It’s NME’s favourite time of year, as we herald the dudes du jour.
The Cool List 2010 was originally published in the 23 October issue of NME.
75 Rivers Cuomo, Weezer
He used to be mad as a box of spanners, but the grand vizier of geek-rock has mellowed with age – and the world has come round to his way of thinking. In an age where a film about Facebook tops the box office, we are all geeks now.
And the ecstatic reaction that greeted Weezer at Reading/Leeds this year suggests the band’s stock has never been higher.
74 Lewis Bowman, Chapel Club
With a voice that’s more stern and passion-filled than Count von Count remonstrating with a parking warden, Bowman invests Chapel Club with boundless gravitas.
Meanwhile, his band prove that the age-old formula of big tunes, long faces and Jesus & Mary Chain-style feedback never stops being awesome.
73 Caitlin Rose
Like a younger Lucinda Williams (much younger – she’s 23), Rose has a plangent quality to her voice that belies her age. And her lyrics are so clear-eyed.
Take this couplet from ‘Shanghai Cigarettes’: “Trying to quit will make you wish you didn’t start / ‘Cos the pack is as empty as the hole in your heart”.
72 James Blake
Part producer, part dubstep singer-songwriter, James Blake is another London-based artist – Katy B is another – who’s spinning underground dance music into something fresh, exhilarating and highly listenable.
71 Bradford Cox, Deerhunter
With yet another mind-expanding album under his belt in the form of ‘Halcyon Digest’, Bradford Cox has been so good for so long, we’re in danger of taking him for granted.
70 Soulja Boy
Even collaborating with pop goblin Justin Bieber on ‘Rich Girl’ hasn’t quite dented Soulja Boy’s aura. A man of ineffable swag, his upcoming album ‘The DeAndre Way’ (rumoured guest spots: Kanye, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg) looks likely to confirm him as hip-hop’s best-connected young star.
69 Matt Bellamy
He goes out with a movie star (Kate Hudson) and plays guitar like a Jimi Hendrix for the Virgin Galactic age. Not even the fact that Muse contributed a song to that lame Twilight film can diminish our admiration for their outrageously gifted frontman.
68 Nathan Williams, Wavves
For a man who’s supposedly king of the new slackers, Williams gets up to his fair share of mayhem, whether it’s getting in a brawl with one of Black Lips or enduring a drug-induced meltdown onstage in Barcelona. He’s shambolic and unpredictable, and we like that.
67 Avi Buffalo, Avi Buffalo
His Twitter feed suggests he’s the most upbeat man on earth, and while his song titles might be a little odd (‘Summer Cum’, ‘Five Little Sluts’), there’s nothing crude about the beautifully crafted songs that make up Avi Buffalo’s debut album.
66 Cher Lloyd, X Factor
66. Cher Lloyd off X Factor. Why is she in the Cool List? Allow Jaimie Hodgson to explain.
65 Liz Sankey, Summer Camp
Representing the UK wing of the new slacker movement, Summer Camp have been responsible for some of the year’s sweetest melodies, always delivered with heart-melting purity by the John Hughes-movie-obsessed Sankey.
64 Tom Hudson, Pulled Apart By Horses
Raucous, lank-haired and possessed of a saw-toothed howl, Hudson offers a glimpse of what grunge might have sounded like had it emerged in Leeds rather than Seattle.
63 Ernest Greene, Washed Out
Chillwave. Hypnagogic pop. It doesn’t matter what pretentious name you give to the genre – Greene simply makes music so beautiful and immersive you want to crawl inside it, like a flotation tank.
She wears a mask on stage and takes her name from “a midnight vision of a figure hovering over water” – yes, Glasser (real name Cameron Mesirow) is one of those witchy post-Bat For Lashes acts (see also Zola Jesus), but there’s nothing remotely generic about her gorgeous, synth-drenched debut album.
61 Ryan Olson, Gayngs
What with covering Sade and occasionally sounding like Bruce Hornsby, it’s hard to know if Ryan Olson is being entirely sincere, but the mellifluous, nostalgic atmospheres he conjures with collaborator Justin Vernon are unquestionably very now.
60 Eva Dutton, Rolo Tomassi
Like a Steel City equivalent to Alice Glass, Spence’s is never less than compelling live. That’s mainly because she’s got a voice like a heavy artillery bombardment.
