The Dove (#5) in with the ‘indie’ category, but they’re really more of an electro-pop band. Regardless of what genre they actually are, they’re the most interesting act on the longlist by far, sounding like a meeting of minds between Fever Ray and Robyn. The only other pop act on the list are Stooshe, an obviously contrived, overtly filthy trio who somehow don’t sound quite as awful on record as they do on paper – although granted, that’s still not much of an accomplishment.

Find out more about all of the artists on the BBC’s Sound Of 2012 page.



Filed under Music

3 responses to “Let’s Get Cynical About: The ‘BBC Sound Of 2012’ Longlist

  1. agneta simoneir

    Ren Harvieu is brilliant

  2. Stephen

    ‘Limp-wristed Mumford-a-likes’? lol!! Have you actually listened to Dry the River? They have nothing at all musically in common with Mumford & Shite. ‘Muscular’ would be a better description of DtR’s music, which, although it has its roots in ‘folk’, when performed live, has more in common with At the Drive-In than Bumpkin & Sons!

    • letsgetcynical

      I’ll admit, the Mumford & Sons comparison does seem a little lazy – but it does hold some water, otherwise I wouldn’t be the only one making it. While they’re not particularly similar in terms of the instrumentation they use, they’re both aiming to hook people in with these big, emotional choruses. For some reason I can’t really get behind it – I think it’s because, despite the surrounding bombast and grandeur, it comes across as a little too wet for my liking.

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