At just 25 years old, suburban London singer-songwriter James Bay has already achieved massive success, resulting in a slew of critical and commercial success, two BRIT Awards, three GRAMMY nominations (including one for Best New Artist), and even an opening spot on Taylor Swift’s recent 1989 World Tour. Bay was discovered by representatives of his current record label, Republic Records, when a video of him performing at an open mic night in London circulated on YouTube. After achieving two crossover hits in the states – “Let It Go” and “Hold Back the River” – off of his debut solo album, Chaos and the Calm, Bay is embarking on another leg of his first-ever headlining tour, with a slew of dates lined up here in the states.
To me, James Bay is a really interesting artist. His songwriting and musicality are both undeniably respectable. Admittedly, I didn’t know he was discovered on YouTube until I started doing research on him for this preview, and that almost makes me appreciate his style even more. Nowadays, all you have to do is go on YouTube, search “aspiring male vocalist,” and you’ll get +1,023,748,392,583,926 results of a bunch of guys turning random pop songs into acoustic downers, laden with winks at the camera, the occasional flash of their perfectly aligned white teeth (I’m looking at you, arrogant “Vine stars”), with a bunch of all-over-the-place vocal runs that, frankly, don’t make them special at all. I’d rather see original songs. Most of us probably would, actually. Anyone can cover a song. If we wanted to discover a new singer that could overdo a bunch of vocal runs on an already-popular song, we could just watch “American Idol”. (Also, pour one out. The series ended on April 7. I’m sad. Patronize me.)
With all that said, I salute you, James Bay. Let’s hope your killer vocal chops and slick songwriting will shine through at your concert the way it has everywhere else, from YouTube to the Grammys.
Bay’s opener, Joseph, is a trio of sisters (? Cousins? I don’t know, I’ve been looking high and low and have yet to find an answer, but I’ve come to the conclusion that they are related!) from Portland, Oregon signed to ATO Records. They named themselves after their grandfather, and their style is extremely similar to James Bay’s: really percussive, edgy, and moderately grim – in the coolest way. Seriously, their sound is so cool. I’m excited for their set, too. I’m just really excited about EVERYTHING.
[Ed. Note] James Bay is performing on Thursday, April 28th at 7pm at Showbox Sodo. The opener is Joseph. You can find tickets here.
CRAIG JAFFE | KXSU Reporter