59 Cee-Lo Green
Currently riding high on the strength of ‘Fuck You’, it’s wonderful to see helium-voiced soul man Cee-Lo escape the shadow of Gnarls Barkley.
58 Jack White
57 Daniel Blumberg, Yuck
Another British band reviving grunge, Yuck benefit from Blumberg’s keen ear for a hook, which will be familiar to those who remember his last band, Cajun Dance Party.
56 Gucci Mane
As all modern pop stars must, the man born Radric Davies understands the need to present his life as a soap opera. That’s why new album ‘The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted’ deals with his numerous prison experiences. Sounds generic? It is a bit, but the man’s got just enough style to sneak into our list.
55 Rose Elinor Dougall
In a year of indie singers going solo, few pulled it off with as much panache as Dougall, who left The Pipettes behind to record the mesmerising ‘Without Why’. She also cropped up on Mark Ronson’s new album, ‘Record Collection’.
54 Julian Casablancas
Last year’s ‘Phrazes For The Young’ solo album seemed to give Julian a fresh jolt of enthusiasm for his craft, and at his solo shows in 2010 – especially at Glastonbury – he looked to be having the most fun he’d had on stage in years.
With a delivery that’s by turns exquisitely intimate and painfully intense, Manchester’s LoneLady (real name Julie Campbell) is a singer-songwriter who deserves a wider audience.
52 Tim Harrington, Les Savy Fav
Because an enormous sweat-drenched man bellowing in your face just never gets tiresome.
51 Josh Homme
OK, he’s not done a whole lot of note this year, aside from touring with Them Crooked Vultures, but the man known to his QOTSA bandmates as “the ginger Elvis” will always be at least 15% cooler than the average American rocker.
50 Lady Gaga
People get the wrong idea about Gaga. They think she’s simply about the meat dresses and machine-gun tits and being ‘up the gays’. In fact, the key to her genius is Beatles-esque in its simplicity – her songs are genius.
49 Katy B
Katy’s on a mission, alright. A mission to ensure dubstep is remembered as more than just some beardy-man’s backroom art project by giving it some proper pop props. Already she’s on her way to becoming the genre’s first true breakout star.
Despite starting out at the Brit School she’s shown proper kudos by manoeuvring herself closer and closer to the razor’s edge of cool, hopscotching through Ministry Of Sound to work with Rinse FM and finally hitting the precipice on Magnetic Man’s ‘Perfect Stranger’.
48 Plan B
A field of phone-waving shimmy freaks at V can’t be wrong, you might argue, but according to statistics it’s wrong 67.8 per cent of the time, usually while watching Faithless. But not this year, when Plan B drew a bigger crowd than the Pope to celebrate his transformation into the Amy Winehouse you could take home to your mum.
47 Alexis Krauss, Sleigh Bells
In a world where most teachers suck – you included, Ezra Koenig – it’s little wonder Alexis Krauss has found a home in rock’n’roll. The former primary school tutor jacked in books, desks and braces to hang out with MIA and write white noise pop songs with a man she met at
a Brazilian restaurant. In case you hadn’t guessed, randomness is the key to Krauss’ world.
46 Dave Sitek, TV On the Radio
If there was one man who seemed the least likely to turn up to your house party and moonwalk across your kitchen floor, it was TV On The Radio helmsman Dave Sitek. When NME travelled to the USA to talk about ‘Dear Science’, he refused to even leave his bus.
45 Jack Donoghue, Salem
He’s the one in the middle slurring raps through the mist over Salem’s murky miasma. He’s the reluctant hipster, the long-haired witch house poster boy with the cheeks drawn by Mephistopheles. He claims to like being ill and finds creativity from liberal drug abuse and self-imposed sleep deprivation.
He’s an otherworldly creature – a potential American Apparel model if they ever open a branch in Hades.
44 Andrew VanWyngarden, MGMT
While flipping the record company execs over and tickling their bellies is all very well if you want to get rich, rock’n’roll is actually about pissing people off. Andrew VanWyngarden surely understands this, and whether he and bandmate Ben Goldwasser meant to or not, his band’s sequel to the sales-tastic ‘Oracular Spectacular’ got up a lot of people’s noses.
43 Honor Titus, Cerebral Ballzy
What’s in a name? Traditionally not so much. But when the name happens to be Honor Titus, you’d hope it’d mean something, at least. Likewise, you’d be disappointed if the frontman of best-/worst-named band in recent memory, Cerebral Ballzy, was a cardigan-clad wistful bard that jots down haikus in his Moleskin.
