Brits Critics’ Choice Award shortlist unveiled – meet the contenders

Get to know the three acts battling to follow in the footsteps of Emeli Sandé, Sam Smith, Jessie J and Adele in next year's Brit Awards

Next year’s Brits Critics’ Choice Award nominees have been announced with George The Poet, James Bay and Years and Years in the running to scoop the Tracey Emin-designed award.

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The nominees are chosen by a group of industry experts – including music editors and TV and radio station representatives – ready for next year’s ceremony on the 25th of February, which will be hosted by Ant and Dec.

Artists are eligible if they haven’t released an album before 31 December 2014. But, as the below list of acts prove, there’s no limits on single sales, or the amount of big-name talent they can have teamed up with.

Chart superstars including Emeli Sandé, Sam Smith, Jessie J and Adele are among the previous winners, which makes it pretty clear these are the next wave of musicians we’ll be wanting to add to our iPods:

George The Poet

Real name: George Mpanga

Age: 23

A recording artist, spoken word performer and public speaker, with an interest in social and political issues. He has featured on records by Labrinth, Emeli Sandé, Paolo Nutini and Naughty Boy.

He says: “I feel privileged to have been shortlisted for the Brits Critics’ Choice Award. I always dreamed of reaching people and this nomination shows me that I’m on track.”

George, who studied Politics, Psychology and Sociology at Cambridge University, won a business challenge to earn investment from Barclays and Channel 4 to run poetry workshops for 15-year-olds across London.

He’s hugely popular on YouTube with more than half a million hits.

James Bay

Age: 24

An acoustic performer discovered while studying at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music. James has supported 2013 Critics’ Choice winner Tom Odell as well as John Newman.

Bay toured with Irish musician Hozier (who released chart hit Take Me To Church) this year, performing at a sold-out Boston show on Halloween. In the UK Bay has sold out venues including the 02 Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

He says: “I still can’t believe it. As much as I hoped, being nominated for the Brits Critics’ Choice Award is not something I ever imagined would actually happen. What a huge honour,”

Bay’s released three EP’s with track Let It Go peaking at number 62 in the UK charts this year.

Years and Years

An electro-pop trio founded in London: frontman and keyboardist Olly Alexander, bassist Mikey Goldsworthy and synth player Emre Turkmen. The band has toured with Clean Bandit and Sam Smith

They say: “We’re so grateful to be making music and having this sort of recognition is crazy and ridiculous and nuts in a really good way.”

Frontman Olly is also an up and coming British actor who’s appeared in The Riot Club and God Help The Girl.

The band’s third single Real was released in February with the video featuring actor Ben Whishaw (with whom Olly starred alongside in the play Peter and Alice) as well as Misfits actor Nathan Stewart-Jarrett.

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Their EP Take Shelter, released in August 2014, was number one of the iTunes UK singles electronic chart.