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2010? villagers, emperors, and girls on top again...

So 2009 ended with a bang rather than a whimper. The Facebook campaign to make Rage Against The Machine's white-knuckle anti-war tirade the Christmas No 1 in the UK won the day, and, however temporarily, stuck it to the Dark Overlord of The X Factor and his minions.

As a cultural moment, its impact was already visible from the music-video stations recounting the Christmas chart-toppers for the past 10 years. An unwatchable parade of super-sized sappy power ballads, most emanating from Cowell's Death Star, was interrupted only at the last by Zack De La Rocha's visceral hissy-fit that, like a benign Terminator, emerged from its early-'90s time capsule to chew up and spit out a decade's worth of dross.

Now, Rage's work here is done. And we can all look forward to 2010 with a spring in our step. What lies ahead? Well, the BBC's Sound of 2010 poll can usually be relied upon to spot the acts we'll all be Twittering about in the coming year. That said, last year's choice, Little Boots, didn't quite live up to the hype and was superseded by her fellow electro-popettes Florence, La Roux, Lady Gaga et al. Indeed, Ms Boots's album didn't even make it onto the Mercury Music Prize shortlist.

This year, the denizens of the UK music biz have anointed Ellie Goulding as the girl most likely to break through in 2010. It seems the trend for strong, independent-minded female singers is set to continue, with Ellie being joined on the shortlist by soul diva Rox (a sometime member of Mark Ronson's band who has ably deputised for Amy to sing 'Valerie'), the much-heralded Marina and The Diamonds, and Daisy Dares You -- the nom de plume of 16-year old Daisy Coburn who sounds like Lily Allen's gobby younger sister, and who sings about herself in the third person. Watch out world!

But it's Goulding who will collect the Brit Award for Best Newcomer this year. Born in the Welsh town of Powys and raised in Hereford, this tall, blonde 23-year-old singer is blessed with a distinctive and seductive falsetto that has been likened to Bjork, Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks. Elena's beat-happy pop is quirky enough to turn the heads of the indie brigade and I'll bet it sounds good on the dancefloor. 'Starry Eyed', her forthcoming single, has the potential to be huge when it's released in February.

The other Welsh siren tipped to go all the way this year is 24-year-old Marina Diamandis, the lead singer of the above mentioned Marina And The Diamonds, whose debut album The Family Jewels should go supernova when it comes out in February if it's all as good as the forthcoming single 'Hollywood'.

A couple of London-Irish acts also make the list: grime rapper Devlin, from Dagenham in Essex, is being lauded as the UK's next big hip-hop star. More Mike Skinner than Dizzee Rascal, Devlin's excellent single, 'London City', eulogises the Big Smoke in a similar manner to Jay-Z's New York homage 'Empire State of Mind'.

Also, Pete O'Grady, from Croydon, is the man behind the superbly named Joy Orbison. I should point out, though, that he sounds like neither Joy Division nor Roy Orbison. Rather, the fluffy white clouds of 1990s chill-out kings The Orb are a truer reference point.

What about the acts that didn't make the BBC list? Sticking to the template of exuberant, ultra-melodic synth-pop are Muchuu (pronounced moo-chew), a young brother-sister duo from England with a penchant for all things Japanese. Singer Milky and synth-meister sibling George released a memorable single 'Somebody Tell Me' in November and their debut album Adventure We Go follows shortly. The big-eyed, blonde-haired Milky is a star-in-waiting and her ethereal vocal style will doubtless draw comparisons to Bjork -- although our own Cathy Davey is probably nearer the mark.

Speaking of which, 2010 sees Cathy Davey herself return with her third album, Nameless -- her first since parting company with EMI. "I count the flowers that grow wild around your grave," Miss Davey sings on the title track. Let's see them try that on the X Factor.

Also, Sting's daughter Eliot Pauline Sumner aka Coco Sumner aka I Blame Coco steps into the breach this year with her debut album. A fashion model, Coco has recorded her debut in Sweden with the help of the elfin Scandinavian singer, Robyn.

Meanwhile, Bono was quoted recently as saying that he wanted to release another U2 album this year, possibly by June. But manager Paul McGuinness was quick to pour cold water over the suggestion -- certainly another U2 album so soon after Horizon would be a shock, given how the gap between U2 albums is on average four to five years.

Fionn Regan, meanwhile, is set to release his sophomore album this year. The Bray songwriter is under pressure to emulate his sterling Mercury-nominated debut, The End of History.

As for live music, the Dublin docklands is increasingly where it's at, with the new Grand Canal venue ready to open its doors in March. Everyone from Rufus Wainwright to Randy Newman, from Josh Ritter to Christy Moore, is booked to appear in the theatre, which has a capacity of over 2,000.

Meanwhile, down the road in the O2, big-throated stars such as Rihanna, Leona Lewis and Rod Stewart will be pushing up the decibel count, while Pink brings her Funhouse Summer Carnival to Dublin's RDS and Limerick's Thomond Park in June.

However, the gig I'm most looking forward to is Midlake, who play Vicar Street on Valentine's Day. And what price a festival appearance from Rage Against The Machine in 2010?


Irish Independent