42 Nicki Minaj
Whether it was on her seminal ‘Beam Me Up Scotty’ mixtape or her turn spitting rhymes about (yes) cunnilingus on Christina Aguilera’s rather icky non-single ‘Woo Hoo’, people will remember where it was they first heard Nicki Minaj. Because by the time her album ‘Pink Friday’ drops next month she’s going to be everywhere.
41 Ethan Kath, Crystal Castles
Ethan’s position as the musical bedrock and emotional heart of a band defined by the harpy shriek and possessed priestess flailing of Alice Glass has made Crystal Castles so much more than the hipster flash-in-the-pan they should have been. Their second album proved they had staying power, emotional depth and real ambition.
40 Ariel Pink
One of the key components to being cool lies in Adam Ant’s old adage that “ridicule is nothing to be scared of”. For example: wandering around Los Angeles in cynically-minded 2010 dressed as a kind of quasi-hippy-goth while making lo-fi AOR is – by anyone’s standards – fucking stupid. For good reason, no-one else does what he does.
But the thing is: if you simply believe enough in what you are doing, if you walk it 24/7, if you are as genuine and eccentric as Ariel Pink is, eventually the rest of the world will dance to your tune.
39 Orlando Weeks, The Maccabees
The Maccabees themselves are an absolute exercise in understated cool. People who go on about how “meaning it” is everything should be kissing their feet every second. They are quietly becoming one of the best-loved – and biggest – bands in Britain.As well as the tenderness that fills their songs, this is largely down to charm, to which Orlando is central.
38 Lee Spielman, Trash Talk
Lee Spielman buys into the hardcore genre’s philosophy of individually pulverising each and every member of your gig audience into appreciating you by jumping into their faces off of any-and-every raised platform. The same enthusiasm goes into his whole touring setup.
Operating on a self-professed ‘zero sleep’ philosophy, Spielman – Trash Talk’s founding father and only surviving member – has played more gigs than he’s had cold takeaways. But what makes him truly fascinating is that beneath his theatrical nutjob persona lurks the heart of a big ol’ softee.
37 Alex Hewlett, Egyptian Hip Hop
The first time we came across teenage prodigy Alex Hewlett he was studying Music Tech at college. The Egyptian Hip Hop singer was spending his days pissing about in a hopeless class while using his nights to deliver his own workshops on ‘Being A Rock Star’, gigging at all the right shitholes and supporting the likes of Lostprophets while critics swooned.
36 Gerard Way, My Chemical Romance
Say what you like about My Chemical Romance, their frontman never fails to give good quote. That’s because he invests so much thought in the conceptual side of his band. He claims new album ‘Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys’ was inspired by “’70s muscle cars”. Sounds ludicrous?
Listen to the record, with its gleaming surfaces and growling punk-rock exuberance, and it makes perfect sense. A songwriter with a film-maker’s eye for the cool detail and sassy turn-of-phrase, Way understands that great bands are not just about the music.
35 Win Butler, Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire’s mainman has made it on to this year’s Cool List because he’s shown an impeccable social conscience but not become bloody Bono; because his lyrics on ‘The Suburbs’ try to tug and rip at the very structures of society and economy that keep the unlucky majority unhappy, unfulfilled or in poverty; because he’s taken a 16-track concept album to Number One around the globe; and the band he formed and leads have pledged to donate a million dollars to help rebuild Haiti.
Who needs words when you’ve got actions? Now that’s cool.
Despite being Jay-Z’s favourite DJ, after all those horns and ill-advised covers, there ought to have been no way back for Mark Ronson. However, rather than crank up the cheese, new album ‘Record Collection’ is turning the right heads again, and that is due in no small part to a certain Amanda Warner, aka MNDR. Her contribution to ‘Bang Bang Bang’ – not just the cool French vocals but a co-writer’s credit too – helped rehabilitated Ronson.
33 Willow Smith
Will Smith’s daughter Willow (or to use her proper, brilliant name Willow Camille Reign Smith) has done some cool shit for a nine-year-old. Not only did she once bake some awesome peanut cookies, she’s also starred in ‘I Am Legend’ and two ‘Madagascar’ films, become a youth ambassador for Project Zambia to help children orphaned by AIDS and just signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label, releasing the catchier-than-crack ‘Whip My Hair’.
