NEW YORK (Billboard) - The first few months of the year are an ideal time for rising acts to grab their share of attention and, they hope, sales. That’s true for upcoming releases and new promotional boosts for sets already on hand.
Here are 10 hot faces to watch from genres including pop, rock, country, R&B, hip-hop, Christian, jazz and dance.
KATE VOEGELE (MySpace Records)
Sometimes things are better the second time around. So it seems in Kate Voegele’s case, when she re-releases her MySpace Records debut, “Don’t Look Away,” January 22. The move comes as the 21-year-old singer/songwriter transitions from the stage to the small screen.
Voegele scores her first acting role as the musician Mia on the popular CW series “One Tree Hill,” starting with its January 22 episode.
“I felt like the audience (for the show) is my audience,” Voegele says. “‘One Tree Hill’ has always been an awesome vehicle for new artists. Plus, now there’s this whole idea that art imitates life.”
On the show, one of the main characters discovers Mia and later signs her to a record deal. Voegele will be heard playing songs like the single “Only Fooling Myself” on the show.
The young performer has spent time touring with artists like John Mayer and Ben Lee, and is in the midst of planning a full tour itinerary surrounding the set’s re-release, which will feature a new album cover that will more closely reflect her role on “One Tree Hill.” Copies of the album -- originally released in May 2007 -- sold through Target will also include three bonus acoustic versions of previously released tracks.
BLITZEN TRAPPER (Sub Pop Records)
Visually and sonically, Portland, Ore.-based Blitzen Trapper could best be described as “modern classic rock.” It’s got hooks and chops and beards, and it records every song the old-fashioned way -- on a crackling four-track.
The band signed to Sub Pop in 2007 and will release a new album come summertime; if the last two discs were any sort of indication, the new one will be full of strange lyrics and beefy instrumentation.
Blitzen Trapper may well explode in 2008 for a number of reasons. Nostalgia-obsessed hipsters will appreciate that these dudes look like a band their parents could have watched at some dive bar in the ‘70s. Bloggers will OMG and LOL themselves silly over the genre-spanning nature of the group: Its last record included influences from blues, rock, electronics and country, and garnered more than one Pavement comparison for its sprawling nature.
But most important, fans of solid, well-crafted rock‘n‘roll appreciate the band’s commitment to solid musicianship and good old-fashioned hard work and song craft.
Sub Pop is mum about marketing plans thus far, but with an act of this caliber, it might just be wise to sit back and let the music sell itself.
ANANE (Tommy Boy Records)
Dance music is full of wannabe divas over-singing and attempting charisma. But newcomer Anane, with roots in Portugal and the island nation of Cape Verde, takes the stage decked out like Diana Ross, then proceeds to get down like Lauryn Hill fronting the Fugees.
After a string of singles on dance indie Vega Records, her debut album, “Selections,” is scheduled for a May release on Tommy Boy.
Framed around three covers well-known to the club community, but obscure to everyone else -- ESG’s “Standing in Line,” Bunny Mack’s “Let Me Love You” and Yoko Ono’s “Walking on Thin Ice” -- the set is otherwise original, segueing from thick club grooves to summery calypso to psychedelic dance-rock.
The album’s first widely released single, “Shake Dat Booty,” a reggae-inflected old-school rap produced by Tony Touch and Mr. Vegas, puts the girl back in control of the oft-sung across-the-dance floor flirtation.
“As soon as I put that track up on my MySpace page, girls started e-mailing me,” she says. “The message is, ‘I’ll still shake it, but on my own terms.”’
Combining earthiness with glamour and roots-deep house music knowledge with pop-wise diversity, Anane could be the first up-from-the-nightclub superstar since Madonna.
TINATIN (Liaison Music)
While most children were mastering the art of finger painting, 6-year-old Tinatin had wrapped her arms around a full spectrum of the arts: painting, writing, learning to speak six languages -- and singing.
The native of the Republic of Georgia (then part of the Soviet Union) came to it naturally; her father was an architect and painter, her mother a classical pianist.
The family moved to Russia, where she studied classical voice. Then, as a young adult, she journeyed to London, where she aligned with producer Christopher Neil (Celine Dion, Mike & the Mechanics, Rod Stewart), who encouraged her to write songs and helped line up live gigs.
Today, at 23, the raven-haired, blue-eyed Tinatin (now a New Yorker) has released a CD independently on PureMix Records and gained interest from two major labels.
Her rallying first single, “We the Peoples,” is based on the 1945 founding of the United Nations charter, another natural alliance stemming from her gig as a U.N. correspondent for the Russian media.
GALLOWS (Epitaph Records)
British music weekly NME recently named Frank Carter, the tattooed frontman of British punk band Gallows, “coolest person in rock” -- a sure sign that 2008 should be his year.
