Faces to watch 2007




A street-smart rebel with a privileged background, this feisty singer and rapper could be the one to finally bridge the gap that keeps British pop stars from making a mark in the U.S.

Allen conquered England in 2006 with a MySpace-sparked campaign that culminated in a No. 1 single, “Smile,” one of many engaging tracks from a debut album packed with smart, ska-flavored pop confections.

The album, “Alright, Still,” comes out here on Jan. 30 and if Allen’s preview show at the Troubadour in October was any indication, the 21-year-old performer can back up the music with an effervescent personality.


She’ll also stand to benefit from the resources of Capitol Records, which ushered another British singer- songwriter, Corinne Bailey Rae, to success in 2006. Allen seems more frothy than Rae at first glance, but beneath her songs’ lighthearted surface is a gift for telling stories and creating characters that can connect with listeners in any country.

-- Richard Cromelin



Teen-pop singer-actor

Could any teenager be better positioned for success in 2007?

This 17-year-old singer-actor was a supporting star (as Chad) in Disney’s hit TV movie “High School Musical,” whose soundtrack was the biggest-selling album of 2006. Now he has a starring vehicle, “Jump In,” coming to the Disney Channel in January, and he’ll begin 2007 touring arenas nationwide in the concert production of “High School Musical.” Later in the year, the sequel, “High School Musical 2,” will be occupying much Disney Channel airtime.

In between, on April 17, Bleu will release a solo album on Disney’s Hollywood Records, with contributions from some of the writers and producers who have forged a new brand of teen-pop for Disney -- a wholesome, natural, R&B-flavored; reaction to the synthetic era of Britney and the Backstreet Boys.

With his ebullient-urchin image driven by the tireless Disney promotional machine that’s taken the Cheetah Girls, “High School Musical” and “Hannah Montana” to the top of the charts, Bleu is poised to be the face of youth-pop in 2007.

-- R.C.



Country singer-songwriter

Compared with such country upstarts as LeAnn Rimes and Billy Gilman, who charted their first hits at 13 and 12, respectively, 17-year-old Taylor Swift is practically a grizzled veteran.

Still, it’s impressive that while most of her peers have been wrapped up worrying about a date for the winter formal, she’s been captivating country listeners with her first single, “Tim McGraw,” a sweet ballad about the role music plays in our lives and memories. It drew the attention of McGraw himself, who has admitted being charmed by the song, but when she told him that she wrote it in her ninth-grade math class, he quipped, “Now I feel old!”


Her debut album, “Taylor Swift,” which came out in September, has sold more than 200,000 copies and touches on themes such as the fragile self-

esteem of teen girls and the magic of first love. The native of Wyomissing, Pa., will get some serious concert exposure playing opening slots for George Strait during the first quarter of the new year. And what brand of guitar does she prefer? A Taylor, natch.

-- Randy Lewis