Last night was the second showcase of some of the short-listed artists in the running to be voted as the 2014 winner of MTV Brand New. The event, hosted again this year by Emporio Armani Diamonds, saw stellar performances from Sam Smith, Kwabs and Joel Compass… oh, you do know how to treat a girl MTV!
The three nominees are up against some stiff competition from the likes of Ella Eyre, BANKS, Royal Blood, Elyar Fox, The Vamps, Marie Naffah and one of my faves George Ezra (didn’t I tell you all months ago that the guy was set for big things?). They each proved exactly why they’d been hand selected by serving up some incredibly slick vocals at the televised gig at Islington Academy Hall. With the no-nonsense, minimalist staging and the quiet, attentive crowd all emphasis was on their delivery- and boy did they deliver.
The first performance of the night came from the incredibly talented enigma that is Kwabs (or Kwabena Sarkodee to his mother when he’s been naughty). The energetic, soulful singer hasn’t been particularly forthcoming with public appearances, and even declined to be in the video for ‘Wrong or right’ but thankfully his twitter account bio tells us all we need to know:
‘I sing. I am brown. I have a slightly wonky face.’
Now we’ve established the important facts- what else should you know about Atlantic-signed Kwabs?
His smooth-as-chocolate vocal tone echoes with rippling vibrato that will undoubtedly send a shiver down your spine. Each word is sung in understated and effortless composure but with the sustenance and power of a soul master. Indeed, Kwabs couldn’t be more soulful if he tried, and so, he will surely become accustomed to comparisons being drawn with the greats- the depth and raspiness of Levi Stubbs and the raw and imperfect perfection of Al Green.
But his modern take on classic soul incorporates RnB beats and futuristic electronica, and is set to take the music world by storm. He grabbed the attention of producer SOHN, leading to them working together to create the ‘Wrong or right’ EP, released in just 3 days time. The track, much like ‘Last stand’, sees Kwabs’ rich vocals layered with synths, and ultimately produces a hit that makes me want to grind all over him. In a really professional way, of course.
Next to hit the stage was Londoner, Joel Compass. Rumour has it this guy can be quite shy but he certainly seemed to exude confidence whilst singing his hit ‘Run’ and other lesser known (soon to be hit) songs like, ‘back to me’, ‘astronaut’ and ‘kiss love goodbye’. (Anyone else think ‘Run’ really does sound like Beyonce’s ‘Halo’?) He’s a natural entertainer with voice to match. Joel gave a concrete showcase of his unique style, kept up his ultra-cool image and, I’m sure, gained some fans amongst the ladies in the crowd if they weren’t already.
Comparisons have been made between the up and coming British RnB prodigy and Canadian superstar, The Weeknd. If you, like I, love The Weeknd, it’s a safe bet you will find Joel to be very up your street but whilst their styles are similar you’d be missing a trick to say Joel brings nothing new to the plate. I can’t wait to see more from the singer/songwriter.
The final act of the night hardly needed an introduction. Infact, given Sam Smith’s chart success to date, I was surprised to see him as a nominee for ‘Brand new’. His feature on Disclosures ‘Latch’ 2 years ago made people fall for his extraordinary voice, and since then Naughty Boy’s recent hit ‘La La La’ gained him his first number 1, with his distinctive vocals and impressive range.
Headlining the gig, Sam ended the night on a high, giving the audience an exquisite taste of the Sam Smith cake. He is a force to be reckoned with and he is the act who is a sure fire success with or without the title of MTV brand new winner. He got the BBC Sound of 2014 – can he bag this title as well?
Voting is now closed and the winner is to be announced on Monday 2nd Feb! Who do you think is deserving?