Last year I incorrectly predicted that Album of the Year nominee H.E.R. would win Best New Artist in an interestingly diverse category that didn’t have the biggest breakout stars of the year even in contention. This year surely will, I think that there’s 4 or 5 names here that would easily win in any other year. It could be a hell of a fight for the trophy.
(Alternatives: Da Baby, Lil Nas X, Carly Pearce)
Back in June I claimed that Billie Eilish was ‘a dead cert’ for this category and that still remains true to this day. Hearing the sound of the crowd at one of her shows is enough to appreciate the massive impact she’s had in such a short period of time, while the fact she’s doing it without even turning 18 yet makes her place on festival bills and at the top of the chart even more impressive. Bad Guy finally went to #1, album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is an outstanding debut record and became a massive streaming hit. She more deserves the trophy, but in the few months since I last wrote about the category her competition has caught up and perhaps even passed her for the final win.
The first of which is Lewis Capaldi, who after me saying he would do on multiple occasions now has the #1 song in the US with Someone You Loved. There’s a very good chance that if he does make it into these categories he could become a favourite if the song stays at #1 over the next few months. He stands out among the names above for being oddly predictable and having mass appeal. As a nominee he’d be following the likes of Adele, Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran as a UK act having huge ballad hits in an era of dance hits and making a big impression on the songwriters who are among the voters. You’d be an idiot to imagine the Best New Artist category without Lewis Capaldi in it this year.
Strangely I’ve not opted for any other British acts this year, the likes of Dave, Mabel and even more leftfield acts like Fontaines DC and slowthai just feel too out of the loop over in the US to be in contention. That said, Jorja Smith made it in last year, so perhaps I’ll be proven wrong. The only non US act included comes courtesy of Spain, where Rosalía has fast become the biggest international success from the country in years. Her album El Mal Querer has been heaped with critical praise for its blend of traditional flemenco, modern reggaeton and hip hop sound. If we were to have a Esperanza Spalding moment I would expect it to be Rosalía, who is also nominated for 5 Latin Grammys for the second year in the row.
Moving back to American shores, we have two genres that have made an appearance in just about every year of the last decade. On the country side of things I’ve gone with Morgan Wallen over some acts who have perhaps scored more #1 hits or released a full album. He seems to be hitting a very specific sound that I think will resonate with voters. Outside of him we could see Runaway June in here, or more likely Carly Pearce who’s label Big Machine is known for really pushing their acts at the Grammys. The second genre is hip-hop and I think a couple of potential names might miss out for an artist who probably should have been nominated last year. I wrongly tipped Juice WRLD for a nomination in this category, as well as Song of the Year for Lucid Dreams, so I think voters will right that wrong this year. Da Baby could make it in for his inescapable sound this year, while Lil Tecca’s Ransom is probably my favourite breakout rap track of the last few months and could see him make it in here.
Of course one artist literally straddled the lines between the two genres, Lil Nas X. He’s sure to get at least one nomination this year for biggest hit of the year Old Town Road, but is that enough to make it in here? Follow up Panini is enough of a hit to warrent mention, but part of me still thinks he will just miss out. Perhaps if he had released a full album within the eligibility period he’d be more of a sure shot.
Given how many RnB acts appeared in last year’s list, I had to include the biggest breakout star of the year, Summer Walker. Her album may have missed the cut off period, but for this category often that can work in your favour, as her position with a #1 album puts her ahead of many acts mentioned above. Maggie Rogers has been my outsider pick for this category for a few months now, but given her huge touring schedule, alternative and adult contemporary radio support and impact of album Heard It In A Past Life I’d say she’s a lock for a nomination this year. A well deserved nomination too.
That leaves that second big name who’s making Billie Eilish’s work that bit harder than expected, the woman who just ended a 7 week run at #1 in the US, who is about to her second US Top 10 with an Ariana Grande featuring remix to a song from 2016, who just starred in one of the biggest films of the last few months; Lizzo of course. Whether or not Lizzo should even be eligible is up for debate, she’s had more albums/EPs than the standard 3 maximum for eligibility, but the committee have decided she should make it in after all. It’s clearly the right choice as there’s few acts in the music who have had the impact Lizzo has over the last 12 months. Truth Hurts peaked at just the right time for voters, while album Cuz I Love You is one of the year’s most consistently great pop records. If anyone is going to win against Billie this year it’s Lizzo.