The BRIT Awards 2021 announce shortlist for 2021 BRITs Rising Star

Our friends The BRIT Awards have announced the shortlist of three artists for the prestigious 2021 BRITs Rising Star supported by BBC Radio 1 as Griff, Pa Salieu and Rina Sawayama.

The award, which evolved from its original name of BRITs Critics’ Choice last year, has been instrumental in identifying the future British music stars and launching the careers of some of the biggest UK artists such as Adele, Florence + The Machine, Sam Smith, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man, Ellie Goulding, and last year’s winner, Celeste. The global album sales for all winners combined currently sits at over 135 million.

The BRITs Rising Star shortlist is selected by an invited panel of music editors and critics from the national press, online music editors, heads of music at major radio and music TV stations plus songwriters, producers and live bookers – those working with new rising talent on a regular basis. The award is open to British artists who, as of 28th February 2021, have not yet achieved an Official Album Charts Top 20 placing or achieved more than one Top 20 chart placing in the Official Singles Chart.


About this year’s shortlisted artists:


20-year-old Griff grew up in Kings Langley in Hertfordshire, as the daughter of a Chinese mother and a Jamaican father, and was just eleven when she started making music. In 2019 she signed to Warner Records, picked up her first Radio 1 play from Annie Mac, and last summer she was nominated for the first ever Rising Star Ivor Novello Award. Under lockdown she released two hugely acclaimed singles, ‘Forgive Myself’ (complete with a video shot at home on her iPhone), and ‘Say It Again’. Collaborations have since followed with electronic duo Honne (1,000,000 X Better) and producer Zedd (on his single, ‘Inside Out’), and her current single Black Hole is her biggest airplay record to date. In spite of the pandemic, Griff closed out 2020 with three more pinch-yourself moments. She took over the Tate Modern for her second ever London show, and was then unveiled as the voice behind Disney’s first ever Christmas ad campaign, which surpassed 70 million+ views in a couple of weeks (Disney’s most reactive post to date), and securing Griff her first charting single plus a place in the Top 5 in the BBC’s Sound of 2021 Poll.

“It’s kinda terrifying how many legends have been nominated for this award. I never ever ever expected making beats in my music room after school could eventually lead to a BRIT nomination. Super lame but I remember after school, catching up on the BRITs and crying watching Stormzy perform. And I don’t think I really knew what that emotion was at the time but I think it was just an overwhelming sense of aspiration. So to be nominated for a BRIT award three years on is completely surreal!!!!”

Pa Salieu

In the space of just one year, Gambian-by-way-of-Coventry artist Pa Salieu has achieved more than most artists have in their entire career. In January of 2020, Pa released his breakout single ‘Frontline’ which quickly became one of the most played tracks across BBC1xtra. Now just over thirteen months later, Pa’s uncompromising sound palette and singular artist vision has seen him win the BBC Sound of 2021, recently perform a breathtaking slot on the Jimmy Fallon Show, and cover the likes of Dazed, NME, Wonderland, Mixmag and ES Magazine. An artist just as comfortable collaborating with fellow British rappers such as M1llionz, Backroad Gee and SL as he is with working with FKA Twigs, jazz virtuoso Yussef Dayes and black midi’s Morgan Simpson (not to mention high end brands like Prada, Burberry and Givenchy), Pa Salieu is a potent artistic force unlike any other before him.

“I am very grateful to be shortlisted for this BRIT award. Love & blessings every time! Thanks to everyone supporting my journey so far.”

Rina Sawayama

Releasing her critically-acclaimed debut album SAWAYAMA in the height of a global pandemic was a brave decision for Rina Sawayama to make, however her leap of faith paid off in leaps and bounds. The much applauded album has amassed over 100 million worldwide streams since release and ranked in over 50 album of the year lists for 2020, including the New York Times (#2), The Guardian (#3), Dazed (#2), Rough Trade (#3), Rolling Stone (#6), Vogue (#14), NME (#7) and a prominent feature in the BBC’s Albums of the Year. Last year saw Rina grace the covers of many magazines but her place as a true pop star was cemented at the end of 2020 when she made her TV debut performing single XS on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. For Rina, no genre is off-limits and it’s this daring attitude that’s seen her hailed as the ‘future of pop’ and join the upper echelons of left-field pop’s current premier league, a move further augmented via multiple sold out shows and a highly-anticipated headline tour in 2021.

“I literally fell to the floor when I found out that I’d been nominated for Rising Star. I really can’t put into words how much this means to me given that I wasn’t eligible for this award a few weeks ago and now that door has been opened for future generations of artists like myself. Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me, it means the world.”

Past BRITs Critics’ Choice / Rising Star winners:

2008                            Adele
2009                            Florence + The Machine
2010                            Ellie Goulding
2011                            Jessie J
2012                            Emeli Sandé
2013                            Tom Odell
2014                            Sam Smith
2015                            James Bay
2016                            Jack Garratt
2017                            Rag ’n’ Bone Man
2018                            Jorja Smith
2019                            Sam Fender
2020                           Celeste

The 2020 Rising Star award winner will be announced on Friday 19th March.

Nordoff Robbins and The BRITs

The Brit Trust is one of Nordoff Robbins’ longest standing supporters, having since 1989 gifted our charity £8 million. Their support has been instrumental to our growth as a charity, and helping us to becomethe leading independent music therapy charity in the UK.

Their support helped us create our two-year Masters’ of Music Therapy programme, expanding into Manchester and most recently Newcastle. It has also helped us develop our reach, now providing music therapy to settings including refugee centres, dementia care homes, adult mental health units, hospices and SEN schools across the UK.

Read more about our relationship with the Brits and The Brit Trust here