32 Dan Devine, Flats
Rock’n’roll needs its tree-shakers, its oiky, antagonistic gobshites who are willing to say anything simply for the sake of saying it. Flats frontman Dan Devine is one of those. With his guttural proclamations of Paul Weller’s inherent cuntiness, unprintable slurs on Pete Townshend’s character, and cast-iron belief that Gang Of Four should be banished from the indie rock syllabus, calling Devine ‘outspoken’ is something of an understatement.
31 Akiko Matsuura, The Big Pink/Comanechi
There’s something almost too perfect about Akiko – she seems like the fevered dream of an indie scriptwriter. Smoking hot Japanese girl drummer with a tendency to play naked? What is this, a rejected draft of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World? But not only is Akiko real, and every bit as cool as her backstory suggests, she’s also really, ridiculously oh-my-god-I-want-to-be-your-friend super-lovely.
30 Nicky Wire, Manic Street Preachers
Do we need to explain why Nicky Wire is in the Cool List? Divides opinion, speaks in amazing quotes, detests Radiohead, wears dresses… has been doing so for 20 years. Basically, Nicky is Liam Gallagher with a degree and five inches more height. Need more proof? Best grin in rock’n’roll. Best scissor-kicks.
Even before becoming one-third of Magnetic Man, Skream – aka Oliver Jones – was one of the original pioneers of dubstep, taking the genre from the back room of a Croydon record store into the clubs and, eventually, the charts. That alone makes him worthy of inclusion here, but even if you’re not familiar with the genealogy of dubstep, if you’ve been to a club in the last couple of years the chances are you’ll have heard his retooling of La Roux’s ‘In For The Kill’: one of those rare instances when the remix actually improves upon the original.
28 Jamie Reynolds, Klaxons
For Klaxons this year, the agenda was clear: the re-recorded, Ross Robinson-helmed ‘Surfing The Void’ was to blast their new rave past into a cloud of melted glowstick space dust and establish them as, you know, a proper British band. While debate still rages over whether they’ve met that target, we’ve been enjoying the presence of a man who has no goals: Jamie Reynolds, aka Party Klaxon.
27 Jenny Lee Lindberg, Warpaint
The first time we clapped eyes on Jenny Lee Lindberg, she was forcing the rest of Warpaint to sing a cappella to two bemused students on Brighton Pier. Second time, she was running wild at London’s Lexington, turning heads and completely owning the joint while arm-in-arm with sister and Hollywood A-lister Shannyn Sossamon. And we haven’t even got onto the subject of her immense bass playing yet.
An abridged history of ‘the UK rap scene’ in five words: stuff, more stuff, grime, Giggs. OK, that’s a bit mean. It’s not that Britain’s been without talented MCs and producers for the past 25-ish years. What it has been lacking though is revelations. Moments that make the game sit up and take notice in the knowledge that things ain’t ever gonna be the same.
25 Jonathan Everything, Everything Everything
There’s something to be said for a band that inspire hatred so fervent that critics spaff out nonsensical phrases like “continuum” and “coordinates” in fits of outrage; a band that provoke YouTube commenters to summon every offensive musical touchstone they can think of (“Jamiroquai, Simply Red, Queen”) in an attempt to express their disgust at someone who dares flirt with so many lavish, preposterous ideas on their debut album.
24 Marina Diamandis, Marina & the Diamonds
Marina has always craved fame. And now, somehow she’s turned into a not-too-polished pop star with a Top Five album and an outrageous gob on her. She knows full well the irony of singing monstrous pop tunes about the divviness of fame while clad in lavish costumes and Elton sunglasses, but do you think she gives a shit?
Giggle all you like, but Marina’s having the last filthy cackle.
23 Dee Dee, Dum Dum Girls
OK, so picture this what-if, yeah? What if Rizzo had never got knocked up by Kenickie but instead fucked him off and hitched a ride on the first ‘big rig’ outta town, somehow ending up in San Diego with the kind of badass that could roll Kenickie up in a cracked cigar leaf and blaze him whole. Then what if she worked out some process – part science, part alchemy – of creating newfangled hybrid spins on her own ridiculous coolness in every colour, shape and size.
22 Jack Steadman, Bombay Bicycle Club
A large part of being cool, of course, is being your own person rather than a second-rate copy of someone else’s idea. Bombay Bicycle Club might have got a lot bigger a lot sooner if they’d been more willing to rummage in the dressing-up box, to act like divas or to shoot their mouth off. Instead they played to their strengths, went for the long game, and finally, with ‘Flaws’, inherited the Earth.
