When it comes to teenage male pop stars, Justin Bieber is the archetype that every new hopeful gets compared to. Their chances of being signed basically boil down to how much they look like Justin Bieber. This is why I was surprised when I first saw Shawn Mendes – he might be Canadian and cute, but he’s definitely not the Bieber type. He’s a sensitive singer-songwriter who will probably never try another dance routine after this amusing incident. Shawn forged a new path for the teenage boy in pop, and now he’s invited another anti-Bieber to follow in his footsteps.
19-year-old James Taylor-Watts, who goes by the name of James TW, is here to represent all the awkward, geeky, middle class boys, with his mild-mannered songs about being “different in a cool way” and dreaming of quitting school to become a musician (he even weighs up “the opportunity cost”). His best known song, When You Love Someone, attempts to diplomatically explain divorce to an 11-year-old. He’s the teen star parents will want their kids to love… whether the kids themselves will play along is yet to be seen.
James has been uploading YouTube covers since the age of 12, and was discovered by Shawn Mendes a few years later. Shawn set up a meeting for James with his label, Island Records, and he was signed in 2015. He’s spent much of 2016 on tour with his Canadian mentor (who is actually almost a year his junior), and is currently in the midst of his own UK headline tour. He’s been working hard to build a following, but hasn’t yet inspired a fanatical response. Nonetheless, When You Love Someone has been a sleeper hit on Spotify, with nearly 40 million plays to date. I don’t think James has the charisma or looks to be both a teen heartthrob and singer-songwriter, like Shawn, but if he can come up with a few more Sheeran-esque story-telling songs, he could certainly join James Arthur in filling in for Ed while he’s on his break.
Click here to find out more about This Must Be Pop’s Stars of 2017 and come back on 19th Dec to vote for the artists you think, and hope, will be the biggest pop breakthrough of 2017. The results will be announced in the Future Pop mailer on 2nd Jan.