Of the four General field categories at the Grammy Awards, Best New Artist is arguably the most unpredictable when it comes to selecting potential nominees. Eligibility criteria is so much more complicated in one of just a few ‘Individual’ awards that the show gives out (the other obvious one being Producer of the Year) and we’ve already seen 2 of the obvious favourites ruled out. The expansion from 5 to 8 nominees this year is much more evident in this category too, where some artists who could struggle to make waves in the genre categories vying for those extra spots here. Lets take a look at the acts I think will be fighting for the award this year.
Greta Van Fleet
(Alternatives: Ashley McBryde, Hayley Kiyoko, Troye Sivan)
Lets get the big absentees out of the way first. This category should have been a showdown for 2 of the year’s biggest breakout acts, Cardi B and Post Malone. Both were part of my very early predictions a few months back, but we now know that neither is eligible here. Cardi is out of the race thanks to her previous nominations for Bodak Yellow last year, but Post has been kicked out much more subjectively. There are artists I mention above (Bebe Rexha and Luke Combs specificially) that were similarly established as Post was before the eligibility period, but for some reason he has been kicked out here.
What that means is that we could see some seemingly rank outsiders making it into the category this year. Dua Lipa may only have one significant US hit under her belt with New Rules, Calvin Harris collaboration One Kiss never really reached the same highs as it did in elsewhere around the world, but she’s sure to make it here. Marshmello was very recently in a similar position, though the fact that current hit Happier has literally just made the Hot 100 top 10 could really push him into contention here. Viral hit Bazzi may seem like an outside choice to some too, but I could see him managing to sneak in thanks to his Snapchat breakthrough hit Mine.
With the expansion to 8 nominees I doubt we will ever see a set of nominees that doesn’t contain at least one country act, last year was surely the last example of this. The big favourite here would be Luke Combs, despite his album being eligible last year and I’ve opted for his commercial success over the critical acclaim of Ashley McBryde. That said the recent tour-mates could both find themselves in contention here, which I would really like to see. Other country acts that could be in contention? Brett Young was a prediction I had last year and he looks to have been submitted again this year, while Margo Price fits more into the pop country crossover vein that helped Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini score nominations a few years back.
Bebe Rexha may have ended up having the biggest country hit of the year, but if she picks up a nomination for Best New Artist this year it will be for her genre hopping Pop debut album. Meant To Be is surely a favourite in both the genre and general field categories, so she’s sure to be here unless the voters are as confused as everyone else at her eligibility. That someone who’s first US Hot 100 top 10 as a lead artist was released in 2015 is eligible for the 2019 Best New Artist trophy is beyond me. Another act in contention with a similarly long career is Troye Sivan who seems to have captured enough critical acclaim for his album Bloom to have a shot.
In fact if voters truly want to get behind an act with one of the biggest hits of the year they might want to root for Juice WRLD, a definite nominee in this and possibly the other general field categories and the most obvious Rap act in contention. With no Post Malone, the category is wide open for the likes of 6ix9ine and Lil Peep, but none have really broken through at the same scale as Juice WRLD.
That leaves the two acts that I now think are the favourites here, both of which only released their debut albums after the eligibility period ended. Rather than chance that they will remain eligible next year, submitting this year is genius as both have seen their respective albums gain commercial and critical praise. Greta Van Fleet could mark the first true Rock nominees in this category since Alabama Shakes back in 2013 and their classic Led Zeppelin-like style really makes them stand out in this category. The other act is British RnB singer Ella Mai who represents the same for a wholly different genre. With a huge radio hit on her hands already with the infectiously simple Boo’d Up and current single Trip about to make the top 10 alongside her album the timing feels perfect for her to win. I’d say Ella Mai and Greta Van Fleet are the ones to beat in 2019, even if Cardi B and Post Malone really should have been.