As tips season begins in earnest, the Brit awards has named the shortlist for its annual Rising Star prize. London pop star Bree Runway, Lincolnshire songwriter Holly Humberstone and London balladeer Lola Young – who soundtracks this year’s festive John Lewis advert – will compete for the prize formerly known as the Critics’ Choice award.
As with 2019 and 2018, all three nominees are female solo artists. They will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of previous winners such as Adele, Sam Fender, Rag’n’Bone Man and last year’s winner, Griff. The award is open to British artists who have not achieved a UK Top 20 album or more than one Top 20 single by 31 October 2021.
Hackney-born Bree Runway, 29, received acclaim from Rihanna and Missy Elliott – with whom she would later collaborate on her 2020 single ATM – as she rose through social media, self-releasing her first two EPs. In 2018, she signed to Virgin EMI and released further collaborations with the likes of rappers Brooke Candy, Yung Baby Tate and British band Glass Animals.
She was shortlisted for the BBC Sound of 2021 poll, was named Vogue Darling for the magazine’s January 2021 issue and garnered further acclaim from US rappers Cardi B, Saweetie and Doja Cat. She has pushed back against being categorised as an R&B star or rapper, citing the diversity of her sound and influences such as Elliott, Britney Spears, Kelis, Grace Jones, Freddie Mercury, Kate Bush and Daddy Yankee.
“I’m from here, but I don’t make Afropop or Afroswing or whatever,” she told Vogue. “My genre is very much a fluid thing. You close your eyes for a minute: she’s a country singer. Oh, she’s a rock star. This is my comfort, this quirky eccentric world.” She told the magazine that she dreamed of being “a leading example of the fact that a Black girl can do anything, and Black girls are everything”.
Holly Humberstone, 21, was spotted by a manager after performing on her local BBC Introducing radio show. She developed her songwriting with Rob Milton, formerly of UK indie band Dog Is Dead, and released her debut EP, Falling Asleep at the Wheel, last year. Her intimate songwriting – distinguished by pop hooks and many-layered vocal harmonies that have drawn comparisons to Lorde – made her into a pandemic breakout star.
“I have chaos in my head all the time,” she told the Guardian last month. “When I sit down to write, it’s working through all these things that I’m going through. When I put it in a song, it’s a more manageable piece to understand. It’s really my therapy.”
On her second EP, The Walls Are Way Too Thin, released in early November, she collaborated with Matty Healy of the 1975. She recently returned from her first US tour, which included a live performance on Jimmy Fallon’s late-night talk show.
Lola Young, 21, grew up in south London and attended the Brit school after winning a national open-mic contest. “That school was a hub for people who maybe couldn’t be themselves even at home, but they could be themselves there,” she told the Forty-Five.
She is managed by Nick Shymansky, former manager to Amy Winehouse, and Nick Huggett, the A&R who signed Adele to XL Recordings. She released her debut album Intro in 2019, followed by the EPs Renaissance and After Midnight, to acclaim from the likes of Annie Mac, Clara Amfo and Gilles Peterson.
She has spent 2021 writing her debut album with producer Paul Epworth. Her influences include Joni Mitchell, Anderson .Paak, Prince and Alanis Morissette. Her cover of the 1984 song Together in Electric Dreams, originally by Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder, soundtracks this year’s John Lewis Christmas advert.
The Rising Star winner is announced on 10 December. The Brit awards 2022 take place on 8 February at the London O2 Arena. A new host, comedian Mo Gilligan, replaces Jack Whitehall, who has helmed the ceremony for the previous four years.
The Brit awards recently announced that it would do away with gendered categories that split male and female talent apart. A new award, artist of the year, will replace the British male and female solo artist categories; international artist of the year will replace the previously gendered international solo awards.
At 2021’s ceremony, the non-binary British pop singer Sam Smith was left out of the gendered categories for solo artist. They responded: “I look forward to a time where awards shows can be reflective of the society we live in. Let’s celebrate everybody, regardless of gender, race, age, ability, sexuality and class.”