June 25, 2012 12:00 PM

>EMELI SANDE Our Version of Events There’s a reason why this Scottish singer-songwriter was tapped to open for Coldplay on tour this summer: Her album, which opened at No. 1 in the U.K. in February, is one of the year’s best debuts. With shades of blues, jazz and gospel, she makes richly toned and textured R&B. Highlights include “Clown,” a ballad that will make you cry until the makeup runs down your face.

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ED SHEERAN Like Sandé, this Englishman is one of VH1’s You Oughta Know artists, and the video for first single “The A Team”—a heartbreaker about a young woman dealing with drug addiction and prostitution—is in heavy rotation. Folkified tunes like this evoke James Blunt and Damien Rice, but the more soulful Sheeran also boasts a bit o’ B-boy swagger, busting out some hip-hop flows.

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