January 2nd, 2014. A fast-moving stream of pleasing-to-the-ear (and soul) pop music began surfacing in the British Isles in 2013—and we’re not talking bubblegum pop, either. We’re talking about the kind of melodic, R&B-tinged music that owns the blogosphere and airwaves upon the arrival of every release; the kind of pop that marries electronic dance music with the more subversive, to the joy of partygoers who love a good sing-a-long between shuffles.
Notably, most of the genre’s newest creatives are young, black, and unafraid to stand outside of the “urban” box. And trust: your favorite rapper is probably searching for that hot pop hook to put on their next record right this second and UOENO.
UK dance beatsmiths Rudimental, Chase & Status, Duke Dumont, and Gorgon City have been known to use these fresh-faced crooners as their musical muses, for tunes which have gone on to top the charts, and amass millions of SoundCloud and YouTube plays. One collab even received a Grammy Award nomination recently: Duke Dumont’s single, “Need U (100%)” feat. A*M*E and MNEK is up for Best Dance Recording at the 2014 ceremony. So Join VMAN.COM as we welcome some of the new kids on Britpop’s block in 2014.
Birthplace: London, England
Influences: Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Luther Vandross, Frankmusik, Jam + Lewis, George Michael, Alexander O Neal, Peabo Bryson.
On being young and black in pop: "I think the main adversity is being pigeonholed. As soon as you're a black musician, you're urban, apparently. I don't really see myself as an 'urban' artist. I do make music heavily influenced by R&B/soul music, of course, but I've never sat down and been like, 'Yeah, urban.' What is urban, anyway? When someone says urban to me, I think Channel AKA."
Upcoming projects: "Gorgon City and I have our collaborative single, "Ready For Your Love," coming out on January 26. My official debut single will drop shortly after that, and then my album at the end of 2014. I’m very excited."
Birthplace: Sierra Leone via London
Musical influences: Westlife, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Janet Jackson.
On being young and black in pop: "I’ve never shied away from pop. I’m not ashamed of it one bit! I grew up on pop music, and I really do love making it. Generally, pop means popular anyway, so there’s plenty of room for a whole host of acts offering various styles of it."
Upcoming projects: "Currently, I’m doing a lot of writing and recording for some exciting releases I have planned for release [in 2014]."
Birthplace: London, England
Musical influences: Pink Floyd, Maxwell, Lemon Jelly, Aphex Twin.
On being young and black in pop: "I probably take for granted the fact that being mixed race has actually helped me in some way. I think being seen as black definitely adds a degree of acceptance to what I do, because most of the classic R&B/soul singers were. An artist’s voice/tone is what gives him/her their sound, so no matter what I sing on, whether it be a slow jam or a pop record, it will still have its soul element."
Upcoming projects: "I'm just working on finishing my debut album. I'm producing most of it myself, so I want it to really sum up what I do as both an artist and producer. [In 2014], I’m going to start working as a producer a lot more. Oh, and there’s a tour too!"
Birthplace: London, England
Musical influences: Shara Nelson, Eyrkah Badu, Candy Staton, Fleetwood Mac, Sade.
On being young and black in pop: "Growing up in London, New Cross in particular, I've always been surrounded by a multitude of cultures, nationalities, ages, etc. In Britain, most times, you’re celebrated for what makes you unique. Making pop as a young black woman does come with adversities, but they are very subtle and, for me, minor. For me, it’s all about embracing what I am, both musically and physically, and merging them together to form an amazing end product. Sometimes, there are doubts when I think about other black female artists like Beyoncé and Rihanna, who have a mass appeal due to their choice of hairstyles and lighter skin tones, but I have to remember I'm me, and I remember iconic women of darker tones such as Naomi Campbell and Grace Jones, who didn't always follow the grain of social perception. People love uniqueness, and that’s what I believe sets anyone apart."
Upcoming projects: "At the moment, I'm working on some new material [and releasing] the Black EP. I want to keep exploring sounds, color palettes, songwriting, and other forms of expressing myself, creatively. And eventually, I'll have an album's worth of colorful emotions and well-thought-out songs. In short, I want to embark on a musical journey. So, fasten your seatbelts and hold on tight [laughs]."
Birthplace: Bristol, England
Musical influences: Kanye West, Morrissey/The Smiths, Donny Hathaway, David Bowie.
On being young and black in pop: "It’s exciting, but I'm just trying to make the best music I can make as an individual, and nothing more. I'm not boxing myself in. The difficult thing is staying out of the box in other people's minds, proving that you can be young and brown and make pop music, not just ‘black’ music. "
Upcoming projects: "My second EP, Black & Blue, is out on January 5th. It’s up for pre-order right now. I’ve got lots of shows coming up, too, and I’m also readying my album for release next year. "
Birthplace: Manchester, England
Musical influences: The Rolling Stones, Shaggy, David Bowie, Shabba Ranks, Diana Ross, Buraka Som Sistema.
On being young and black in pop: "There are a lot of expectations in terms of what people think you should be making and what they assume you're into. It's fun being a black artist making pop, though. The genre travels, and there's a wider audience that potentially could be into your music.”
Upcoming projects: "My next release will be "Sunglasses In The Rain." As a songwriter, I’ve been writing and working with new Atlantic Records signee Jess Glynne, so I’m looking forward to her first release coming early 2014. Also, my publishing company, Raggamuffin Music, has recently signed singer-songwriter, Dom Mcallister. Look out for him."
all images courtesy of the artists