You read it here first. These 10 faces to watch represent Billboard’s picks for 2006. They either have a highly anticipated debut album ready to come out in the first quarter or have been under-the-radar and are expected to explode at any moment.
Pop rock: Arctic Monkeys
Of the coolest British newcomers to emerge in 2005, Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys climbed to the top of the heap.
Domino Recordings, home to Scottish rockers Franz Ferdinand, came out on top amid frenzied label interest to ink the four-piece to a recording contract.
Lifted by a dedicated fan base and an online marketing campaign, Arctic Monkeys’ Oct. 17 debut single, “I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor,” vaulted to the top spot at home and to No. 7 on the Billboard Eurochart Singles chart.
Because of that success, interest is building for the band’s forthcoming album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” which will be released in the U.K. Jan. 30. The album will be preceded by a second single, “When the Sun Goes Down.”
Details on the act’s U.S. push will be released this month.
Country: Shannon BrownAfter 11 years in Nashville, Shannon Brown is not a newcomer to the country music industry. But Warner Bros. is launching her label debut with all the energy and innovation usually associated with a promising new artist.
In a creative initiative, Warner Bros. teamed with AOL Music to introduce Brown to the online audience through a six-part Web video series. Titled “This Is Shannon Brown,” it launched on aolmusic.com last summer. In bite-sized video snippets, the series offers a behind-the-scenes look at everything involved in releasing a new album and introducing an artist who has not yet become a household name.
Big & Rich’s John Rich produced Brown’s new album, due Feb. 28.
’She’s been around the block a couple of times and hasn”t been able to break through,” he says, referring to her time on Arista Nashville and sister label BNA Records between 1997 and 2002. ’Shannon and I finally captured musically what she is all about. We wrote some big old hits. Her head’s in the right place, and she’s going to come out and absolutely rock’n’roll.”
The Iowa native’s debut single, “Corn Fed,” is currently on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
Indie rock: DecemberadioSpring Hill Music Group’s new Slanted imprint gained critical kudos for introducing torchy rock vocalist Charity Von, but in 2006 look for DecembeRadio to put the scrappy indie label on the dial in a big way.
Formed in 1998, this Blacksburg, W.Va.-based rock outfit cites such influences as Aerosmith, Lenny Kravitz and the Black Crowes, and serves up hard rock with a Southern flavor.
The group is the resident worship band for Camp Berea’s Deep Freeze youth camps near Concord, N.H., where it has developed a rabid teen fan base. It was voted breakout band of the year by radio stations attending the 2005 Rock Summit, and it has already scored slots on AtlantaFest and Rock the Universe, two of Christian music’s largest festivals.
Produced by Scotty Wilbanks (Third Day, Overflow, NewSong), the band’s debut is slated for late summer/early fall. Slanted is distributed by Warner Bros.-owned Word Distribution.
Pop heartthrob: Teddy GeigerTeddy Geiger’s debut album, “Underage Thinking,” does not come out until Feb. 28 on Columbia Records, but the 17-year-old from Rochester, N.Y., is already poised to be everyone’s next musical sweetheart. His songwriting and guitar work are drawing comparisons to a teenage John Mayer for good reason. Geiger’s tunes are full of smart -- but not precocious -- lyrics and catchy melodies. First single “For You I Will (Confidence)” goes to radio this month.
Producer/songwriter Billy Mann discovered the self-taught musician during auditions for VH1’s “In Search of the New Partridge Family.” Geiger did not land the coveted role of Keith Partridge, but got something much better: a recording contract.
In the meantime, Geiger, who was featured in Teen People’s ”What’s Next” issue, has found another vehicle to make him a TV personality. He has a recurring role as a rising young pop star in the new CBS series “Love Monkey.” The dramedy, which stars Tom Cavanaugh and Jason Priestley, debuts Jan. 17. The initial episodes will feature a number of Geiger’s songs.
The singer is also scheduled to appear on “CBS Saturday Morning” Jan. 28.
Opera: Anja HarterosIn the opera world, the focus is on rising 32-year-old German soprano Anja Harteros.
Winner of the 1999 Singer of the World competition in Cardiff, Wales -- a prize given in other years to such singers as Karita Mattila and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who have achieved international success -- Harteros has gone on to sing at the Vienna State Opera, the Salzburg Festival and the Metropolitan Opera, where she made her debut in the 2003-04 season. She has remained a hidden gem, but that is all about to change.
Last month, Harteros went into the studio to record a disc of Mozart opera and concert arias (plus Haydn’s ’Scena Di Berenice”) with the Vienna Symphony and conductor Pinchas Steinberg. Her debut album is slated for release on RCA Red Seal this summer.
Latin: JeremiasIn December, Venezuelan singer/songwriter Jeremias played an impromptu show at the offices of his label, Universal Music Latino. Armed only with an acoustic guitar, he showcased his compelling voice -- reminiscent of Joan Manuel Serrat and Joaquin Sabina -- strong melodies and beautifully crafted, often witty lyrics. (One song was about a man who catches his wife and best friend in a compromising situation.)
