With the likes of Adele, Jessie J and Emeli Sande dominating the British music scene in recent years it is perhaps fitting that their solo male counterparts now seem to be catching up again, says Russell Iliffe.
This year’s BRIT Awards British Male Solo Artist category boasts a strong and eclectic line-up with Calvin Harris, Olly Murs, Richard Hawley, Plan B and Ben Howard all securing a nomination. In fact, competition for the award has proven so fierce that returning veterans Robbie Williams and Paul Weller haven’t even made the running despite releasing well received new albums.
Calvin Harris (pictured left) is surely the artist/songwriter/producer/DJ who defines the act of multi-tasking. Breaking through in 2007 with his single Acceptable in the 80s, he hasn’t looked back since. His latest album 18 Months topped the UK charts and has spawned seven UK top ten hits. The Official Charts Company recently revealed that this feat ties 18 Months with Michael Jackson’s Dangerous as the album to produce the most top ten singles in UK chart history.
Collaborations with Rihanna, Florence Welch, Example and Cheryl Cole, to name just a few, meant that the Harris sound was rarely off the radio or out of the charts last year.
Meanwhile Olly Murs had a fantastic twelve months which saw him sell over 900,000 albums in the UK. The X Factor alumni may have placed second in the 2009 contest but has since gone on to become one of our biggest selling pop stars.
PRS for Music named him as the UK’s hardest working solo male live act in 2012 and he also managed to find the time to tour the US with One Direction. Meanwhile, his recent single Troublemaker gave him his fourth UK number one.
Perennial outsider Richard Hawley received widespread critical acclaim when he released his seventh studio album Standing at the Sky’s Edge in May last year. The album received a Mercury Prize nomination and shot to number three in the UK albums chart.
The Sheffield singer-songwriter has spoken about his desire to keep moving musically and his latest album positively surprised music critics with an edgier sound. Both uncompromising and passionate, he is still winning new fans as his long and varied career continues. You can read our interview with him here.
Plan B, aka Ben Drew, returned last year with Mercury Prize nominated album ill Manors which promptly topped the UK albums chart. The soundtrack to his film of the same name, it was a sharp contrast to the retro-soul of 2010 million-seller The Defamation of Strickland Banks.
A pointed return to the hip-hop of his earlier work, the title track caused controversy with its references to the London riots. However, Plan B won critical acclaim for producing a both brave and unpredictable third album.
Devonshire based singer-songwriter Ben Howard completes the set of nominees after his 2011 debut album Every Kingdom has continued to attract attention both at home and abroad.
The album received a Mercury Prize nomination and has now been certified platinum. Meanwhile, last year saw Howard release a new set of songs titled The Burgh Island EP as well as frantically touring the globe.
Bets are now on as bookies clamour to predict the winning horse in this tight race. Who do you think will seize the prize at the ceremony on 20 February at the O2 Arena, London?