The Grammy for Best New Artist is one of the most prestigious awards to recognize up-and-coming talent in the music industry. In the words of previous BNA winner Alicia Keys, “Best New Artist is a really powerful nomination and, also, award to receive. It says a lot about who you are, what you’re up to, and where you’re going.” So who are those looking to join the elite club of winners who range from The Beatles and Carly Simon to Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish?
Similar to past nominees like Bebe Rexha, Ingrid Andress is a singer-songwriter who may have penned one of your favorite songs without you even knowing, like “Boys” by Charli XCX and “8 Letters” by Why Don’t We. Now as a solo artist in her own right, Andress is making pop-country in a similar vein as Grammy favorites Kacey Musgraves and Maren Morris.
She notched a hit early in 2020 with “More Hearts Than Mine,” which peaked in the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 and is also nominated for Best Country Song. Her debut album “Lady Like” (nominated for Best Country Album) peaked in the top 10 on the Top Country Albums chart.
If she manages a win, Andress will be the first country act to do so since Zac Brown Band a decade ago. Only two other country artists have ever won this prize, LeAnn Rimes (1997) and Carrie Underwood (2007), which would make Andress just the fourth overall.
Phoebe Bridgers was one of the most widely predicted nominees among the eight artists who actually got in, and for good reason. This alternative singer has been racking up a lot of buzz in the past couple of years, breaking through to a bigger audience with her critically beloved album “Punisher,” which (as of this writing) is second on critical aggregator albumoftheyear.org’s Best Albums of 2020 list and got a nomination for Best Alternative Album.
Bridgers also had a Triple-A hit (Billboard’s Adult Alternative Songs chart) with her song “Kyoto,” which is nominated for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance. With four noms this year, Bridgers ties Megan Thee Stallion for most nominations out of the BNA nominees. Bridgers has also collaborated with previous Grammy nominees like The 1975, and has had an extensive campaign so far with multiple TV appearances and an NPR “Tiny Desk Concert.”
If she wins, Bridgers would be the first alternative act to prevail since Bon Iver.
While Chika was definitely a surprise nomination, her appearance here wasn’t totally out of the blue. This Alabama-born rapper has been building momentum for the past couple years, recently appearing in XXL’s Freshman Class of 2020 and releasing her debut EP, “Industry Games,” in February of 2020. Chika has also been part of other ventures, like Netflix’s “Project Power” and Calvin Klein’s MyCalvins campaign, among others. And she has collaborated with artists like Jojo, Stevie Wonder, and Cordae.
If Chika pulls off a win here, she’d be one of the few rappers to win the top honor, and the first female hip-hop artist to do so since Lauryn Hill.
Daughter of two-time Grammy-winner Billy Ray Cyrus and sister of Grammy nominee and international pop star Miley Cyrus, Noah Cyrus’s nomination shouldn’t be a surprise. However, her nomination is oddly timed, since she’s been putting out charting songs since her debut single in 2017.
Perhaps Cyrus’s nom comes from the success of her crossover hit “July” and album “The End of Everything,” which peaked at number-one on the Heatseekers Chart. The album was more ballad-centered and country/Americana in its sound (“July” was a Triple-A hit), which could’ve been more Grammy-friendly than her past work. This nom could be the industry recognizing Noah’s less-mainstream approach, and trying to encourage her in this direction.
If you’re familiar with the Netflix show “Rhythm and Flow,” then you know season one winner and now two-time Grammy nominee D Smoke. D Smoke isn’t only nominated here, but his debut album “Black Habits” earned a bid for Best Rap Album. He’s been associated with artists like The Game and SiR, the latter of whom is also his biological brother.
D Smoke would be the first rapper to win here since Chance the Rapper a couple of years ago, and would notably be one of the few acts to win BNA before notching a Hot 100 chart entry.
Singer and rapper Doja Cat was widely predicted to get a nomination, with many predicting a win for her since summer. Her smash hit “Say So” peaked atop the Billboard Hot 100 and garnered her noms for Record of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. She’s notched two more hits on the charts as well with “Juicy” and “Like That.” And she has worked with many big industry players like Ariana Grande, The Weeknd, Nicki Minaj, and Chloe x Halle.
Her sophomore album, “Hot Pink,” reached the top 10 on the Billboard 200, and she’s been having a big year awards-wise too, winning the equivalent of this category at the MTV Video Music Awards, MTV Europe Music Awards, the People’s Choice Awards, and the American Music Awards.
Electronic music producer and DJ Kaytranada might have been unknown to some people, but those who did know him might be more surprised by the “new artist” label. Kaytranada has worked with many other musicians in the past eight years or so, including Grammy winners Chance the Rapper, Anderson Paak and Robert Glasper. His debut album, “99%,” was released in 2016 to critical acclaim, and his sophomore album “BUBBA” was released late last year. It’s nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Album, and the single “10%” is up for Best Dance Recording as well.
If he wins Best New Artist, Kaytranada would be the first ever EDM victor (the only other past electronic nominees were Imogen Heap, James Blake, Skrillex and The Chainsmokers).
Megan Thee Stallion
Last but certainly not least is hit rapper Megan Thee Stallion. Megan has had an amazing 2020, notching not one but two number-one hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including her three-time nominated song “Savage” (featuring Beyoncé), which is up for Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song and Record of the Year. Her EP “Suga” peaked in the Billboard 200’s top 10, and she has also scored six more top-40 singles, including her newest hit “Body.”
Megan has also enjoyed support for her bold political statement on “SNL” in honor of Black women (particularly Breonna Taylor, who was shot to death in her own home by police), as well as in her feud with rapper Tory Lanez, who allegedly shot her in July in a highly publicized and controversial incident.
Along with the aforementioned Phoebe Bridgers, Megan is the most nominated BNA contender this year with four noms. If she wins, she’ll be one of the few rappers ever to prevail here, and would be the first female hip-hop artist since Lauryn Hill.
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