BBC Sound of 2023 – Yay or Nay? (Part 1)

The title sums this one up. We have 5 thirtysomething editors at Picky Bastards, but does that mean we’re giving up on our Gen Z audience? No!

James Spearing and Tom Burrows looked at the BBC’s Sound of 2023 longlist, split the list in two, copied Spotify user Gabriel LA’s playlist (credit where credit’s due), and evaluated the BBC’s hot new acts for your reading pleasure.

We start with James’ half of the draw.


Dylan (and by Dylan I mean Dylan, not Mr Robert Zimmerman) sounds exactly like something that could be massively commercially successful. And, as you might have come to expect from this site, something massively commercially successful isn’t our, or at least, my, cup of tea. You can’t knock the ambition of the production. These are ready made stadium pop anthems, tucked away on a debut EP. I giggled at the lyrics of ‘You’re not Harry Styles’ (it works on a whole extra level if you’re a Picky Bastard other than Fran). Beyond that, I have little more to say. It’s reasonably enjoyable, if borderline annoying, pop with a bland rock aesthetic which doesn’t fully materialise in the sound. She could be massive.


Of all the artists in my half of the list, I’d argue that Gabriels is the one most likely to get some traction with the Picky Bastards. They’d still definitely be divisive, but I think they have something that will appeal. If you’ve not already heard them the expect a very classic sound, yet with an originality of their own, fusing secular gospel (if that’s not an oxymoron) with disco. This does mean there is something churchy about them, which is slightly jarring. It’s familiar yet new and seems tailor made to soundtrack a film featuring some aspect of black American history from somewhere in the middle of the 20th century. They caught my ear with early release ‘Love and Hate in a Different Time’, back in 2021. Like this article, their debut album is split into two parts, the second being due in March. So there is some existing form and expectation here. Angels & Queens Part II has the potential to cement their growing reputation. The album in two halves is a curious move, but could pay off. We’re certainly not known for our love of overly long albums here and it could play in their favour. Another release I will be looking forward to.

Cat Burns

‘Go’ has already been streamed over 110 million times on Spotify alone. So Cat’s not exactly new, and not exactly unknown. In the song, with its simple repeated picked guitar line, she sounds like a sad Craig David. It’s less meet the girl, go out with the girl, have sex with the girl (chill on Sunday) and more get your calls ignored by the boy, catch the other girl leaving the boy’s place, listen to boy’s poor excuses, chuck the boy. Can she repeat this success in 2023? With Tik Tok apparently behind much of the popularity of ‘Go’, it remains to be seen whether she can. She’s got something abour her in her music, but I can’t help be cynical about short term success through social media alone and I’m yet to be convinced that her music can speak for itself. Let’s see if 2023 brings a proper album – I’ll be looking forward to it and keeping an open mind.

Nia Archives

I am a sucker for a jungle beat so Nia’s music ticks plenty of boxes for me. This music is an example of a rare occasion when I am more than happy to let go, abandon my natural critical and cynical nature, and just enjoy. If ‘Baianá’ doesn’t make you at least smile, then you’re dead inside. If tropical sunshine made a noise, it would sound like this. It’s uncomplicated and I don’t care – I just love it. Nia’s music isn’t all joy and light though, and she has the ability to match the big beats with thoughtful and reflective lyrics – ‘Forbidden Feelings’ and ‘Sober Feels’ both achieve this with aplomb. She’s bringing something fresh to what is by now a fairly tired genre and this is really exciting to me. I can’t wait to hear more.

Fred Again..

Fred is another act in this list who is already massively popular. For all that a BRIT award means now, he’s already nominated as Artist of the Year presumably for what he did in the year just gone, which was not 2023. It rather devalues the point of a 2023 list. Fred’s music, more than possibly any other artist on this list, exemplifies the basic sounds on offer for 2023. And while we’re here, why does he have two full stops after the ‘Again’? I don’t want to like Fred Again.. but the more I listen the more I find myself drawn in against my will. I didn’t consent to this Fred. So despite my better judgement, I have to settle somewhere around not wanting to listen to it sat at home, but recognising that it might be kind of fun in an imagined world where I’m still going out partying. But I’m not. So it’s a no.

Be sure to visit next week for Tom’s half. He’s younger so might be more positive…you never know.

Words by James Spearing and Tom Burrows.

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