Lewis Capaldi, Mahalia & Sam Fender Top Brits 2019 Critics' Choice Shortlist

Lewis Capaldi
Alexandra Gavillet

Lewis Capaldi

Lewis Capaldi, Mahalia and Sam Fender have topped the nominations for Brit Awards 2019 Critics' Choice award – the annual prize recognizing "future British recording talent" previously won by Adele, Sam Smith, Florence + the Machine and Ellie Goulding. 

An overall winner of the award will be announced December 7, ahead of next year's Brit Awards, held at London's The O2 arena on 20 February. Worldwide album sales by the 11 artists that have been named Critics' Choice winners since it was introduced in 2008 -- a list that also includes Jessie J, James Bay, Rag 'n' Bone Man and last year's winner Jorja Smith -- total over 90 million, say organizers BPI. 

The award is chosen by an invited panel of music editors and critics, plus heads of music at U.K. radio and music TV stations and is open to breakthrough British artists who have not yet had a Top 40 album. 

"The last year has been surreal to say the least but this really is the cherry on top," said Mahalia, who topped YouTube's first ever Ones To Watch list earlier this month. The 20 year-old R&B singer, born Mahalia Burkmar, has previously collaborated with Rudimental, Little Simz and Kojey Radical and released her debut album, Diary Of Me, on Atlantic imprint Asylum Records in 2016. She's also supported Ed Sheeran, Emeli Sandé and Jorja Smith on tour. 

Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi released his debut single, "Bruises" last year and has since racked up nearly 250 million streams for the handful of songs he's released. His most recent single "Grace" was A-Listed on the U.K.'s leading Top 40 formatted radio station BBC Radio 1.  

In a statement, the Capitol Records/Virgin EMI-signed artist -- who opened for Sam Smith on his recent European arena tour -- said he was honored to have been shortlisted "alongside two unreal artists" and would henceforth be insisting that everyone around him "refer to me only as 'BRITS Critics' Choice Award Nominee, Lewis Capaldi."

Sam Fender also said he was honored to have been nominated for the prize and thanked "anyone who has put their faith in my music." The hotly-tipped singer-songwriter released his debut EP Dead Boys – featuring songs about social deprivation, drug addiction and mental health -- this month on Polydor and has built up a strong following through extensive touring. He also featured on YouTube's inaugural Ones To Watch list. 

Earlier this week, Brits organizers confirmed that last year's host Jack Whitehall would return. British-Ghanaian architect Sir David Adjaye will, meanwhile, design the 2019 Brit Awards statue, following in the illustrious footsteps of Anish Kapoor, Peter Blake, Vivienne Westwood, Damien Hirst and Zaha Hadid.