BBC Sound Of 2012 List – A Few Thoughts

Now reaching its tenth anniversary, bitching about the BBC Sound Of… list has become such a vital part of Christmas that John Lewis are already figuring out a way to get it into their 2012 festive campaign.

A$AP Rocky

Anyway, that sacred season for giving tips and receiving disgruntled abuse is upon us, and to mark it, we’ve picked out some notable trends in the BBC Sound Of 2012 shortlist, which is as follows:


A$AP Rocky (Columbia Sony)
Azealia Banks (?)
Dot Rotten (Mercury/Universal)
Dry The River (RCA Sony)
Flux Pavilion (Circus/Atlantic)
Frank Ocean (Mercury/Universal)
Friends (Lucky Number)
Jamie N Commons (Luv Luv Luv/Island)
Lianne La Havas (Warner Bros UK)
Michael Kiwanuka (Polydor UK)
Niki & The Dove (Mercury)
Ren Harvieu (Island)
Skrillex (Atlantic)
Spector (Luv Luv Luv/Fiction)
Stooshe (Warner Bros)

1. It’s a poor showing for independent labels

Last year, bands on indies made up nearly half the shortlist. This year, there are only two is only one independent artists: Friends (Lucky Number) and Flux Pavilion (Circus, which is independent as far as I can tell, though do correct me if I’m wrong). (I was wrong, thanks to @Nuxx on Twitter for pointing that out.

Being on the BBC poll is obviously great for a band and a label’s exposure. In the case of tiny labels like Lucky Number, recognition here can compensate for a small structure’s inability to lead the sort of regimented press campaigns orchestrated by the majors – getting posters on the tube, ads on the telly and whatnot.

2. The return of the guitar band! Err, not so much

Whereas in 2011 we had The Vaccines, Yuck, Mona, Anna Calvi, Warpaint and Esben & The Witch shredding all over the shop, this year there’s just Spector representing six strings, lone wolves lost in a forest of showier sounds. Considering The Vaccines’ appearance on 2011’s list and their subsequent successes, I’m genuinely surprised that one of Howler, 2:54, Tribes, Fixers and Gross Magic didn’t get a look-in.



3. It could be a snoozy 2012

I’d like to thank the BBC poll for making it 78% easier to think of what to get my parents for their birthdays/Christmas/Mothers’ Day/Fathers’ Day presents next year. Hi there, Jamie N Commons, Michael Kiwanuka, Ren Harvieu, Lianne La Havas and Dry The River! Watch out for Azealia and those scary cuss words! Yep, what some people are calling The New Boring looms LARGE and lumbering over this list.

4. There are five American acts on the list

In 2011, there were 12 British acts on the list – this year there are nine, cowed down by five American acts and a pair of Swedes. It’s long been said that US pop acts have been emulating British sounds, and Skrillex’s Neanderthal take on dubstep aside, A$AP Rocky, Azealia, Frank Ocean and Friends certainly aren’t borrowing a great deal off us.


5. The voting critics don’t seem to think that girlbands will dominate, as has been mooted

Recent statistics from the BPI showed that female artists now account for a record 33% of albums sold in the UK, and that’s mostly solo artists: Adele, Jessie J, Birdy and so on.

While the arrival of Oh My! and War Of Words sparked discussions about how the girlband could be making a resurgence, that’s not reflected here: only Stooshe – think Daphne & Celeste via Lily Allen – represent plural ladyhood. In fact, there’s very little straight-up pop on this list at all. Jessie J’s not going to have to give up her throne just yet, more’s the pity.

6. Notable by absence…

Obviously there are only 15 bands on this list so you can’t squeeze everyone on, but I was surprised not to see Howler, Charli XCX, Tribes, Alabama Shakes, Jessie Ware, 2:54 or King Krule on it, even if some of them aren’t bands I would personally tip.

7. The list is pretty hip-hop-heavy

A$AP Rocky, Azealia Banks, Dot Rotten, Frank Ocean: there’s a lot more hip-hop/grime here than there’s ever been before, looking at past years’ polls. Despite all now being signed to major labels, they all came to prominence through coverage on blogs – or y’know, being in Odd Future.

It’s looking increasingly like Frank’s gonna be OFWGKTA’s breakout star, not Tyler, whose album ‘Goblin’ is curiously absent from many publications’ end of year charts. We’ll see when their respective new records go head to head in the first half of 2012.

8. It’s hard to pick a winner this year

Prior to 2011’s roster coming out, everyone knew that it’d have James Blake, The Vaccines and Anna Calvi on it. This year, it doesn’t feel as though there are any bands particularly galvanising opinion, no dead certs, no obvious whipping boys like Viva Brother.

Does that mean we’re due a fallow year? I’d say not. We’ve had a few 2012 albums from new-ish bands through the office doors – Islet, Grimes, Tribes – and there’s plenty to love. On the poll’s tenth iteration, I think this lack of an obvious winner could be a really positive thing – something that had become very dry and predictable is suddenly an open playing field.

Niki And The Dove

Even though there’s little here that I personally find particularly thrilling (Niki & The Dove are the only band on it that I truly love – they took the number one spot on my BBC nomination form), and I expect many people will feel the same way, that’s not to say that the less exciting bands on it should be dismissed just because they have the temerity to appear on a high profile list of tips.

We have a propensity to murder bands in the crib in our snarky, cynical way, and whilst Skrillex’s electrocuted hornet sound will hopefully have a very short shelf life, there are several acts here that might not blossom until their second or third records. Much as it’s fun to debate, remember this: no-one is making you listen to any of these bands, so don’t get your undercrackers in too much of a twist over it.