HITS Daily Double


Our Choice for Early Frontrunner in the Best New Artist Grammy Category

One thing is eminently clear here in the second quarter of 2015—James Bay is the New Artist at the front of the line as the early projections for Grammy nominations begin to be compiled.

Signed in the U.S. by Rob Stevenson and his team at Republic, the Hitchin, Herfordshire, U.K.-born Bay exploded first in his homeland, but the U.S. is now not far behind. Breaking quickly now at Triple A, Alternative and Hot AC, with Top 40 gaining interest, Bay’s subtle, haunting and beautiful “Hold Back the River” is the breakthrough into an album deep with great music.

Just as his countryman Sam Smith arrived with that “voice from God”—a great instrument with overwhelming emotional power—and grew from buzz breakout to chart-topping superstar to Grammy magnet, Bay has the potential to have the world at his feet. His voice is spine-tingling, his delivery powerful and his material memorable and authentic.

The 25-year-old’s debut full-length, Chaos and the Calm, debuted at #1 in his homeland and earned the Critics’ Choice Award at the most recent BRIT Awards. “If there is one artist who’s on more ‘Artist to Watch’ lists than we can count, it’s James Bay,” Diffuser’s Emily Tan noted a few weeks ago. Given his gorgeous voice (which recalls the upper-register sensuality of Jeff Buckley) and finely wrought songs, it’s little wonder. Bay skillfully merges pop-rock, soul and just the right amount of indie-troubadour grit.

“Hold Back the River” is already a smash in the U.K.; BBC Radio 1, a major believer, broke the track and put Bay on the map. Other highlights of the set—which the young Brit recorded in Nashville with Grammy-winning producer Jacquire King (Of Monsters and Men, Tom Waits, Kings of Leon)—include the intimate “Let It Go,” the smoothly rocking “If You Ever Want to Be in Love,” the urgent “When We Were on Fire,” the aching waltz “Move Together” and the album-closing anthem “Get Out While You Can.” What’s more, Chaos is that rare bird, an album experience, with Bay’s vocal chops and conviction bringing it all home.

Though he eschews flash onstage, Bay has little difficulty captivating a crowd; during his sets opening for Hozier last year, you could hear a pin drop. His U.S. headlining tour sold out in mere minutes.

And now the rest of the pieces are coalescing for Bay, similar to the aforementioned Hozier. We are watching and cheering the growth.