Sam Smith named BBC Sound of 2014
Pop singer Sam Smith has been named the winner of the BBC's Sound of 2014, which highlights the best new artists for the year ahead.
The list was compiled using tips from 170 UK-based critics, broadcasters and bloggers, and previous winners include Adele, Ellie Goulding and Jessie J.
"I'm completely speechless," said the 21-year-old from Cambridgeshire. "It's a huge compliment to be recognised by the industry and the BBC in this way.
"I really didn't expect it."
The top five
"Being amongst names like Ellie, Jessie J, Adele is just incredible because they inspire my music so much."
Smith got his big break in 2012, as the featured vocalist on Latch, by Mercury-nominated dance act Disclosure.
The single spent 15 weeks in the UK top 40, peaking at number 11 - but his next song climbed even higher.
La La La, a collaboration with British producer Naughty Boy, went to number one and became the fifth biggest-selling single of 2013.
End Quote Greg Cochrane, NME
2013 wasn't a brilliant year for UK artists translating buzz into sales, so the industry will be hoping these artists really capture music fans' imaginations”
After releasing a solo EP last year, he officially launches his solo career next month with the single Money On My Mind, a spritely, infectious pop song about resisting the lure of record label cash.
He told the BBC the song was "about someone in the industry who offended me recently and I had to get it off my chest."
Money On My Mind has recently been added to Radio One's influential playlist.
The station's head of music, George Ergatoudis said: "Sam Smith is blessed with a distinctive mellifluous voice that imbues his lyrics with real emotion and soul.
"The public are looking for authentic artists with genuine talent and Sam more than fits the bill. He is going to enjoy huge success this year."
Smith has also been named the winner of the Critics' Choice award by the Brits, and will pick up his trophy at the ceremony on 19 February.'Freaked out'
The Sound of 2014 was compiled by a range of music industry experts, ranging from magazine editors and newspaper critics to influential bloggers, DJs and radio and TV producers.
Each was asked to name their favourite three new acts - rather than the ones they thought would be commercially successful.
They were free to choose performers from any country and any musical genre.
Artists who had scored a UK top 20 single or album before 11 November 2012 were ineligible, as were those already well-known to the UK public - for example by featuring in the final stages of a TV talent show or already being a member of a successful band.
The tips were compiled into a longlist of the top 15 artists, which was published in December, and the top five have been revealed this week.
In second place was London-born pop singer Ella Eyre, with brooding R&B siren Banks taking third place. The futuristic electro-soul of Sampha came fourth and blues-rock guitarist George Ezra completed the top five.
It is the first time the entire top five has been comprised of solo artists.
Greg Cochrane, editor of NME.com said: "If the top five in this year's Sound Of is anything to go by, it's going to be a strong year for innovative young solo artists.
"It's particularly exciting that four of the five are British, too. 2013 wasn't a brilliant year for UK artists translating buzz into sales, so the industry will be hoping these artists really capture music fans' imaginations."
LA pop-rock trio Haim came top of the Sound of 2013 list. Their debut album Days Are Gone beat Justin Timberlake to number one in September, and went on to sell more than 100,000 copies in the UK.
Guitarist and singer Alana Haim said her advice for Smith was "play as much as you can" and "get your record done".
"After we won, a lot of things start happening really fast and we were kind of freaked out," she added.
"I think if we'd had more of our album finished before we won, it would have come out a little bit faster.
"But, really, you have to take a breath and realise that these people you've never met enjoy what you do."
Previous winners include: Michael Kiwanuka (2012), Ellie Goulding (2010), Adele (2008), Corinne Bailey Rae (2006), and Keane (2004).
Other artists in the top five in previous years include Florence and the Machine (2009), James Blake (2011), Frank Ocean (2012), The Vaccines (2011), Marina and the Diamonds (2010), Foals (2008) and Plan B (2006).