By Victoria Patneaude By this point, it’s safe to say you probably know about the latest rebirth of the British Invasion. You have also probably discovered some of the bigger names (One Direction and The Wanted), but there is so much more talent coming out of England right now besides boy bands. With just a little bit of work traversing various social networks and foreign radio shows, it is actually quite easy to immerse yourself in the amount of talent being shipped over to the U.S.
However, it’s understandable you may not have the time to peruse the ever-growing list of British artists working to make it into the American mainstream. Luckily, ORANGE introduces you to a handful of artists worth knowing during this rather welcome invasion.
You may know Jessie J from her radio hits ”Price Tag” and ”Domino”. (Most likely the latter as it peaked at No. 6 on the U.S. charts.) But to be honest, Jessie J — born Jessica Cornish — is so much more than the Katy Perry-esque songs. Tracks off of her first album ,"Who You Are," pull from experiences far deeper than partying. “Big White Room” is based off the death of a boy who she shared a hospital room with when she was 11, and the title track is her way to “help save a lot of people.”
What is most impressive about Jessie J isn’t just the fact that she can dole out top 40s pop and heartwrenching ballads, but her voice is one of the strongest in the industry. Where many write off the acts they hear on the radio as pretty faces autotuned to the point of being painful, Jessie’s soulful voice soars. Listen to her live if you can.
Jessie J is announced during her iTunes Festival performance that she would be going into the studio to work on her next album.
Allow me to brag and be a hipster for a second. I discovered Ed Sheeran in July of 2011 by total accident. I was just watching the iTunes Festival and waiting patiently for a different band. While waiting, I decided to watch what was playing live. As my computer screen dimmed and the countdown until the show neared zero, I saw this ginger-haired boy walk out with an acoustic guitar. Nothing else. Just a boy, an acoustic guitar and two microphones. Then he plugged in his guitar and started to sing. About a minute into his opening song, “Grade 8," I knew he was going to be something big. How could he not be? What makes Sheeran and his music more than every other acoustic act that has hit the scene in the past couple of years is he does everything alone.
Using a loop pedal, he is able to play multiple guitar parts at once while layering several different vocals over them while he continues to play and sing live. What’s even more interesting? He manages to incorporate rap as well, spitting some of the quickest, most clever lines I have ever heard. (Don’t believe me? Check out his performance of ”You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” for The Warner Sound.) People most likely know of him thanks to VH1’s "You Outta Know," in which his single ”The A Team” was featured. Tackling subjects such as the homeless, the miscarriage experienced by a close friend and love, Sheeran breathes some life into an otherwise stale genre.
Ed Sheeran is currently touring the U.S. and will return for another headlining tour in mid-January.
Another strong female voice supplied by the Brits is Rita Ora. Getting her start at 17, when she was featured on Craig David track “Awkward,” she continued to sing in bars around London before being introduced to Jay-Z two years later in 2009. After catching his attention, he signed her to his label Roc Nation, and shortly after, she went into the studio. Her debut album, "ORA," which was produced by big names such as will.i.am, Kanye West and Drake, was released Aug. 27 in the UK after two years of recording.
While the album was released to mix reviews, mainly due to the fact that she’s released a pop album that is much like we would expect from the likes of Rihanna, one site in particular noted that if she “colored outside the lines,” then “Beyoncé's crown is the one she's really gunning for.” Most recently, Ora was featured on MTV’s Unplugged, a series that showcases artists as they perform their songs acoustically. Bringing R&B/pop flare, Ora is looking to crack America, and if the charts take to her the same way they have in the UK, she isn’t going to have a hard time.
Generally, contestants who don’t finish in the top three of singing shows fade into the background, forgotten almost as quickly as they were discovered. But not Aiden Grimshaw. Finishing ninth on his season of "The X Factor," Grimshaw was quickly picked up by RCA Records. (Can you blame them? Even Simon Cowell told him he was “one of the best they’d had” after his audition.) However, Grimshaw disappeared until April 2012 when he debuted his single "Is This Love” on BBC Radio 1. Wanting to change his popstar image and be seen less as a contestant from "The X Factor" and more as a singer-songwriter, Grimshaw traverses the change quite well. Digital Spy takes note of this, stating that “he makes this post-"X Factor" malarkey look remarkably simple” and rewarding the song with 4/5 stars.
The singer, who is at the ripe age of 20, released his debut album "Misty Eye" on Aug. 20 in the UK, garnering positive reviews and proving it possible to shed the title of “Ninth Place.” He brings honest lyrics of heartbreak and despair layered over synths, electronic beats and sometimes even just the acoustic guitar. (The track "Poacher’s Timing" is particularly haunting and not something you would expect from a debut.) What’s most important, though, is how daring the album is, and that is just a breath of fresh air.
Aiden Grimshaw is just wrapped his tour in the UK.
Another product of "The X Factor" — she competed the same season as Aiden — Cher Lloyd finished in fourth place but still managed to snag a deal with Simon Cowell’s label SyCo. She made quick work of her first album, releasing it about a year after her "X Factor" stint. Boasting collaborations with the likes of Busta Rhymes, Carolina Liar and Mike Posner, Lloyd managed to create the perfect summer soundtrack album. Her sound, which sounds a lot like a mix of Nicki Minaj and Lilly Allen with a dash of Madonna inspiration, is something that will play nicely into radio waves. It seems to be that L.A. Reid, chairman and CEO of Epic Records, would agree as he signed her in December 2011.
While Lloyd has been met with some backlash (At the 2012 V Fest, an audience member threw a bottle of urine at her as she performed), she received mostly positive reviews on her album ‘Sticks + Stones.’ However, she still shows the potential to grow into a stunning artist, especially in her live acoustic performances. Maybe she produces nothing but feel-good music, but really, doesn’t everyone need a feel-good song or two on their music playing device of choice?
Cher Lloyd’s album ‘Sticks + Stones’ released in the U.S. on Oct. 2.
It isn’t often an artist can be classified as pop, reggae fusion, ska, dance and soul all at the same time. But of course, it isn’t often you come across an artist like Olly Murs. Runner up of, you guessed it, "The X Factor" in 2009, Murs had been named the dark horse of the competition. Though he didn’t win, he still scored a joint deal with Syco and Epic Records in February 2010 and dropped his debut album in November of that same year. It entered the UK Albums Chart at number two, gaining the biggest first week album sales for a debut album of that year. His second album was released almost exactly one year later, peaking at number one on the charts and cementing Murs as an artist to be reckoned with.
With his sunshiney beats, catchy hooks and even occasional rap collaboration, Murs brings reggae fusion back into the forefront. Of course, I’d be remiss to not mention his ballad “This Song Is About You,” written for his brother who he hasn’t spoken to for a few years now after a familial dispute. While he may be able to hold it down on the end of danceable tunes, he can also serve up a heartbreaking personal piece. Though his album "In Case You Didn’t Know" was supposed to have dropped on Sept. 25, it is most certainly worth the wait because Murs brings sunshine back into the music industry.
Olly Murs just did a line of U.S. radio shows to promote his music.