Sussex hip-hop bluesman Rag’n’Bone Man has been named the Brits critics choice winner for 2017.
The award is often seen as a guarantee of future success, having previously been won by the likes of Adele, Florence + the Machine, Sam Smith and James Bay, among others – though the 2016 winner, Jack Garratt, underachieved by those standards.
Unsurprisingly, the singer pronounced himself pleased with the award. “I thought they had made a mistake. I was up against two pop giants. It’s bloody brilliant! I’m crazy happy. Proper massive grin.”
What’s unusual about Rag’n’Bone Man – real name Rory Graham – is that he’s hardly the ingenue new talent awards normally celebrate. Now 31, he has been making music in one form or another since his teens, and became a full-time musician after signing a publishing deal with Warner Chappell in 2013.
Though billed as an EP, his 2014 release Wolves is long enough – just short of half an hour – to count as an album, and after it was rereleased following his signing to Sony, it grazed the charts in several European countries.
In summer 2016, he released the single Human, co-written with Jamie Hartman, which became a major hit across Europe, topping the charts in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and Switzerland and reaching No 11 in the UK. His debut album, also called Human, follows in February 2017.
He is a winning and unusual live performer, too – sometimes appearing with the rapper Stig of the Dump, with whom he combines on a modernised version of the standard House of the Rising Sun. He will be appearing on Jools Holland’s annual Hootenanny on BBC2 on new year’s eve.
Rag’n’Bone man defeated pop acts Dua Lipa and Anne-Marie to win the award. His style is unusual, in that it combines modern production with what sounds like the voice of a weathered blues singer from the deep south. The addition of Hartman as a co-writer, however, shows his move to Sony is moving him away from the more underground scene he used to be part of, and towards the mainstream. Hartman, who had chart success with the group Ben’s Brother, is also an award-winning songwriter for others, contributing work to Kylie Minogue, Birdy, James Bay and Anastacia among many others.
This article was written by Michael Hann, for theguardian.com on Thursday 8th December 2016 00.01 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010