The shortlist for the BRITs 2017 Critics Choice award has been revealed, with Anne-Marie, Dua Lipa and Rag’n’Bone Man making the final cut. But just how effective a launchpad is the award in an era when breaking an act seems harder than ever?
Prior to 2016, if you won the BRITs Critics Choice awards you were virtually guaranteed a platinum debut record. Since Adele scooped the first Critics Choice gong in 2008, every subsequent winner scored a platinum debut without fail; such was its sway when it came to breaking new acts.
In many cases it produced multi-platinum records. Adele’s 19 is now seven times platinum on sales of 2,353,077, according to the Official Charts Company, while 2009 winner Florence + The Machine’s debut Lungs has gone five times platinum on sales of 1,727,935. In 2010, Ellie Goulding emerged victorious and saw her album Lights go two times platinum, shifting 816,597 copies in the process, followed by Jessie J in 2011, whose debut Who You Are has gone four times platinum with sales of 1,285,616.
2012 saw the award continue to work its magic, with Emeli Sandé’s Our Version Of Events going seven times platinum on sales of 2,307,708. Then, in 2013, Tom Odell saw his debut Long Way Down attain platinum status after winning the award, registering sales of 370,773, while Sam Smith landed another seven times platinum album for the Critics Choice alumni in 2014 with In The Lonely Hour, selling 2,264,531 copies to date.
In 2015, James Bay received the award, resulting in debut record Chaos And The Calm going two times platinum on sales of 745,815.
Then, in 2016, things took a downturn, when Jack Garratt became the first winner not to register a platinum, or even a gold debut album with Phase. So far, it has (just) gone silver on sales of 60,230, falling a long way short of any of those aforementioned records as far as sales are concerned.
However, it’s possible that to compare the outcome of this year’s awards with that of years gone by is to do both the artist and the awards a disservice. After all, Phase is still one of the UK’s biggest selling debut albums of 2016. Still, it serves as a stark reminder of just how much things have changed over the past 12 months as far as breaking new artists is concerned.
Perhaps this year was merely a blip and the next winner will deliver another multi-platinum, multi-million selling juggernaut. This year's shortlisted artists certainly already have a singles chart pedigree beyond anything Garratt had achieved this time last year (or even now). But given the absence of anything new to really shout about this year, it’s certainly not a banker. This time, the industry must be hoping the general public agree with the critics.