In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.
The Brits—the BRIT Awards in particular—love their soulful divas, but their chosen darlings have a spotty history of crossing over to the U.S. market. Former BRIT Critics Choice winners Adele and Florence And The Machine went on to wildly successful careers here and elsewhere in the world, while other recent honorees Jessie J and Ellie Goulding have had a more up-and-down road to international success. In 2012, the BRITs bestowed Critics Choice on Scottish singer Emeli Sandé, and while her debut album, Our Version Of Events, became the U.K.’s bestselling album of 2012, it was something of a non-starter when it was released in the U.S. back in June, peaking at No. 28 on the Billboard 200 and No. 16 on the digital albums chart—which is both a shame and a bit surprising, given how it slots into the U.S. pop-music butter zone of dance-inflected R&B. (Then again, that didn’t do the similar-sounding, and similarly excellent, Katy B any favors.)
Now, with Sandé recently picking up four 2013 BRIT nominations—more than any other artist, and more than Adele’s unstoppable 21 garnered last year—there’s no better time for the U.S. to take notice. While the adrenalized, synthy “Heaven” is a good gateway for those who tend toward dance-music appreciation, Sandé’s BRIT-nominated global hit single “Next To Me” is a better indicator of Events’ charms, a bright and soulful showcase for Sandé’s robust, earthy vocals, which recall a little bit of Beyoncé—appropriate, given that Bey’s husband Jay-Z has endorsed Sandé and hinted at the possibility of collaboration. Sandé’s star will probably have to rise a little higher in the States before that becomes likely, but, hey, stranger things have happened.