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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 7, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 01
Ten artists who could define 2011
Arts & Entertainment
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Ten artists who could define 2011

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

A year in music can be summed up by the artist who sold the most records, or the song most downloaded online, or an overnight sensation who became a superstar, or a major comeback from a long-missed veteran, or by those who walk away with an armload of Grammy Awards (which will be given out on February 13). The following musicians have the potential to be 2011's most memorable.

Katy Perry
Never mind that embarrassing pic of Perry swirling around the internet. Instead, focus on the possibility she may upset Lady GaGa for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at next month's Grammy ceremony. Her big hit 'Teenage Dream' was among SGN's best singles of 2010, two weeks before it showed up on Rolling Stone's list, and she'll likely return to Seattle this summer to sing it live, if not sooner - Perry sold out The Showbox Market on her previous swing-through. Love her or not, and I really dig this chick, Katy Perry is looking hot in 2011.

The Drums
Brooklyn-based quartet The Drums aren't nominated for any awards - yet, anyway. The group's sound is retro indie pop with a Southern Cal vibe, if that makes any sense - think Beach Boys with subtlety. Last year's self-titled debut got raves across the board, enough to be on industry watchdog's radars in 2011. Even though summer is seven months away, prepare yourself by adding The Drums onto your 4th of July bash playlists.

Esperanza Spalding
Esperanza Spalding is not the name of a shimmy-shimmy fashion designer, nor does it refer to an expensive fitness resort. This happens to be a woman on the verge of a huge breakthrough, recently opening gigs for Prince, performing at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, and one of five Best New Artist-Grammy nominees. The 25-year-old is a fresh face who's played at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley on her previous two visits to Seattle. She mixes jazz, classical, folk, and a few other genres into her songs and compositions.

Ray LaMontagne
LaMontagne used to live a reclusive life in the Maine countryside, that is until his name and track 'Beg Steal or Borrow' were announced amongst the prestigious Song of the Year nominees at the Grammy nominations concert in early December. But he's no newcomer - in fact, the folk singer's Gossip in the Grain album was one of SGN's top picks of 2008, a stellar effort that included 'You Are the Best Thing.' LaMontagne toured last summer with David Gray, though he's not unveiled plans for a 2011 itinerary - my guess is he'll promote 2010's God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise with a series of spring-summer dates.

Carolina Chocolate Drops
You can't eat them, though they will melt in your ears. Carolina Chocolate Drops is an old-school string trio based in North Carolina, and good enough to earn a mention on NPR's list of 2010's best music and receive its first Grammy nod for Traditional Folk Album. Together, the diverse three-piece sounds like a vintage jug band, the kind so prominent decades ago in the Deep South. Listen to Carolina Chocolate Drops' debut, Genuine Negro Jig, and be amazed!

Taylor Swift
If you haven't listened to Swift's latest album, Speak Now, do it. The country star, cozying up these days with hunky Jake Gyllenhaal, has quickly matured into a credible singer-songwriter and vocalist. Whereas Fearless shot her to fame but wasn't stunning work, her newest CD is bursting with quality touches. She travels to Seattle for an unofficially announced performance on September 7, and expect that baby to sell out quickly.

Cee-lo Green
Cee-lo who? The man behind 2010's controversial yet acclaimed smash 'F*** You' has been slated to appear on an upcoming installment of Saturday Night Live, where he's expected to duet with Gwyneth Paltrow, who belted out his tune on an episode of Glee this season. Furthermore, he could snag Record of the Year honors if enough Grammy voters are feeling hip when they fill out their ballots - either way, Green's time to shine is now.

Lady GaGa
Didn't Lady GaGa already own 2009 and 2010, you ask? Yes, but that won't stop her from steamrolling the music charts and airwaves in 2011. One minute into the New Year, the pop diva announced to fans via Twitter the release dates for both her upcoming single and album - she'd previously revealed the title of the CD, Born This Way. Interestingly, the leadoff single comes out the same day as the Grammy Awards, so Lady GaGa is a safe bet to perform on the ceremony.

Jamey Johnson
The country music industry feted Miranda Lambert throughout last year for a solid album, Revolution, and a pair of chart-topping singles, 'White Liar' and 'The House That Built Me.' Look for the equally acclaimed Johnson to be celebrated in the months ahead by his peers for The Guitar Song, one of the highest praised albums of 2010 that landed on dozens of media best-of lists, including Rolling Stone, NPR, Pop Matters, and The Boston Globe, to name a few. By the way, the Alabama singer-songwriter competes against Lambert for Best Country Album at next month's Grammy Awards.

Bruno Mars
What hasn't he done is the question to ask regarding Bruno Mars. The triple threat - singer, songwriter and producer - co-wrote Cee-lo Green's 'F*** You,' co-produced Travis McCoy's 'Billionaire' (featured on Glee's season two opener), and is featured on B.o.B's top hit 'Nothin' on You.' He's up for multiple Grammys and he's in very high demand at the moment, therefore 2011 appears to be magical for Bruno Mars.

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