2016 No. 1s: James Bay on His Breakthrough Year & Feeling 'Indestructible'

James Bay
Ramona Rosales

Bay, Monte Lipman [chairman/CEO, ­Republic], Paul McDonald [manager], Ben Adelson [senior vp A&R, Republic], ­Avery Lipman [president/COO, Republic], ­and Charlie Walk [president, The Republic Group] photographed on Nov. 19 at Quixote Studios in Los Angeles.


Chaos and the Calm -- Americana/Folk Albums (1 week)

“Let It Go” -- Rock Digital Song Sales (2 weeks)


It has been a slow and steady build for James Bay. The 26-year-old English singer-songwriter, who rose to prominence with his signature wide-brimmed hat and strain of soft-edged rock, has been working toward global ubiquity since signing with Republic Records, the No. 1 top label of 2016, nearly four years ago. His full-length debut, Chaos and the Calm, bowed atop the U.K. Albums chart upon release in March 2015, but it took some key placements (a breakthrough performance with Tori Kelly at the 2016 Grammy Awards, an opening slot on Taylor Swift’s 1989 Tour) to give Chaos a lift to No. 1 stateside.

BEN ADELSON (senior vp A&R, Republic):
We flew James in, he played for us in January that year, and everyone in the room knew. It was pretty obvious.

BAY: 
You’re always “breaking.” You can always fall off the radar. We’ve got a really strong thing we’ve built since I was just a guy in the office with a guitar. It feels indestructible.

CHARLIE WALK (president, The Republic Group):
From radio’s perspective, it just needed to be proven that the music would fit. So it was a longer process, but it was really honest artist development.

MONTE LIPMAN (chairman/CEO, ­Republic?):
James broke on a global platform, and it wasn’t a narrow campaign. It traveled the world, almost instantly.

AVERY LIPMAN (president/COO, Republic?):
James’ music is timeless. “Let It Go” could have been a hit in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and the decade beyond.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 17 issue of Billboard.

Billboard Year in Music 2016

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