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Jack Garratt, James Bay, Hozier: what's with all the white-boy blues singers?

The affected ‘blues boy’ warble has come to dominate British pop. Where did it come from, and why won’t it just go away?

Listen to BBC Sound Of 2016 winner Jack Garratt and what do you hear? Earnest lyrics about hopelessly profound love? Aye. Plaintive stabs of electro and reverbed guitars? Yip. The voice of a 24-year-old raised in charming Buckinghamshire village Little Chalfont? Erm, not exactly. Garratt sounds as if he’s been busking in New Orleans for 40 years, existing on a diet of bourbon and filterless fags. And so do James Bay, Hozier, Tom Odell and George Ezra. In fact, besides a smattering of catarrh-loosening growls, they’re all almost indistinguishable. Setting himself apart must be the reason James Bay wears that desperately appalling hat. Why else would he?

Vocal trends in pop ebb and flow. Remember when, in the wake of Arctic Monkeys, any lad in leather who’d ever stood in a chip-shop queue – Reverends, Pigeon Detectives, Enemies – thought he could distil the state of the nation into three, flat-vowelled minutes? Or when, nine years ago, British singers adopted the fey, estuary-accented semi-rapping of Lily Allen, Kate Nash and Jamie T? This tennis-ball-lodged-in-the-throat blues is just the latest fad.

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