Bright Young Things in This Week's Special Issue, Our Experts Introduce You to the Hottest New Stars in the Worlds of Fashion, Music, Art, Literature, Politics, Film, Food, Sport and beyond
Philby, Charlotte, The Independent (London, England)
THE POP STAR
by Fiona Sturges
On paper, 24-year-old VV Brown certainly has the makings of a star - beauty, a big voice and, crucially, the backing of a major record label. Add to that her penchant for retro-soul and success on a huge scale seems a foregone conclusion.
Yet Vanessa, as VV was once known, is no mere Winehouse-a-like. Where the past few years have heralded the rise of bee-hived girls singing Dusty torch songs, Brown takes the glamour and pizzazz of Sixties girl groups (check out the retro flat-top!) and imbues it with an indie-punk edge, a sound that she has artfully described as "musical mashed potatoes". And confounding the norm of soul singers backed by expensive writing and production teams, Brown can take credit for writing, producing and performing songs on her forthcoming debut album Travelling Like the Light.
One of six siblings born and raised in Northampton, Vanessa was weaned on a diet of Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie. She studied piano from the age of five, sang in the church choir and turned down a place at the London School of Economics in order to sign her first record deal. She upped sticks and moved to LA in the process but was ill at ease with the R&B diva role the record company had carved out for her.
Two years later, after stints singing backing vocals for Madonna and the Pussycat Dolls, she returned to London to start over. She rented a flat, bought a one-stringed guitar from a second-hand shop and wrote "Crying Blood", a cheerful confection that blends the bluesy croon of La Winehouse with the barmy spirit of Bobby Pickett's novelty hit "Monster Mash".
The song is just one in a collection of deliriously upbeat, doo- wop numbers to be found on Travelling Like the Light. It is, VV says, the album she wanted to make all along. This is her second stab at success, and this time around she's taking no prisoners.
Portrait by Immo Klink *
by Ian Burrell
Fresh out of Oriel College, Oxford, with a masters in mathematics, 22-year-old Rachel Riley is the new Carol Vorderman, taking on the role of human calculator in the revamped Channel 4 afternoon quiz Countdown. Riley was planning on a career in marketing but beat 1,000 rival applicants to the Countdown job where she will work alongside the dry-witted Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling.
If she really can get her consonants in a line and follow Vorderman's career path, then the potential rewards are immense. Vorderman was on 1m per annum, though she quit the job earlier this year after being asked to take a 90 per cent pay cut. Riley's starting salary of 100,000 a year is hefty enough for someone straight out of university. "This is the best graduate job in the world," she says. "There's only one cool maths job around and I was lucky enough to get it."
For the Countdown auditions, Rachel and other applicants were tested on their maths skills, having to answer complex sums within 30 seconds - with the Countdown clock music in the background to add to the pressure. She was then shortlisted alongside five other candidates who took part in screen tests in Leeds.
Expect Riley to become a cult figure with undergraduates - a key Countdown demographic - next year. Like most students she was an obsessive watcher of the show, formerly hosted by Richard Whiteley, Des Lynam and Des O'Connor. "I've had the Countdown theme as my mobile-phone ringtone for years," she says. "Prior to my audition I bought five Countdown puzzle books and tackled over 500 different numbers games in order to hone my skills."
If the new series is a success, expect Channel 4 to explore further television projects with Riley to broaden her profile.
Portrait by Victor de Jesus
by Boyd Tonkin
From the heyday of Hockney to the age of Emin, art-school mavericks have made waves in British culture that break far beyond the world of galleries and dealers. …