I hate to see artists who are real safe. I love to see artists swing for the fences sometimes.—Lee Ann Womack
Listening to new music and new artists can be very fulfilling. At the same time, it can be extremely frustrating, especially when an artist who sounds really good on one song doesn’t follow with an equally impressive tone on their subsequent material. I’m not a huge fan of one-hit wonders or mentioning an artist’s name and finding no one else has a clue who I’m talking about.
By adding music to our discussion and photos here, we are treading into somewhat dangerous territory. People tend to be very adamant about who they like and who they don’t. From the very outset, I want to be clear that just because we like an artist’s music doesn’t mean we endorse them as people or the opinions they might later express that prove to be offensive. If there’s anything we have learned the past couple of years it is that the bigger the hero the more people want to see them fall. I don’t understand that mentality, but I can’t keep it from happening. We’re not doing deep background checks here.
Instead, what we’re offering are some gentle suggestions, artists whose music causes me to stop what I’m doing and listen. Yes, we are cheating a bit. I rely on what new artists Spotify throws at me. I understand the limitations of using that single source, but no one is sending me demos and I don’t have time to troll YouTube. A good song is a good song, though, and a good artist transcends the media source. We’ll offer a few that we like and let you take it from there.
To start off the year, let’s talk about a few artists who caught our attention last year and we’re hoping continue to impress.
Saint Raymond, aka Callum Burrows, represents yet another instance where what’s big in the UK or Europe has difficulty “jumping the pond” to the US market. For British listeners, Saint Raymond is hardly a new name, having been showing up on charts in the UK for a couple of years now. American radio has yet to catch on, though, and US listeners are being cheated out of Burrows’ smooth voice. The pop rock sound isn’t too heavy and not over-produced. Give it a try.
I Want You, a song by Saint Raymond on Spotify
I’m a sucker for a good, bare piano accompaniment because of the way it lets a vocalist shine. That is why I’m sharing Australian artist Conrad Sewell’s second single and not his first. Granted, the first one, Hold Me Up, did extremely well and is a great song, but Start Again really lets his voice shine through. What is it with all these young guys and really high voice ranges, though? Adam Levine might want to be careful. Guys like Sewell could end up replacing him.
Start Again, an album by Conrad Sewell on Spotify
My ears can spot a church-trained voice a mile away and I was smitten with Ms. Day’s sound before she made it to the second word of the song. She has a classic jazz/soul sound that takes one from a smokey Saturday night right on into the emotional confession of Sunday morning as effortlessly as a well-aged brandy. I can’t wait to hear a lot more from this voice. I’m linking you to Rise Up, but you’ll want to listen to Forever Mine as well. She’s touring this year and will be in Indianapolis in June.
Rise Up, a song by Andra Day on Spotify
The guys in Jr Jr aren’t exactly new. Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott have been making music together since 2009. If you heard of them, though, it was under the name Dale Earnhardt, Jr., borrowed with permission and blessing from the NASCAR driver of the same name. One can see where that might have confused a few people. I’ve heard the driver try to sing; it wasn’t pretty. So, they’ve re-branded as Jr Jr and hopefully that will be the boost they need to push heavily into the mainstream. If you liked the Beach Boys, you’ll love these guys. Their harmonies are tight. Take a listen.
Gone, a song by JR JR on Spotify
Don’t tell me the folks at Atlantic Records weren’t thinking about Adele and Sam Smith when they signed Jess Glynne. The comparisons are inevitable. The British singer’s voice is strong, soulful, and full of emotion. With a Grammy already in her pocket for last year’s Best Dance Song, her new single, Hold My Hand, is driving, fun, and as they used to say on American Bandstand, “very easy to dance to.” The biggest challenge she faces is that Adele is dominating the market so strongly that Glynne’s similar sounding tone may not stand out well enough for people to notice. Listen, though. You’ll be impressed.
Hold My Hand, an album by Jess Glynne on Spotify
Will any of these artists list 2016 as their big breakout year? We’ll see. I definitely look forward to hearing more from all of them.