As the hype machine fires its engines again…

Really, hype never really cools down in the music industry: there’s always a fantastically tipped what-comes-next for any journalist to check out, and then either fall for or ignore until Radio 1 comes crashing in and makes said act’s music utterly ubiquitous. I’d blame Zane Lowe’s unfaltering enthusiasm, but come on – you can’t hate on a guy for celebrating new music, even if some of it is, inevitably, shite.

But once a year, from about the middle of November until the very beginning of January, inboxes begin to chime with messages promising that Artist X will light up the coming year’s music scene. We have the Brits Critics’ Choice Award, the BBC Sound Of list, and magazines, newspapers and websites alike compile their own selections of likely-tos for the New Year and beyond. Clash gets in on it – we have a Next Wave cover at the start of every year, which was occupied by Banks in 2014, and King Krule the year before. (We reckon they did okay, right?)

With the next batch of Critics’ Choice contenders now announced – Years & Years, George The Poet and James Bay are the chosen three – we thought it’d be fun to look back at some of the artists who had such high hopes for 2014 pinned on them, to see how that’s all working out.

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Chlöe Howl (pictured, main)

Up for the 2014 Critics’ Choice award, beside Ella Eyre and winner Sam Smith, Howl’s heir-to-the-Lily-Allen-throne vibes are immediately likeable, and she always comes across as a bubbly personality in interviews. (Here she is interviewing a Spice Girl for Clash.) But despite a palpable perkiness infecting catchy singles like ‘Rumour’ and 2013’s ‘No Strings’, 2014 was a pretty quiet year for the Berkshire-raised singer, with an eponymous debut album expected but ultimately delayed to 2015. She won’t be 20 until March next year, so there’s plenty of time for Howl to make her mark – but she certainly didn’t leave a discernable one in 2014.

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Ella Eyre

We just mentioned her, so a moment, please, for the other Critics’ Choice nominee of 2014. Like Howl, Eyre’s debut album has been conspicuous by its absence in 2014 – with a working title of ‘Feline’, it’s expected in the spring of 2015. Eyre’s been visible across the year at least, her triumphant explosion of hair a striking photo opportunity on any red carpet. She’s also seen chart success, with second solo single proper ‘Comeback’ getting as high as 12 in September, following the top-20 performance of her debut, ‘If I Go’. For many she’s still the voice of Rudimental’s ‘Waiting All Night’, but Eyre’s slowly, but surely, laying some impressive foundations from which ‘Feline’ might just fly high.

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Sampha

I actually voted for Sampha in the 2014 Critics’ Choice – but while he was absent in that competition’s final three, the London singer and producer did place fourth on the BBC Sound Of. A man of many excellent collaborations, with the likes of Jessie Ware, SBTRKT, Drake and Katy B, his solo agenda hasn’t really kicked into gear in 2014. Indeed, apart from a guest appearance on Katy B’s ‘Play’, his year’s been a quiet one. Whatever’s up his sleeve, though, is sure to be exciting, as even if he’s not delivered this year, Sampha’s the kind of talent that doesn’t need to be on-trend to leave a substantial impression. The beautiful ‘Too Much’, from 2013, is still his best-known solo track – more like this, please, any time you like, sir.

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George Ezra

Number five on the Sound Of, George’s 2014 couldn’t have gone much better, really. His debut album, (the generally well received) ‘Wanted On Voyage’, reached number one in the UK, and ‘Blame It On Me’ reached six on the singles chart. He’s had success overseas, too, his album performing well in Australia, Germany and Ireland. Perhaps the US market is what’s next for George, and he’s a good chance of cracking it, based on the American reception to the similarly styled Hozier

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Royal Blood

One of NME’s biggest tips for 2014, it could have been easy for Royal Blood to blow out in a blaze of heavy-riffed glory, as they entered the year with just one song, ‘Out Of The Black’, supporting a shit load of hype. But bloody hell, didn’t they do well. Alright, so the two-piece’s primitive rock ‘n’ roll ain’t rocket science stuff, and it taps its influences pretty shamelessly – but who, really, could have foreseen a number one album in these guys? But that’s exactly what ‘Royal Blood’ (review) achieved. Which goes to show that even if you only have a single idea, executing it with aplomb can be enough to really get somewhere in the fickle pop field. Album two could flop badly unless they get some fresh creative juices flowing, but right now it’s unlikely that anyone in the Royal Blood camp cares what comes next.

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FKA twigs

In the running for the Sound Of but falling short of the top five, twigs was always a critical darling, but her transformation into an avant-garde R&B princess was never guaranteed. With ‘LP1’ (review), though, she’s assured her place at pop’s top table for the meantime – and there are those out there who will maintain her debut should have won the 2014 Mercury Prize. America is falling for her, too, so this might be the start of something distinctively alien, but alluringly beautiful. She is one of our artists of 2014, and maybe we will have something more on that, soon.

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Say Lou Lou

Another act on the Sound Of’s longlist of 15, this twin-sister duo’s dream-pop approach is certainly appealing, but it’s lightweight too, and nothing released in 2014 has really suggested that they can mix it with pop’s biggest talents. Perhaps that’s not the intention, of course, but being in a list like the Sound Of lays pretty massive expectations on any band, so it remains to be seen what this pair will do about that when they finally release their debut album, ‘Lucid Dreaming’, in February.

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Chance The Rapper

Tipped by just about everybody after his excellent mixtape ‘Acid Rap’ lit up 2013’s hip-hop best-of lists, Chance’s 2014 has mainly been about guest spots as he (presumably!) works on a debut album proper. Tracks with Skrillex and Chuck Inglish have kept his reputation high, but a long-play set with The Social Experiment, ‘Surf’, has thus far failed to materialise. Rather like Sampha, though, Chance can keep us waiting – we’re still exploring the crazy depth of ‘Acid Rap’ as it is, so there’s really no immediate hurry for a follow-up.

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Obviously plenty more acts were tipped for success around this time last year, but really, we can’t list them all. What’s clear is that, for the most part, the tipsters of late 2013 got ‘it’ right – whatever ‘it’ actually is. And even when artists haven’t come out with full-lengths for us to sink into, we’re still pretty eager to hear what they do next. What does this mean for James Bay, George The Poet and Years & Years? Oh, you know – all three will probably crash and burn by the summer. (Just kidding, guys!)

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