Wednesday, June 1, 2011

One to watch: Emeli Sandé

How's this for a striking lyric: "When his lungs collapse, there'll be no more breathing. I will gently close his eyes."

It's from Kill The Boy, the latest single from up-and-coming singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé. It also contains couplets like "I walk around with murder in my eyes / I'm going to turn my baby blue", and "I walk around with a bullet on my tongue / Killer written on my face."

As far as I can tell, she's not a psychopath and this is not a Charles Manson-style murder fantasy. Instead, we're in the same territory as Rihanna's Unfaithful, where the singer believes dumping her boyfriend might genuinely cause him to collapse on the floor and die. Talk about having an inflated sense of self worth.

Emeli Sandé - Kill The Boy

Emeli (I presume it's pronounced Emily) hails from Scotland and has spent 23 years on the planet you call Earth. She studied medicine at university before she chucked it all in to become a singer. Suggested headline for broadsheet writers: "From eye charts to the pop charts". You can have that for free.

Pop fans may have heard her already. She sang the hooks on Chipmunk's Diamond Rings and Tinie Tempah's Let Go. She's also worked with Magnetic Man and Cher Lloyd, and written for The Saturdays and Cheryl Cole.

With that pedigree you can make a fair guess that her solo material has an urban / dubstep influence - and her demos (which Virgin kindly played to me the other day) would prove you right. Emeli's songs are full of clattering drum patterns and squashy mid-90s synth pads. But, underpinning it all is a beautiful, nuanced soul voice.

Kill The Boy isn't all about shocking lyrical imagery, for instance. Emeli infuses it with a tenderness and regret that suggests a deeper, personal turmoil behind the break-up. Taken in conjunction with songs like Daddy, about addiction in all its forms, it indicates an artist with wider emotional range than her younger peers like Katy B or Yasmin (who I also love).

So, Emeli's already been added to my "sound of 2012" longlist. A couple of her demos and early acoustic sessions are floating around on YouTube. Here are two of my favourites.

Emeli Sandé - Easier In Bed

Emeli Sandé - Daddy (acoustic)

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