Male groups have been on a roll in the Grammys race for Best New Artist, winning the last three years in a row – Bon Iver (2011), Fun. (2012), and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (2013) – but solo men haven’t fared as well. In fact only one such artist has won in the last 22 years: John Legend in 2005. 22 years is as long as British crooner Sam Smith has been alive, so while he’d normally be an underdog, he has one crucial advantage that could make him hard to beat.
Smith is only the 10th artist nominated in all four general-field categories in the same year: Best New Artist and Record, Album, and Song of the Year. The previous nine were:
1967 – Bobbie Gentry
1979 – Christopher Cross
1984 – Cyndi Lauper
1988 – Tracy Chapman
1990 – Mariah Carey
1997 – Paula Cole
2001 – Indie.Arie
2007 – Amy Winehouse
2012 – Fun.
Of those nine, eight won Best New Artist. The only exception was Indie.Arie, who was a strange anomaly. She went up against fellow R&B singer-songwriter Alicia Keys, who had the higher-profile career breakthrough that year, but even though Keys also earned bids for Record and Song (for “Fallin'”), the recording academy opted for Arie’s “Acoustic Soul” over Keys’s “Songs in A Minor” in the Album race. The result: Keys won New Artist and Song, while Arie was shut out of all seven of her nominations.
The Grammys made it up to Arie, however, awarding her a pair of trophies the following year.
So could anyone upset Smith the way Keys did to Arie? The likeliest possibility may be Iggy Azalea, whose success has been comparable to Smith’s; she spent seven weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100 last summer with her multiplatinum breakthrough single “Fancy,” which is nominated for Record of the Year.
Rap artists aren’t usually welcomed by the Grammys in the general field, with losses handed to stars like Nicki Minaj, Drake, Kanye West, and 50 Cent. But the recording academy may be warming up to the genre, considering Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s win last year.
But Grammy voters have another option if they want to honor a female artist: country singer-songwriter Brandy Clark. The last country artist to win was the Zac Brown Band in 2009, and the last female country champ was Carrie Underwood in 2006. Clark hasn’t sold nearly as well as her competitors – her debut album, “12 Stories,” peaked at number-163 on the Billboard 200 – but neither did jazz singer Esperanza Spalding, who beat bestsellers Justin Bieber, Drake, and Mumford and Sons in 2010.
Rounding out the category are English rock band Bastille, led by singer-songwriter Dan Smith, and American group Haim, fronted by a sisters Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim. Neither group has any other nominations this year.
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