Foreign Artists Hit US Music Scene
FINDING THE OFFBEAT
Published: Friday, February 21, 2014
Updated: Friday, February 21, 2014 01:02
Toward the end of each year, certain acts emerge as upcoming artists begin to make their names known, be it through the sanctioned release of singles via social networking or through the unintentional, but glorious album leak, as British artist Jai Paul experiences when his entire album was leaked last year. Consequently, blogs and other outlets tout these artists until they finally drop an album — if they haven’t gone the Jai Paul route — which is typically met with varying degrees of criticism. In these cases, artists constantly try to reinvent the wheel with varying degrees of success.
Now, there’s been a subtle shift in this pop paradigm toward a more minimalistic, production-based genre through artists such as Lorde. Two artists to watch this year are Sam Smith and Broods, who will hopefully be able to break into the mainstream and gain the attention they deserve.
First on my list is 21-year-old British singer-songwriter Sam Smith, who gained notoriety early last year when he was featured on producer Naughty Boy’s “La La La,” one of the United Kingdom’s fastest-selling singles of 2013. This followed his 2012 collaboration with Disclosure on “Latch,” another extremely successful release. Since then, Smith has received welcome recognition for his soulful voice and unique blend of electronic music with contemporary R&B. As a result of his somewhat arbitrary presence in mainstream U.K. culture, Smith has garnered a strong following that has set him up for future success with his solo endeavors. He is incredibly talented to say the least, adding an exciting and somewhat innovative dimension to the realm of modern pop music that should be well received here in the United States.
“Safe With Me” is an incredible ballad that showcases both his R&B roots and his experience with electronic music. It holds a special meaning for me as the track that kept me sane during finals week last semester. Other singles, including the insanely catchy “Money On My Mind,” can be found on Smith’s SoundCloud profile, along with some impressive remixes. Additionally, he will be performing in Washington, D.C on March 20 at the U Street Music Hall promoting his album “In The Lonely Hour,” which is set for release May 24.
While 2013 served as the year in which acts like Sam Smith began to establish their own following, it also facilitated the rise of another, unique brand of pop music, led predominately by New Zealand’s Ella Yelich-O’Connor, otherwise known as Lorde. While Lorde enjoyed widespread success with her single “Royals,” another, lesser-known group from New Zealand released a series of songs that further explored this emerging genre of pop: Broods. In October, at around the same time Lorde re-released her hit single, Broods posted one of my favorite tracks of the year.“Bridges,” which has recently been made available for download on iTunes, combines simple lyrics, centering on a failed relationship — hence “burning bridges” — with incredible production. The end result is a song that is both heartfelt and beautiful.
Furthermore, what sets Broods apart from similar acts is their weaving of interpersonal narratives seamlessly into the music that strings them together. On Christmas Day, they released another even more impressive song entitled “Never Gonna Change,” which further showcases this ability. Though they haven’t released any other music aside from these singles, the recent iTunes usage implies that an official record may be on the way; if this is the case, Broods will be prominent in 2014. I hope that this trend toward production-focused pop music continues, as it’s currently paving the way for a newer, more exciting approach to the genre.
With artists such as Sam Smith and Broods establishing presences in both their home countries and the United States, it seems as though this could easily be the case. Keep your ears open for these two acts in the coming months; they’ll definitely be worth the wait.
Joy Jackson is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. Finding The Offbeat appears every other Friday in the guide.