Everyone is prepared to get an overload of Adele, Beyonce, and David Bowie from next week’s Grammy nominations. But like with Ray LaMontagne in 2010, Bon Iver in 2011, and Miguel in 2012, we may see some unexpected names populate the general field categories. Here are some of the potential left-field artists that have an outside chance at stealing some Grammy glory from better known celebs.
Toeing the line between A-list superstar and underground sensation is Chance the Rapper. He has zero history with the Grammys, but there has been serious hype building around his third mixtape, “Coloring Book.” On Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam” Chance even raps about needing to release his album for sale in order to qualify for the Grammys. But when “Coloring Book” finally arrived in May, he was defiant and shared it for free.
The recording academy subsequently changed their eligibility rules, declaring streaming-only releases eligible for Grammy consideration, with Chance frequently noted as a major influencer of this decision. Moreover, Chance took out his own “For Your Consideration” ad in Billboard, recognized for its earnest charm. So despite no actual album sales to speak of, Chance’s streaming prowess and the increasing demand for his live performances have turned the 23-year-old into one of 2016’s biggest breakouts. Don’t be surprised if you see him in the general field, even beyond a Best New Artist nomination, which we’re already expecting.
Though she has been in the music industry for 15 years, 2016 was a banner year for Solange. After testing out old-school funk on 2008’s “Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams” and hipster indie-pop on 2012’s “True” she offers a singular mix of these genres with modern R&B on her newest release, “A Seat at the Table.” The new LP came on September 30 with only a few days’ notice, but the lack of build-up only resulted in a bigger splash once it was released. Its ritical adoration was universal (92 on Metacritic), and its commercial success was unprecedented for Ms. Knowles: “A Seat at the Table” topped the Billboard 200 upon its release and it has performed well since, mostly due to strong word of mouth. Beyonce is one of this year’s Grammy frontrunners, but her little sister may not be far behind.
The recording academy generally responds well to fusion. Blending two or more genres into a sound that is all one’s own often translates into Grammy success. This year newcomer Margo Price brings traditional bluegrass instrumentation to modern pop/country songwriting. Her “SNL” appearance on April 9 and warm critical reception make the singer-songwriter a worthy left-field choice for a general field nomination. Likewise, Anderson Paak’s “Malibu” can’t be firmly categorized as R&B or rap, but rather a distinct (and successful) cross of hip hop and soul. Furthermore, dashes of pop, folk, rock and even small bursts of synthy electronica make Angel Olsen a quiet contender, after delivering another stellar album, “My Woman,” in September.
In a truly bizarre year that finds even our biggest superstars making overtly political statements, some more alternative artists bring Issues to the table. From income inequality (PJ Harvey‘s “The Hope Six Demolition Project”) to climate change (Anohni‘s “Hopelessness”) to racial politics (Blood Orange‘s “Freetown Sound,” Vince Staples‘s “Prima Donna”), voters may be yearning to reward more outspoken voices.
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