The BBC Music Sound Of 2017 Poll Is A Call-To-Arms for The British Music Industry

Just when you think you’ve seen the back of end of year round-ups and run-downs for another 11 months, the BBC Music Sound Of…Poll comes to remind you that you’re never safe. If the highs are the correct predictions of previous years (Adele, Ellie Goulding, Haim), then there have also been some pronounced lows (here’s looking at you, Mika). Often, the most creative talent is relegated to the runner-up section, and last year’s selection was weak. In fact, the mainstream music scene of 2016 had a weird run in general. The BRITs in particular were called out for their pervasive lack of diversity, epitomised by the bestowal of Best British Male Solo Artist award on world’s whitest man James Bay.  But it’s 2017 now, and we might all be about to witness the apocalypse, but one thing is looking up: the BBC Sound Of 2017 top 5 has got it right, awarding all but one place to hyper-talented, boundary-pushing women of colour, reflecting the wealth of creative energy and the diversity of British music from humans not wearing hats that make us here at The Tung want to go on a murder spree. Get to know…


In at #5 is Nadia Rose, a Croydon MC who, since she’s Stormzy's cousin, can already count herself a member of the UK grime royal family. She rocketed to prominence with an impromptu headline slot at 2016’s Born+Bred after scheduled headliner Azealia Banks was swiftly binned following a racist Twitter rant. Couple that with shutting down a set at Wireless and ongoing support from Beats Radio and we have ourselves the makings of queen of hip hop in her own right. Her track ‘Sqwod’, a call to arms for her girl gang, was on repeat at a recent Sisters Uncut march.


The smooth, R&B inflected soul of Jorja Smith comes in at #4. Though she’s just 19, Smith is unafraid to draw influence from a wide pool of genres. Her first offering ‘Blue Lights’, a track about police injustice, samples Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Sirens’, and its follow-up ‘A Prince’ opens with a sample from 17th century composer Henry Purcell. Her 2016 EP Project 11 saw her develop her sound – and her voice – while retaining a distinctly London sound, particularly helped by ‘Carry Me Home’ featuring Thea Gajic, an emotional spoken-word piece about unrequited love.


At #3 we have Raye, another Croydon girl with a massive voice. She’s been a slow-burner, releasing her first EP Welcome To The Winter as a free download late in 2014, and following it up with the excellent Second released last year, finally exploding onto the scene with some high-profile dance track features. The richness of Raye’s voice, coupled with enormous musical confidence, some high-profile collaborators (champagne queen Charli XCX co-wrote lead track ‘I, U, US’) and a production style that doesn’t shy away from the big moments has her set for stardom in 2017.


In at #2 is BRIT Critics Choice Award winner Rag ‘n’ Bone Man aka Rory Graham.  He’s kind of ruining the magic here, but we guess we’ll let him stay. Starting off his musical life as an MC with a drum and base crew before becoming a member of hip hop group The Rum Collective, Graham developed his vocal chops, working all the while on his own material independently. In his solo guise as Rag’n’Bone Man, he hit the charts last year with the bluesy, soulful ‘Human’ peaking at number 2. A forthcoming album will no doubt continue his successful streak.


And now to the winner: Ray BLK deservingly takes the crown. That Ray draws influence also from American hip hop / R&B is clear – she counts Missy Elliot, Lil Kim, and The Notorious B.I.G as instrumental in her musical education – yet her sound is very much of London. On the track ‘My Hood’, a collaboration with Stormzy, she paints an engaging narrative of growing up in Lewisham, finding beauty in the bleakness: ‘On these streets, through concrete, flowers grow’. Ray exudes a cool confidence in her live performances, exemplified on Later…With Jools Holland, spinning stories for her audience that make us want to take her up on her invitation to come back with her to her hood.  

Find Anna on Twitter at @annaerichmond