Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

The BBC Sound of 2017 longlist was announced today, and while next year’s not looking good for pop, female solo artists have a strong presence. My favourite, along with Nadia Rose, is Ray BLK, a South London R&B/soul singer who’s already one of the most frequently tipped stars of 2017. She first caught the attention of the music industry with her 2015 breakthrough song 5050, featuring an interpolation of Lovefool by The Cardigans, and her name has officially been made in 2016 with a trio of moments: The release of her debut “mini album” Durt (through Kobalt’s AWAL platform) featuring collaborations with Stormzy and SG Lewis, a nomination for Best Newcomer at the MOBOs, and a performance on Jools Holland. Ray (whose name isn’t actually Ray… but I’ll let her reveal her real identity when she’s ready) has been in a few bands before, including one as a teen with MNEK, and I met her years ago at an audition. It’s hard to stand out as a solo artist, but she’s doing it through talent and individuality. Her lyrics and videos have a strong message and impact, and feel very authentic and relevant. However, it’s this beautifully smooth Alicia Keys cover that really won me over – if she can replicate that in an original song, she’ll have a hit on her hands.