New band of the day - No 647: Clare Maguire

This big-voiced belter from Birmingham doesn't need X Factor to get her talent heard. Amy Winehouse, you have been warned ...

Hometown: Birmingham.

The lineup: Clare Maguire (vocals).

The background: There are currently two highly-touted under-the-radar British female singers: Powys powerhouse Ellie Goulding, who makes X Factor wannabe Lucie Jones aka the Welsh Whitney sound like, well, someone with a weedy set of lungs, and Clare Maguire. We told you about Goulding back in February: she's finally signed to Polydor and is recording her debut album with Mark Ronson, you'll be glad to know. Meanwhile, Maguire, a 21-year-old former shop assistant from Birmingham, has signed to Universal-Island after a scrum that apparently involved Rick Rubin, Jay-Z and most of the rest of the music industry, in a deal said to be "eye-watering". Her record company, management and PR team are keeping very quiet about her, obviously to maximise the word-of-mouth and heighten the suspense: there are no publicity photos of her, just some live shots. There was talk recently of her writing with some of the most bankable producers around, such as Salaam Remi and Cee-Lo, and she impressed Jarvis Cocker enough for him to offer her a song of his.

The key question is, how will her label stagger the 2010 release dates of the new Amy Winehouse album and the debut offering from Maguire without one eclipsing the other? Because, make no mistake, Maguire is one of those; the next obvious heiress to Amy, Adele, Duffy and Florence (although she would appear to be operating in more mainstream territory than Flo). Think torch ballads delivered with gusty vigour and bluesy intensity - she cites Howlin' Wolf and Rosetta Tharpe as influences, but she's also covered No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age. There are elements of soul and traditional Celtic folk in the three songs of hers that we've heard – not on her seemingly defunct MySpace, by the way, but on – but the best by far is Strangest Thing, which is, like Paloma Faith's New York, the one on which much of her reputation is based (when the demo of the track was still on her MySpace plays approached a staggering 500,000). Jazzy and intense, like something from a cabaret revue, it's the perfect showcase for her voice.

Now historically up here at New Band of the Day, when it comes to big-voiced belters, we have been at best solicitous in our praise , at worst hostile, because we couldn't help feeling that people's mania for Great Voices was the modern equivalent of the '70s rock muso's obsession with great guitarists or the Epic Drum Solo: too much emphasis on technique and individual elaboration over the song as a whole. But this time we're just going to bring you the news, and the facts, which are that Maguire has an incredible voice – if that's your measure of excellence, and it would appear to be, not just yours, but the whole nation's – and that voice is going to make her very popular, and very famous, indeed.

The buzz: "She puts any X Factor winner to absolute and total shame."

The truth: Simon Cowell will weep, Amy will retire and Duffy will spend the rest of her days advertising fizzy pop.

Most likely to: Make Dionne Bromfield petition to swap godmothers.

Least likely to: Stay in Brum, even if they have tarted up the town centre.

What to buy: Some old Elkie Brooks albums if you can't bear to wait ...

File next to: Florence, Amy, Duffy, Adele.


Tomorrow's new band: Lulu & the Lampshades.


Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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