The Brit’s ‘Rising Star’ award is one of the greatest honours for a British musician to receive and is often a key indicator of a fruitful career to come for an artist; previous winners include Adele, Ellie Goulding and Sam Smith. The awards most recent recipients (Celeste, Jorja Smith, Sam Fender) may not have achieved quite that same level of success, but the award’s prestige remains nonetheless.
To win the award, Griff – real name Sarah Griffiths – had to beat the rapper Pa Salieu and genre-bending pop star Rina Sawayama. Griff’s music was not as immediately attention-grabbing as either of those two; Salieu’s flow is captivating and filled with heart and, Sawayama is perhaps the only artist who can go straight from the pure pop of ‘XS’ to the heavy-metal-inspired ‘STFU!’. Yet it was still clear why the Brit’s decided to go with Griff; her music had a quiet, understated power, was idiosyncratic in parts, and showed great technical brilliance from the young producer, song-writer and singer.
During lockdown, a time where many artists careers frustratingly stalled, Griff broke through with ‘One Foot In Front of the Other’s’ lead single ‘Black Hole’; which has slowly risen into the top 20 of the British charts. ‘OFIFOTO’ is clearly a bid for greater commercial success; a bid to follow in the steps of previous Rising Star winners. But in her bid for greater commercial success and accessibility, Griff has lost some of the magic of her early work. Her lyrics remain arresting (“You’re so scared of dying slowly / But why aren’t you more scared of dying lonely” she sings on standout ‘Early Grey Tea’), but it’s accompanied by bloodless EDM-lite, electropop production that fails to give Griff’s words their deserved impact. Produced and written largely by Griff herself, the whole thing is very technically impressive, but it’s just all a little lifeless. Hints of what made Griff special in the first place are still here, but they’re buried deep.
Best Tracks: ‘One Foot In Front of the Other’, ‘Earl Grey Tea’
Worst Tracks: ‘Black Hole’