Jay-Z is more than a rapper; he’s our Elvis: an emblem to possibility and ascending to amazingness; more in-the-blood ‘New York’ than all of the Brooklyn bands put together. But it’s more than that; he provided the link between the gangsta-rap of the ’90s and the progressive playground the last decade has seen it bloom into.
20 Ritzy Bryan, The Joy Formidable
The striking, white-haired, fraggle-throated frontwoman was the breakout star of this year’s Emerge NME Radar Tour, with the band’s symphonic garage-rock winning over hearts and minds across the country. Onstage, she’s a veritable force of nature and years spent toiling unsigned mean that she’s refreshingly free of bullshit.
As the band prepare to release their debut album proper – last year’s ‘A Balloon Called Moaning’ doesn’t count, according to Ritzy – it’s a safe bet that she’ll soon be going supernova
19 Kele Okereke
By rights, when frontmen of indie bands relaunch themselves as surname-free solo artists it’s usually time to cringe. Add a switch from Gang Of Four to clubland’s dancefloors and many were predicting a Kele Okereke-shaped car crash. Well, with solo album ‘The Boxer’ and his festival slots going off like the raves he hoped for, the sceptics have been well and truly disappointed.
18 Theo Hutchcraft, Hurts
You know how everyone goes on about how brilliant it is that bands can now just write a song and then upload it to MySpace and cut out the record companies, who are now all totally fucked? Well, that’s total bullshit, and Theo Hutchcraft is the only person in music saying so. He sees the bigger picture – that bands should be about ridiculously meticulous preparation, about signing massive record deals and then spunking the lot on totally ridiculous stuff.
17 James Murphy, LCD Soundsystem
For ‘Losing My Edge’ alone we should have retired Murphy’s number years ago and given him the keys to the Cool List Lounge. The odd thing though is rather than rest on his laurels, James Murphy actually gets cooler.
Delivering ‘This Is Happening’ and the ‘Greenberg’ soundtrack within months of one another was pretty impressive, but having also written for a literary mag and played gigs that ranged from his sublime Glastonbury set to defying the bottle-throwers with punk-rock attitude at Wireless this summer, you have to wonder how much cool shit one man can fit into a year?
16 Yannis Philippakis, Foals
It’s thanks to Yannis that we first heard about Oxford’s Blessing Force scene, made up of skittering, minimal R&B perverters Pet Moon (the new project from ex-Foals, ex-Youthmovies man Andrew Mears), Foals’ sensitive younger brothers Trophy Wife, pastoral chill waver Chad Valley and more besides.
This is someone hellbent on cutting the crap in interviews to highlight the bands he loves so much.
People always praise nerd-friendly bloke bands for being go-your-own-way music industry trailblazers – but what about Robyn? Self-releasing three albums in one year, with not one filler track between them; that’s revolutionary. The ‘Body Talk’ trilogy is evidence of Robyn’s fearsome work rate.
14 Zola Jesus
Calling yourself Zola Jesus when you grew up in Nowheresville, Wisconsin and your real name’s Nika Danilova? That’s a classic pop-star affectation, right? No, actually – she came up with the name on the first day of high school, in a bid to “alienate” her classmates. That gives you some idea of Zola Jesus’ contrariness. She’s obviously a goth, but she claims she isn’t.
13 Hayden Thorpe, Wild Beasts
Few on this list would cheerfully admit to having been a teenage choirboy, but then, Hayden Thorpe, chief vocalist of Kendal’s Wild Beasts, has never appeared terribly troubled by popular notions of fashion. Instead, he packs his songs with daring poetry and feats of lyrical antiquity that cut a merry dance and dare you to follow. Your more bookish rock lyricists can often seem like rather cold fish, more comfortable sheltering behind a Sylvia Plath paperback than taking up an honest invitation.
12 Simon Neil, Biffy Clyro
And so it came to pass, as one day it inevitably would, that the NME office was forced to hold a discussion about whether it’s possible for a man with an entirely yellow head to be cool. And the conclusion reached was: yes, so long as that man is Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil. For here is a man who has laughed in the face of pin-up convention and dived headfirst into the ‘canary yellow’ tanker at Dulux.
11 Marcus Mumford, Mumford & Sons
‘Band Of The People’ is a cliché, but come on: what else can you call Mumford & Sons? The ubiquity they have achieved is such that even the people who do not like them have been forced to get involved. At the centre of it all is young Marcus. His voice – to borrow a phrase Bowie used to describe Dylan – is like sand and glue.
