2023 Grammy for Best New Artist: Handicapping one of the most unpredictable races in years

This year’s Best New Artist race is one of the most fun to follow in years at the Grammys. And it isn’t only because a lot of exciting artists are looking to be nominated, but more due to the lack of an obvious, undeniable front-runner like Billie Eilish or Olivia Rodrigo in years past. While a couple of people do look like very safe bets, the category could go a myriad of ways and ultimately shock us all for the first time in forever.

A few front-runners are probably safe for a nomination. Latto could perhaps be the biggest of them, with her hit “Big Energy” being one of the defining songs of 2022 and being a hip-hop/pop crossover. Another is Zach Bryan, whose debut album, “American Heartbreak,” is the biggest country album eligible for this year’s Grammys and has netted multiple weeks in the top 10 of the Billboard 200. Bryan’s single “Something in the Orange” has also proved to be a hit, peaking in the top 15 of the Billboard Hot 100 and still rising.

Hit-maker Joji will also likely be on the list after finally getting a mainstream crossover hit with the top-10-charting “Glimpse of Us.” Joji has already been a streaming monster for years now, but finally breaking into the popular music scene will likely give him an advantage. Finally, it’s hard to see Dove Cameron missing after such a strong year for the former Disney star, especially being one of the few very recognizable names among pop music contenders this year. Her hit “Boyfriend” peaked in the top two of the Mainstream Top 40 chart, and she won the VMA for Best New Artist.

This year we might see a very alternative-heavy lineup. The lack of clear front-runners will always help those smaller acts with clear support among their niche of voters. Singer-songwriter Omar Apollo is experiencing a lot of success right now with his hit “Evergreen,” and his lofty ballot position under the letter “A” will definitely help him. Inversely, UK band Wet Leg might be at a bit of a disadvantage due to being so low on the ballot, but it’d be weird to see a lineup without them; their self-titled album peaked in the top 15 in the US and at number-one in the UK, is one of the most acclaimed of the year, and the band has been promoting on a lot of different talk shows as well as touring with Harry Styles.

Another female-fronted alternative band that could easily show up is MUNA, who have been in the indie sphere for quite a while. The band’s single “Silk Chiffon” featuring Phoebe Bridgers helped them break out to a wider audience, and their new, self-titled record got great reviews. Black Country, New Road is also a big possibility, releasing one of the most acclaimed albums of the season with “Ants From Up There.” Perhaps the biggest question mark this year, though, is Mitski, who is by all definitions not a new artist. However, with such a beloved catalog going back 10 years, voters could easily nominate her, as she has yet to be. The question is whether voters realize she’s even on the ballot for Best New Artist, as your average Mitski fan would likely not classify her as new.

Outside of the alternative world, there are a number of formidable contenders. One of the biggest is Muni Long, who experienced big success this year with her hit single “Hrs and Hrs.” Long has also been a songwriter for more than a decade now, penning hits for some of the most prominent artists of the 2010s including Rihanna and Ariana Grande. Another R&B star is Blxst, who has been rising and was featured on Kendrick Lamar’s “Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers.”

In the pop world, there’s singer-songwriter Conan Gray, who has been a streaming success for the past few years. His album “Superache” was well received, and his singer-songwriter style is typically well liked by Grammy voters. Pop star and dancer Tate McRae is also a strong possibility, especially after the success of her hits “You Broke Me First” and “She’s All I Wanna Be” in recent years. Viral singers Gayle and Lauren Spencer Smith are also stars on the rise who have managed to achieve big hits this year and could end up nominated.

On the Latin side, there’s Anitta, whose single “Envolver” is one of the biggest hits of the year worldwide. She could be joined by Becky G, who despite not really being new is on the ballot and could show up due to love for her many Latin hits over the years, including the smash hit “Mamiii” this year. Last but not least, don’t rule out some of last year’s snubees who are back on the ballot this year, like Maneskin, Rina Sawayama, and Sam Fender.

My final predictions: Anitta, Omar Apollo, Zach Bryan, Dove Cameron, Joji, Latto, Mitski, MUNA, Muni Long, and Wet Leg

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