American audiences got their first taste of the act’s incendiary live shows on last year’s 40-date Vans Warped tour. Having also supported Bad Religion in the fall, Gallows headlines 25 U.S. dates this month and next.
“It’s been amazing,” Carter says of the American reaction. “In us they see a little bit of that ‘80s hardcore scene. They seem proud that when we go over there we cover their bands -- we do (Black Flag‘s) ‘Nervous Breakdown,’ and they really appreciate that.”
The band’s debut, “Orchestra of Wolves,” originally released in 2006, was re-released last year by Warner Music U.K. via Gallows’ own label, Black Envelope Records. Epitaph issued it stateside in July. “Punk rock is back,” Epitaph president Brett Gurewitz says. “This is the band we’ve all been waiting for.”
The album has sold 9,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Meanwhile, at home, Gallows’ cover of “Staring at the Rude Bois” from British punk band the Ruts, featuring rapper Lethal Bizzle, became the band’s first hit in December, peaking at No. 31.
LADY ANTEBELLUM (Capitol Nashville Records)
Music brought Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood -- collectively known as Lady Antebellum -- together. Well, music and some flirtation.
Scott, the daughter of Grammy-winning country singer Linda Davis, met Kelley (the younger brother of pop artist Josh Kelley) at a downtown Nashville music spot in May 2006 and told him she had been listening to his music on MySpace. Kelley asked for her number and promised they could write together. “A classic Nashville pickup line,” he recalls now with a laugh.
Kelley introduced Scott to longtime friend and multi-instrumentalist Haywood, and chemistry emerged. A performance at a Nashville club in August 2006 made the trio realize that sparks were apparent.
“It only took one live performance to realize that whatever it was we were going to do, had to be done together,” says Scott, who shares lead vocal duties and even duets with Kelley on some songs. A just-for-fun photo shoot in Civil War-era clothing led to the band’s name.
Lady Antebellum’s debut album is scheduled for a spring release. The group will tour with Martina McBride in January.
TYRA B (Warner Bros. Records)
The total package. That’s the goal R&B singer Tyra B has been working toward since the age of 9.
Signed to Warner Bros. 22-year-old Tyra B is building plenty of buzz with “Givin’ Me a Rush.” She co-wrote the song, an engaging mid tempo that pays rhythmic homage to Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” and Paula Abdul’s “Rush, Rush.” With vocals that are an edgier cross between Janet Jackson and Aaliyah, plus dance moves to match, Tyra B is out to prove she’s a triple threat.
“I have a deep passion for good R&B music,” she says. “I just want to give that back. And it’s not just about singing behind the mic. My whole thing is about giving a full show.”
Born Tyra Bolling in Petersburg, Va., she caught an early break when a radio DJ in the state capitol of Richmond saw her perform at a 2004 high school talent show. He began playing her music, which sparked an indie hit (“Country Boy”) and a coveted opening slot for 30 dates on the 2005 Destiny’s Child tour. She also hit with another indie single, “Still in Love.”
Now she’s amping up for her debut album, the aptly titled “Past Due,” which is set for a spring release.
MEREDITH ANDREWS (Word Records)
From Amy Grant to Darlene Zschech, Christian music has a rich history of influential female singer/songwriters, but recent charts have been dominated by male acts. Word aims to balance the format with Meredith Andrews’ debut, “The Invitation,” due April 29.
Influenced by such worship leaders as Zschech, Rita Springer and Christy Nockels, Andrews was involved in music in high school and college. Majoring in family and child development at Liberty University, her original plan was to work at an orphanage after graduation.
However, a pastor from Chicago’s Harvest Bible Chapel heard her at Liberty and recruited Andrews to join his worship team. Like the platinum-selling band Casting Crowns, the singer plans to continue working at the church while attending to her burgeoning recording career.
Andrews has already landed a coveted slot opening 30 dates for Aaron Shust this spring. “I wasn’t really looking for a record deal. It just fell in my lap,” she says. “I‘m so humbled by it all. It’s obvious that it’s the Lord’s hand and not my own.”
ESPERANZA SPALDING (Heads Up International Records)
At just 23, bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding has been turning heads in the last year, thanks to her 2006 debut CD “Junjo” on Barcelona label Ayva and her impressive sideman duties with such heroes as Stanley Clarke, Richard Bona, Herbie Hancock and Joe Lovano.
Spalding is also a marvel leading her own band. Whether exploding into vocalese or making her bass solo sound like a horn, she’s a spark plug who dances as she grooves through a funked-up and rocked-out repertoire.
“It’s been a natural evolution that musicians going places experience,” says Spalding, who in November signed to Heads Up International, an imprint of Concord Music Group, for her first widely released CD. Produced by Terrence Blanchard, the set is due in May.
“The new album will be a crossover date that has the integrity of jazz,” she says. “Only one song really swings; the rest are very groove-oriented.”