At just 13 years old, the girl formerly known as Nicole Shortland signed to Mercury Records as one third of the short-lived SoundGirl. Their one and only single ‘Don’t Know Why’ stalling at Number 45 in the UK Charts, the group disbanded in April of this year. Few tears were shed. And then, this happened.
‘Intro Intro’ – the debut single from Little Nikki saw young Shortland roaming the streets of North London whilst mainlining Red Bull and pic n mix, intimidating OAP’s, playing baseball with fruit stolen from a market stall… All of which might seem like standard fare for most 16 year olds nowadays, but add to the cocktail one of the most infectious ballsy pop songs of the year and you’ve got a sterling introduction to an artist that remained unsigned for all of about 6 weeks. Courted by Columbia, Little Nikki inked a deal with the major label earlier in the Summer and has since gone on to open for Rita Ora and Rizzle Kicks throughout the UK, gathering an army of loyal fans she endearingly calls her ‘Nuttahs’.
Of course, for all her teen pop appeal the question remains, can Little Nikki penetrate the adult pop market? Based on the tracks we heard recently in her publicists office, ‘Intro Intro’ is merely a teaser of the pop majesty that’s to follow. ‘DILLIGAF’ (an acronym for Do I Look Like I Give A Fuck) is a ballsy, heady fusion of hip hop, hard edged synth pop and dancehall that combined with Shortland’s easy-breezy lyrical flow has all the makings of a global sensation a la Azealia Banks’ ’212′. The critics tend to agree too. The Huffington Post citing Little Nikki as Britain’s answer to Rihanna whilst MTV, Dazed & Confused, Pop Justice and Notion Magazine all following suit.
There’s not much we can say about young Dublin based producer/DJ Frank B. His online presence, minimal. His musical output, a single track. Why in God’s name is he even included in my list of names then?! Relax. As is often the case, it’s the music that tells the story, and ‘Chain Of Fools’ speaks louder than a thousand fawning blog posts ever could.
A re-edit/cover version of Aretha Franklin’s 1967 game-changer ‘Chain Of Fools’, Frank B’s effortless production is submerged in irresistible Chicago House reference points. The song hangs on a powerhouse vocal that, over the course of 6 minutes, finds itself chopped and skewed over a relentless drum groove that doesn’t back down for a second. Yet, for all its big, ‘arms aloft’ qualities, Frank B’s subtle approach to the track is what really has me excited – nursing it out of its shell with expertly deployed 90s synths and the gentle introduction of sparingly used instruments.
Trust me on this one, 2013 will see this fledgling producer emerge as one of the year’s very best.
As with everything in life, music goes round in cycles. At the end of the day, there’s only so many notes, and that’s not even mentioning the human inclination towards nostalgia. 2012, over anything else, will be remembered for its fascination with R&B. As with the year prior’s reconfiguration of 80s synth-pop into the over-subscribed and swiftly ridiculed micro-genre of chillwave, these last twelve months have seen many rummaging through their old mix CDs up in their parents’ attic, finding beloved compilations of years past. With home recording and uploading easier than ever, the past few years have seen a whole host of bedroom producers blossom into stars before my very eyes, with The Weeknd and Frank Ocean just two of these examples.
AlunaGeorge are also indicative of this, and a lot closer to home. The London-based pair have grown over the past year, attracting excitement on the back of debut track ‘Just A Touch’ – laid back, seductive and silky smooth but laden with glass-shattering levels of bass. But more than just R&B nostalgists, the pair (comprising, unsurprisingly, of Aluna Francis and George Reid) have bloomed into one of the brightest new sparks in the ever-merging worlds of pop, grime and electronic music. Their tracks render 90s car-mixtape R&B through a modern filter of dub and glitch production whilst packing irresistible airwaves-friendly choruses.
2013 should prepare itself for more of the same, but on a far greater scale. Their upcoming debut record is destined to propel the pair closer to Radio 1 than 6 Music, if they’re not halfway there already. “3 things you will definitely hear on the album”, the band portend. “1. Explosion sound FX. 2. A Bad – ass synth solo. 3. George on a talkbox. Hopefully it will prove that those who’ve got behind us so far aren’t wrong.” We, for one, are ready to be proven right.