10 Darwin Deez
All the Richard Dawkins acolytes who drone on about how all religion is benighted, all bollocks and basically pure evil, need a few elementary lessons in Darwin-ism. Darwin Deez is indie’s exemplar of all that’s positive of living according to your holy principles. His lifelong devotion to the teachings of Indian mystic Meher Baba seems to have gifted him with the warm, graceful, joss-stick hazy spiritual air that lights his eyes and makes everyone want to take him home to meet their mum.
9 Carl Barat
Some people are just, y’know, born with it. No matter that Carl was the one who kept us waiting so long for the Libs reunion – and despite all the dodgy acting and modelling shoots – a Cool List without a mention of Carl Barât would be as inconcievable as an egg-less omelette.
For almost a decade he’s been the standard of cool by which all other are judged, and the grace with which The Libertines’ reunion was conducted has only bolstered his credibility further.
8 Jack Barnett, These New Puritans
He claims influence from RZA, Aphex Twin and The Smurfs. He wanted his band’s last album to sound like “dancehall meets Steve Reich”. He’s a bastard for the bassoon. For some the vaporous mists of ‘cool’ aren’t built on attitude, wit or trouser, but on the sense that they’re just not of our planet.
Such a man is Jack Barnett from These New Puritans: smasher of cracker-covered melons with a hammer to recreate the sound of a head exploding.
7 Jonathan Pierce, The Drums
Cheekbones on their own do not make a star, but if they did, Jonathan Pierce’s imperiously perfect face would be a diamond-encrusted AAA pass to the rarefied boulevards of Icon City. But he also has a colossal ambition that contrasts with The Drums’ C86-tinged summer-crush pop, a charmingly careless combination of perfectly straightfaced deadpan humour and ludicrously grand statements like, “Stars will always find their own way.
They’ll always rewrite the rules”. And that’s before we even get to the dancing… like a lovesick antelope that’s had too many gins.
6 Paul Weller
Some people might ask why and how a 52-year-old man who refers to Facebook as “The Facebook” in song has in fact turned out to be one of the most relevant forces in UK music. We like his suits as much as he does, but the secret to his cool is simpler than the leg-hugging cut of his cloth – it’s just that ‘Wake Up The Nation’ was one of the best, most exciting albums of 2010.
5 Romy Madley Croft, The xx
Almost every band we’ve spoken to in the last year, from the Manics to Mumford & Sons, have – without prompting, and way before their Mercury win – sung the praises of The xx. There are many reasons why that’s the case, not least the small matter of having made the album of 2009. But by far the most significant one is Romy Madley Croft.
4 Beth Cosentino, Best Coast
Whether she’s single-handedly resurrecting bubblegum grunge-pop for the Twitter generation or skinning up massive doobies, Beth Cosentino oozes slacker style. The true embodiment of California cool – and by that we mean she’s the absolute antithesis of Katy Perry – she’s addicted to Seinfeld, totally in love with being lazy and completely obsessed with her pet cat Snacks (want proof? Google “snacksthecat”).
3 Kanye West
Obama thinks he’s a “jackass” and, for a while there, we were inclined to agree. But after a rough couple of years – the VMA debacle, that ill-advised Auto-Tune album – Kanye West is reinvented, rejuvenated and back in the upper echelons of the Cool List. Why? Well the humanising effect of Twitter is one reason. Most artists use their account to remind you their new single is out on Monday; Kanye’s is a regular source of honesty and hilarity, and his complete lack of self-censorship is refreshing.
2 Janelle Monae
Pop only functions when artists so ridiculously brazen – whether brilliantly or offensively so – cause everyone else to chase, groping desperately at influences like a greedy Supermarket Sweep contestant. Although Gaga’s totally badass, that didn’t happen with her as she just took pre-existing filth-pop and put a mask on it. Janelle Monáe, however, is a new kettle of fish.
1 Laura Marling
Musically, it’s been an upside-down kind of year. Rather than cyber-grime or hologram-hop, 2010 has been headlined by the anachronistic nu-folk types tinkling their ivories, squeezing their harmoniums, plucking their banjos, sliding their pedal-steels into a future no-one could have predicted for the second decade of the new millennium. So it seems fitting that its standout musical figure has such an upside-down sense of cool.