Sam Fender has been named the winner of the Brit Awards 2019 Critics’ Choice Award – the annual prize recognizing “future British recording talent” previously won by Adele, Sam Smith and Florence and the Machine.
The 24-year-old singer-songwriter from Newcastle said he was “truly humbled” to win the award, chosen by a panel of music editors and critics, plus heads of music at U.K. radio and music TV stations. Since Adele won the first ever Critics’ Choice Award in 2008, its 11 recipients have sold over 90 million albums worldwide, say Brit Award organizers BPI.
Accepting this year’s award, Fender said “being nominated was crazy enough, never mind winning it. I’m so grateful to everyone back home for believing, and to my band and team for all their hard work. We’ve played literally hundreds of shows this year, and we’re going to go even harder in 2019.”
The alt-rock singer-songwriter — who beat Lewis Capaldi and R&B singer Mahalia to the prize — also thanked his fans calling it “an honor to get up and play night after night to such a wonderful bunch of people. To everyone who’s taken a punt on me so far, thank you.”
Winning the Critics’ Choice Award crowns a phenomenal 18 months for Fender, who has built a strong U.K. fanbase through heavy touring and a string of well-received singles. His first release, “Play God” was championed by Elton John on his Apple Music Beats 1 Radio show and Fender signed with Universal imprint Polydor earlier this year.
His debut EP, entitled Dead Boys, came out last month and was met with strong critical acclaim for its rousing mix of anthemic rock and lyrics about deprivation, drug addiction and mental health struggles facing young people in Fender’s native North East England. The EP’s title track is about male suicide. Another song, “Poundshop Kardashians,” serves up a poignant critique of celebrity worship.
Awarding him this year’s Critics’ Choice Award, BRITs chairman and chairman/CEO of Sony Music U.K. and Ireland Jason Iley called Fender “an exceptional young artist, with a bright future ahead of him.”
“This award has shone a spotlight on some of the most successful new acts for more than a decade,” said Iley, adding, “I wish Sam the very best and that he enjoys the same success as many of the previous winners have before him.”
The Brit Awards take place at London’s O2 Arena on Feb. 20, hosted by British comedian Jack Whitehall. Nominations are due to be announced in January.