By Geoffrey Rowlands
Is UK television’s The X Factor supposed to unearth new British vocal talent or give a second opportunity to those who have made it elsewhere but faded from the spotlight?
The 2018 triumph of 25-year-old Jamaican singer and songwriter Dalton Harris suggests all things are possible. Dalton needed a UK government visa allowing him to remain in Britain for the duration of the show. But he is far from being unknown in his native land. In 2010, Dalton became the youngest winner of an X Factor style show on Jamaican television called Digicel Rising Stars.
Like X Factor, Rising Stars has launched the careers of some of Jamaica’s most popular artistes. Following his victory, Dalton signed with Penthouse Records, recorded an album and reached number one on the Jamaican dancehall chart in 2014 with a song called Pauper.
But Dalton was affected by the ephemeral nature of so many careers in pop. His popularity faded all too quickly. Competing on The X Factor was seen as the perfect opportunity to not only relaunch his career but do so on the international music market.
“I’ve watched The X Factor ever since I saw a clip on the Internet seven years ago,” said Clarendon-born Dalton. “I prepared for the show knowing what it could do for me if I won or even if I just did well. I know many of the artistes who didn’t win have been much more successful than those who did.”
Dalton had been the bookmakers favourite to win the show since his audition performance of Elton John’s classic song, Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word. His rendition wowed the audience and judges earning him a big hug from judge Ayda Williams.
“I knew that was the most important performance of my life. If I had not sung well and been rejected by the judges, all my preparation and the money spent on coming to England would have been wasted.”
After receiving a yes from all four judges, Dalton revealed his personal history of growing up in an extremely large and very poor family with 22 brothers and sisters. He had dropped out of school in the 10th grade and lived alone in a one-room dwelling, which had no electricity or running water.
“I don’t think of my early life as being a sad story. It’s just the way it was. I have been blessed with my vocal ability. I’m not going to complain about not having a privileged childhood.”
Dalton’s stellar performances saw him sail through each round of The X Factor. Only on week one, when he was placed third, did he not come first or second in the voting. He eventually won with a clear 10 percent majority over English singer/songwriter Scarlett Lee.
His winner’s single is a cover of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s 1984 UK chart-topper, The Power of Love. The track also features additional vocals from 2012 X Factor winner James Arthur.
As with numerous other X Factor winner’s singles, all UK record company profits and government taxes will be donated to charity. The beneficiaries this time are the children’s charities Together For Short Lives and Shooting Star Chase.
“Simon (Cowell) took us to an event for Together For Short Lives and people were donating thousands of pounds. I never felt so broke in my life because I couldn’t give money and I hoped one day I could. I so much wanted to help them with the wonderful work they do so it’s awesome that they’ll receive the money from my song.”
The Power of Love debuted at number four on the official UK singles chart. It may yet climb higher but the days seem to have gone when The X Factor winner’s single shot straight to number one. The last X Factor winner to top the UK chart was Ben Haenow in 2014 with Something I Need.
Dalton’s visa expired at the conclusion of The X Factor. Although the Syco Records people are hoping to work something out, Dalton should actually leave Britain before acquiring a new visa allowing him to return to record an album and perform on The X Factor concert tour. If he does go home to Jamaica, he can be assured of a hero’s welcome.
“Television Jamaica bought broadcast rights to the show. I received so many messages from my fellow Jamaicans all wishing me well and offering support. I am so grateful for their good wishes and can’t thank them enough. The same is true for all those X Factor viewers who believed in me and voted for me. I hope everyone feels proud of what their help has enabled me to achieve.”
Sam Fender was named among the long list of nominees in the BBC Sound of 2018 poll. The English singer/songwriter was delighted to receive the recognition and not in the least bit surprised that he didn’t win.
After 12 months during which his career has progressed steadily if unspectacularly, Sam’s work has again been recognised by British music insiders. On this occasion though, he is not simply a nominee but has emerged as the winner of the BRITs Critics’ Choice for 2019.
The 24-year-old North Shields native beat out Mahalia and Lewis Capaldi to win the 12th edition of the award. He follows in the footsteps of some hugely successful previous winners such as Adele, Sam Smith, Jessie J, Ellie Goulding and Florence + The Machine.
“I am truly humbled to win the BRITs Critics’ Choice award,” Sam stated. “Being nominated was crazy enough, never mind winning it. I’m so grateful to everyone back home for believing, and to my band and team for all their hard work. To everyone who’s taken a punt on me so far, thank you.”
Sam’s songs and videos can be accessed at www.youtube.com/user/samfendermusic
Sam Fender may have won the BRITs Critics’ Choice award but many music insiders are tipping 19-year-old HRVY as an artiste to watch in 2019.
Full name Harvey Leigh Cantwell, HRVY’s activities range across music, acting and TV presenting. The latter is on the BBC children’s television series, Friday Download, while his acting is in the web series, Chicken Girls, on the Brat YouTube channel.
HRVY’s first single, Thank You, was released as long ago as 2013. He was a support artiste for Little Mix on their Salute Tour in 2014.
But it is over the last 18 months that HRVY’s music career has really begun to take off. He has released two EPs and a number of singles, three of which found a place among the UK top 75.
HRVY was a support artiste for The Vamps earlier this year on their Night and Day Tour and was nominated in the International New Artist category at Brazil’s BreakTudo Awards. This came about from his 2018 single, Hasta Luego, which featured additional vocals from Cuban-American singer Malu Trevejo. The track registered seven million YouTube views within a week of release.
I Don’t Think About You is HRVY’s recently released new single. The accompanying video, along with those for his earlier songs, can be viewed at www.youtube.com/user/OfficialCantwell
“The new song is one for the fans,” HRVY remarked. “It’s an acoustic track which I thought was a good way to round off the year. A lot of people are on their Christmas break now so I wanted to bridge the gap and give my fans something to hear.”
Traditional Christmas favourites have again made their return to the singles charts. Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s Fairytale of New York and Last Christmas by Wham! all hold high places in the UK chart. Michael Buble, Elton John, Leona Lewis, Shakin’ Stevens, Brenda Lee and Wizzard are a little lower in the listings.
As so often though, it is Mariah Carey who heads the roster of Christmas songs with her perennial classic, All I Want For Christmas Is You. The track is in the UK singles chart for a 12th successive year.
It has even reached its highest ever position on Billboard’s Hot 100. The new peak of number seven surpasses the number nine spot it achieved last year. Some chart watchers have even suggested All I Want For Christmas Is You could become Mariah’s 19th number one on the Hot 100.
Blossoms / Sir Paul McCartney
Most observers would not have expected to hear a Christmas song from English indie band Blossoms.
The Stockport quintet topped Britain’s albums chart in 2016 with their self-titled debut LP and reached number four earlier this year with the follow-up, Cool Like You.
Releasing a Christmas song would not initially seem like a particularly cool move. But the fact that Wonderful Christmastime is a Paul McCartney cover rather than the band’s own original song should pacify at least a few of the hardcore indie aficionados.
Paul’s track was originally released in 1979 and peaked at number six on the UK chart. The Blossoms cover can be heard at www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTUYdCmbM1o Paul’s original recording is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9BZDpni56Y
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