Five breakout pop acts to watch this year
Someof pop’s biggest names are reportedly scheduled to drop albums in 2011: Coldplay, Beyonce, Radiohead, U2, Lady Gaga. In a crowded field, new faces will have to work hard to grab our eardrums. Here are five whomwe expect to do just that: James Blake The most arresting moment on this London singer-producer’s debut album sounds like a swarm of Apache helicopters. As the 22year-old Blake croons “Limit to Your Love,” a cover of Canadian indie chanteuse Feist, in come strange tremors— the sonic hallmark of dubstep, a strand of British dance music defined by its plunging bass and spectral vocals. Blake, however, has been deemed the crown prince of “postdubstep,” thanks to a string of 2010 EPs that evaporated the style down to its ghostly essence. Many have called his music “dreamlike,” but that’s not quite right. Blake’s self-titled debut, landing Feb. 7, suggests a fitful sleep full of sonic slipstreams and rhythmic hiccups too intriguing to sleep through. K. Michelle Do you have room for another post-Mary J. Blige R&B star in your life? Another deeply wronged diva who sings her heartbreak through clenched teeth? Another gale-force wailer who smudges the line between anger and sadness?
No matter how many Jazmine Sullivans, Melanie Fionas and KeriHilsons overpopulate the R&B airwaves, the answer to these questions will always be “yes.” And that’s good news for Memphis singerK. Michelle, whose R. Kelly-produced debut , “PainMedicine,” is due this year. Ashton Shepherd While Taylor Swift’s teenbeloved sophomore disc “Fearless” won aGrammy for album of the year, Ashton Shepherd’s all-grown-up debut “Sounds SoGood” clung to the country charts for dear life. It’s something the Coffeeville, Ala., native seems poised to correct with the disc she’s now wrapping up with Buddy Cannon, the esteemed producer who had a hand in another recent Alabama success story, Jamey Johnson. SmithWesterns These cherub-faced glam-rock revivalists were trumpeted as The It Band of 2011 long before (in indie-rock Internet time: weeks before) their hyped second album, “Dye It Blonde,” arrived Tuesday. Here’s what they really are: the best interpreters of T. Rex since Prince wrote “Cream.” But it’s not just the glitter-dusted choruses or the juicy guitar solos that earn them this distinction. It’s the Chicago troupe’s ability to make its emotive urgency feel cool, to make the epic stuff feel casual. You can hear it in the song “All Die Young,” which contains hints of the Beatles’ “Something.” Yelawolf Yelawolf, a nimble Alabama rapper, avoided flashing in the pan in 2010 bynot releasing his debut album. Instead, the heavily tattooed, unabashedly mulleted MCtook things slow and steady. He dropped a superb mix tape, “TrunkMuzik,” last January, signed a contract with Interscope Records inMarch, landed a sly verse on Big Boi’s solo album in July and re-released “Trunk Muzik” as “TrunkMuzik 0-60” on Interscope inNovember. “Radioactive,” his debut fulllength album, is due in April. For Yelawolf, going from zero to 60 apparently takes about 16 months.
LISTEN ONLINE To read more about these artists and hear samples of their music, go to washingtonpost.com/clicktrack.