Which critics’ darlings are the strongest dark horses for Grammys 2022? Japanese Breakfast, Wolf Alice …

While Grammy nominations usually include many commercial picks, the awards pride themselves on being decided by music industry peers judging quality over popularity, even banning chart-related messages in FYC ads recently. So we often can expect a couple of critical darlings to get nominated across genres and sometimes even in the general field. Nominations this past year for Haim’s “Women In Music Pt. III” in Album of the Year and Phoebe Bridgers in Best New Artist are examples of how far acclaim can take you at the Grammys. Granted, we don’t know how this will hold up with no more nomination review committees giving a boost to lower-profile acts. Nonetheless, there are a lot of lauded artists who might surprise us this year.

One of the most acclaimed contenders is Wolf Alice with their album “Blue Weekend.” The rock band’s third studio album garnered critical raves, scoring a whopping 91 on MetaCritic, with many critics calling it the band’s best. Wolf Alice are not strangers to the Grammys: their song “Moaning Lisa Smile,” off their debut album, earned them a Best Rock Performance nomination back in 2016. Rock and alternative music also seems to do well in the general field when aided by critical raves; just look at Bridgers, as well as Album of the Year winners Beck (“Morning Phase”) and Arcade Fire (“The Suburbs”). So you can expect these British rockers to get a couple of noms in the rock field, and perhaps they can sneak into Album of the Year too.

Another acclaimed artist in contention is Tyler the Creator, whose album “Call Me If You Get Lostscored 89 on MetaCritic, the highest in Tyler’s career. It also did well commercially, debuting at number-one on the Billboard 200. “Call Me If You Get Lost” follows the rapper’s “Igor,” which also received great reviews and eventually won Best Rap Album at the 2020 Grammys. This time around, not only can Tyler win that category again, but he’s a contender for nominations across the rap field with his hits “WusYaName,” “Lemon Head,” and “Juggernaut.” And he could very well cross over to the general field categories.

Moving on to new acts, watch out for Japanese Breakfast. While the band isn’t entirely new, their album “Jubilee” has been a big breakthrough, scoring 88 on MetaCritic. They could contend for Best New Artist, and “Jubilee” could show up in Best Alternative Album. There’s also buzzy newcomer Clairo, who’s mostly known for her hit song “Sofia.” Clairo in Best New Artist seems like a likely nominee, and the singer could score double noms as she’s also a contender for Best Alternative Album for her sophomore collection “Sling.”

Yet more examples of singers who could score those New Artist and Alternative album noms are Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, whom you might know from their supergroup with Phoebe Bridgers, Boygenius. The two singers have also received acclaim for their respective solo efforts “Home Video” and “Little Oblivions” and could round out a potentially female-dominated alternative Grammys lineup, with other female contenders like St. Vincent (“Daddy’s Home”) and Girl in Red (“If I Could Make It Go Quiet”) looking like safe bets.

If you’re looking for a left-field pick, consider “Promises” by electronic artist Floating Points and legendary jazz musician Pharoah Sanders, alongside the London Symphony Orchestra. The project could easily triumph for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album, and beyond that, who knows? With potential support from jazz, electronic, and instrumental musicians already, maybe it could be one of those WTF picks for Album of the Year nobody sees coming. After all, there’s no panel to stop it.

Additional acclaimed projects that could be dark horse contenders include “Carnage” by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, “Conflict of Interest” by UK rapper Ghetts, “Collapsed in Sunbeams” by fellow Brit Arlo Parks, and Lord Huron’s “Long Lost.” What other well-reviewed artists and albums do you think could make an impact against the more familiar A-list stars?

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