Best New Artist (Signed) of 2012
When Odd Future's ghoulish brand of hip-hop began to earn them buzz in 2010, few would have guessed the crew's breakout star would be Frank Ocean, a ghostwriter-turned-solo artist with a radiant falsetto and an oblique, understated approach to R&B composition. Over the intervening year, however, the singer quickly distinguished himself as one of pop's most compelling voices, capturing attention for stellar mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra and working closely with Jay and Kanye on Watch the Throne. By the time 2012 rolled around, listeners were ready to fully embrace the singer's pathbreaking style, as evidenced by the staggering critical and commercial response to Def Jam debut album Channel Orange.
The road to music immortality is littered with artists who were expected to deliver a great debut album, but failed to deliver. Frank Ocean is not one of those artists. Incredibly, despite enormous pressure and hype, Ocean delivered Channel Orange, one of the best albums of the year, and helped changed hip-hop's conversation around sexuality in the process. Not too bad for a mere 365 days.