Those were the elements that led Universal to sign Jeremias, whose real name is Carlos Eduardo Lopez Avila. The label, which believes his songs will strike a chord with a broad audience, has made the singer a priority for 2006.
Prior to Universal, Jeremias had minor success with his self-titled debut on indie Avila Records.
This month, Jeremias’ first single, “Uno Y Uno,” will ship to radio simultaneously in the United States and Latin America. His as-yet-untitled album is due in the first quarter.
Dance: MyloDance music execs are always searching for an artist that they can respectfully cross over, one that can satisfy the expectations of dance fans and a pop audience. In Mylo, they get both.
Mylo, a.k.a. Myles MacInnes, creates original music that merges dance’s reigning electro sound with rock and pop, sometimes literally. His biggest overseas hit is a fully licensed mash-up of Miami Sound Machine’s puffy “Doctor Beat” and his own bleepy “Drop the Pressure.” Expect it to do some damage on the Hot Dance Club Play chart upon its U.S. release.
The Scotsman’s debut album, cheekily titled “Destroy Rock’n’Roll,” is already a grass-roots smash in the United Kingdom, having sold close to 300,000 units on Mylo’s own Breastfed label. Those numbers prompted major-label interest stateside, and Breastfed/RCA will release “Destroy” Feb. 7 in the United States. If Europe is any indicator, potential for sales is great.
A conceptual cousin to Madonna producer Stuart Price (a.k.a. electronic artist Les Rythmes Digitales) and LCD Soundsystem frontman/DFA co-founder James Murphy, Mylo mixes formats as well as genres. He tours as a DJ, but also has a full live band, which he will take on the road in the United States.
R&B/Hip-hop: Ne-YoNicknamed Ne-Yo after the movie character Neo in “The Matrix,” the 22-year-old R&B singer has already made people sit up and take notice of his skills.
With producer Scott Storch and Kam Houf, he co-wrote Mario’s long-running R&B/pop hit “Let Me Love You,” which recently copped two Billboard Music Awards. In addition to writing credits for Mary J. Blige, B2K, Faith Evans and Musiq, Ne-Yo (born Shaffer C. Smith) is ready to add another milestone to his resume. On Feb. 28, his Def Jam album will debut, under the fitting title “In My Own Words.”
Meanwhile, the Arkansas-to-Las Vegas transplant already has two successful singles under his belt. “Stay” featuring Peedi Crack peaked at No. 36 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, while ’So Sick” is currently No. 22.
His brand of melodic R&B has been featured on BET Style, MSNBC and MTV, where he was profiled on “You Hear It First.” After wooing fans last summer on a Teen People-sponsored listening-lounge tour with labelmates Rihanna and Teairra Mari, which was hosted by Def Jam honcho Jay-Z, Ne-Yo went on to open for John Legend.
Hard rock: The SwordThere will be no shortage of hard rock bands primed for stellar success in 2006, with big things expected from Hawthorne Heights, Bleeding Through, My Chemical Romance, and Italy’s Lacuna Coil, among others. But old-fashioned metal will not be left out, and new act the Sword is expected to wave the flag for the genre.
The Austin-based quartet owns a monstrous sound, one that echoes the riffs of Black Sabbath and the psychedelic sludge of stoner rock heroes Kyuss. Thanks to nine guitar anthems that slash and hack their way through the band’s self-titled debut, which is due Feb. 14, the set is already turning heads with songs like “Winter’s Wolves” and garnering rave reviews both locally and nationally.
The band first won over fans and critics alike at last year’s South by Southwest music conference and earned a touring slot with . . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. Signed to the hipster-friendly Kemado Records, the Sword should find itself embraced by the same fan base that follows such acts as Sub Pop’s Comets on Fire and Matador’s Early Man.
Jazz: Christian ScottWhile dozens of technically proficient artists get churned out of jazz programs each year, a rare few express themselves with creativity and vision. Enter Christian Scott.
The 22-year-old trumpeter tops the class of upstarts with his exhilarating March 28 debut, “Rewind That,” on Concord Jazz.
With a maturity engendered by his mentoring uncle -- jazz saxophonist Donald Harrison -- Scott boasts a singular breathy tone. He sounds intent on breaking straight-ahead jazz codes with his funk- and rock-infused style, marked by odd meters, urgent grooves and passionate romancing.
Scott is getting the royal treatment at Concord. The label’s marketing plan calls for club showcases and inclusion on free sampler discs at retail outlets. In addition, his debut CD will be sold at the developing-artist price of $12.98.
“We’re pricing Christian’s album aggressively to encourage the cost-conscious consumer to discover a young artist who plays with conviction,” Concord Music Group GM Gene Rumsey says. “We feel Christian can capture the imaginations of jazz fans and music lovers.”