In its annual poll of people they think are going to make it big in the forthcoming year, the BBC’s Sound Of poll has placed Michael Kiwanuka as the best bet for 2012.
Kiwanuka, from London, credits everyone from Otis Redding to Bob Dylan to Miles Davis as influences, as this can definitely be found in his work. The Beeb call him a ‘soul singer’ but I’m not sure if this is entirely accurate. I admit, Kiwanuka has a soulful voice and some of his work has that retro vibe of 70s soul records, such as this brilliant cut:
… But Kiwanuka is also heavily influenced by acoustic music and from my first experience of his work, the gently paced and fairly breezy ‘Home Again’ (and that’s not a put-down, it’s lovely), you might have been forgiven for thinking that Kiwanuka was going to be part of the new-folk phenomenon that seems to have blown everyone away over the last couple of years (not that I’m going to anything foolish like say he’s the male Laura Marling – he has more musical breadth than that).
Perhaps what is most surprising about this poll is just how good Kiwanuka is in comparison to some of the other BBC Sound of poll winners of recent years. Last year it was won by Jessie J, who was successful yes (and the poll claims to do nothing but select artists that it thinks will do well in the charts, which seems daft when you think that actual talent could be recognised at least once a year) but did little to forward the UK’s musical image. Before that other winners included Adele, Mika and 50 Cent. Yep, 50 Cent. Admittedly, the lists are usually better the further you go down the list but this year it’s hard to tear everyone apart. This is partly because the list is so diverse, including Frank Ocean, Azaelia Banks (warning: bad language there!), Skrillex and my personal favourites Niki & the Dove, but also because the talent is so much better than before. Perhaps this year the Beeb decided they wanted to try and be cool or actually up with new artists in light of the Critics Choice Award at the BRITs, but be that as it may, it’s definitely the best list yet.