The British singer with the firecracker voice is popping with listeners on both sides of the Atlantic.
The pop/rock/hip-hop hybrid, released late last year, hit No. 2 on the British charts. But it was her follow-up, the Dr. Luke-produced “Price Tag,” that left enough people in the U.S. wondering just who this crotch-grabbing firecracker with pipes was.
Buzz surrounding the singer amplified in March when she was given the coveted performance spot on “Saturday Night Live” for her first American showing. More than a month before Tuesday’s U.S. release of her debut, “Who You Are,” the performance made her one of the first to appear on the show without an album on shelves — a fact that still boggles her mind.
“The producers were taking a risk. There was pressure,” she said over the phone while on a promo jaunt in Australia. “It was the scariest, most nerve-racking thing in the world. No one had any idea who I was. I'd done no promos. It was purely like, go out there and sing. I've always been someone who loved a challenge, and I don't like things given to me easily.”
Born Jessica Cornish, the 23-year-old built a fan base like most newcomers these days: She uploaded videos of herself singing (primarily shot in her bedroom) on YouTube. The clips of the songs — most of which went on to appear on the album — amassed millions of hits. She also penned the platinum-selling “Party in the U.S.A.” for Miley Cyrus.
The hype continued to build this side of the Atlantic as accolades poured in following the February release of the disc in Britain: She topped the BBC's Sound of 2011 list and received the Critics' Choice at the Brit Awards, joining a class that included Ellie Goulding, Adele and Florence + the Machine.