By Shannon Carlin
This year’s nominees for the Best New Artist GRAMMY include a Brit looking for someone who will stick around, a “Fancy” rapper from the Clueless age, a pop band of sisters who have Jay Z on speed dial, English rockers that have a thing for David Lynch and a country songwriter/singer who, last year, helped us all follow our arrows.
Related: GRAMMY Nominees 2015: The Full List
In a year filled with so many great new artists (See: Radio.com‘s New Music To Know for more) the 2015 GRAMMY nominees—Sam Smith, Iggy Azalea, Bastille, HAIM, Brandy Clark—are clearly at the top of their music game. But, there can only be one winner.
In honor of the biggest night in music, we’re breaking down the nominees and taking bets on who will walk away with the gramophone. It’s safe to say there’s a pretty clear winner in our minds. But we’ve been known to be wrong once and awhile.
Of course, we will all know who the real winner is when the 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards airs Feb. 8 at 8 pm EST on CBS.
Iggy Azalea‘s fancy you already know and holds the honor of having the song of this summer. Along with “Fancy” off her debut, The New Classic, Azalea also topped the charts with Ariana Grande‘s “Problem,” which helped her join the ranks of the Beatles as the only artists to earn the No. 1 and 2 spots on the Hot 100 with their first two chart topping singles. She also holds the title of the longest Hot 100 reign for a female rapper holding the top spot for six weeks with “Fancy,” which might be a hard pill for Nicki Minaj to swallow. And managed to get in on the big booty trend of 2014 by teaming up with Jennifer Lopez for the remix of J. Lo’s song, appropriately titled, “Booty.”
But, even though she’s got the love of a lot fans—famous ones like Charli XCX and Rita Ora included—she also has some haters: Snoop Dogg started an Instagram feud by posting an unflattering photo of her, J. Cole called her and other white rappers out for trying to steal his culture, Eminem rapped about sexually assaulting her and Azealia Banks threw some shade her way for not speaking up quick enough about the Eric Garner case. But let’s be honest Banks has a problem with everyone. To Azalea’s defense, she has become very good at responding to all the bad press, namely telling Em to stop being a creep and using Banks as an example of how not to support a cause. Perhaps, if rap doesn’t work out, a job as a politician is in her future.
Chances Of Winning: 1:1
Azalea is stuck smack dab in the middle. Sure, she had a hit single, but it seemed like people preferred talking about anything else but her music this year. Not to mention that she’s been cast as the hip-hop pariah of 2014, unfortunately continuing to spark fervor in those critics who felt last year’s GRAMMYs anointed Macklemore the defacto representative of hip-hop by undeservedly giving him awards that should have gone to rap’s real great new hope, Kendrick Lamar. The awards show might not want to keep that debate going, which could hurt Azalea’s chances.
The Recording Academy also prides itself on celebrating artistry over celebrity, so Azalea may be a bit too much of a tabloid staple to garner this prestigious award. But, don’t feel bad if Azalea loses this one, she does have three other chances to take home a GRAMMY. And as she told Radio.com earlier this year, “I always try the hardest I could try and hope I could achieve good things but at the same time if I don’t, or when I don’t, I think, “Well, you know, it is what it is.”
Bastille took over our rock and pop radios this year with their track “Pompeii,” the fourth single off their 2013 debut, Bad Blood, which used the ancient city destroyed by Mount Vesuvius as a metaphor for a failing relationship. The track went to No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart and peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single also earned the No. 16 spot on the year-end Billboard Radio Airplay chart.
But while rock fans seem to love them, Bastille politely told Radio.com back in February that they don’t actually consider themselves to be rock, but wouldn’t say they’re pop either. “I don’t think we think of ourselves as anything in particular,” Dan Smith says. “We don’t see ourselves as a rock band. We don’t see ourselves as a pop band.” Bassist Chris Wood added, “It’s quite hard to be a rock band without an electric guitar in most of your songs, I think.”
We’ll say there is something about Bastille that makes them a bit more arty and exciting than perhaps what those genres symbolize. The English band calls David Lynch a big influence, specifically on their videos like “Bad Blood” that took note of Lynch’s film Mulholland Drive, a favorite of Smith’s. The Twin Peaks director even reached out to Bastille for a remix of the track “Are You Sure” for a limited-edition Record Store Day vinyl release. Giving them some auteur cred to support their not-rock/not-pop claims.
Chances Of Winning: 4:1 against
In our opinion, these guys have the least likely chance of winning. They have a song that every one loves “eh-eh-o eh-o”-ing along to, but most people can’t pick these guys out of a lineup. Sure, this anonymity could show that the band is focused solely on the music, or it could just show they aren’t up to the level of the other more recognizable nominees.
But, don’t count them out completely. After the Americans (who have always dominated this category), the Brits have done well, with five artists—including the Beatles, Amy Winehouse and Adele—claiming the honor in the 54 years that this award has been in existence. Also, rock—in its many sub-genre forms—seems to still live in the hearts of GRAMMY voters as of late. Two out of the last three artists to win the award were in fact considered rock: Bon Iver in 2012 and fun. in 2013. While Bastille don’t want the rock moniker, their interesting, but still familiar take on it could make them a more millennial choice for the award giving them an edge with voters both young and old.
Brandy Clark isn’t a household name just yet, but whether or not you’ve heard her debut album, 12 Stories, you’ve probably heard a few Brandy Clark songs in the last year. Especially if you’re a fan of Kacey Musgraves. Clark is a co-writer on three songs off Musgraves 2013 album, Same Trailer Different Park, including “Follow Your Arrow,” a country song that talks about smoking weed and kissing boys or girls, if that’s what you’re into. Clark, an out and proud singer, doesn’t hold back on her own album, talking about rolling big fat ones, being kept out of heaven for cheating and crazy women made by crazy men.
By the numbers, Clark is a bit behind—her album’s highest chart position is No. 23 on Top Country Albums—but she has clout within the country community, earning rave reviews for her first album and even recently earning a spot in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Clark has quickly become one of the many women in country today—Musgraves, Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley, Ashley Monroe—who doesn’t have a problem speaking from the heart and tackling the taboo.
“Traditionally, country music is a truth-telling, adult format,” she told Radio.com back in May. “I want to be a truth-teller. I always want my music to be truthful and a dark comedy. Happy and sad. High and low.”
Chances Of Winning: 3:2 in favor
Clark has a good chance of winning this one, and an even better chance if you take in account how many female country singers have won before. In 54 years, five female country singers have won the award, including Bobbie Gentry (1968), LeAnn Rimes (1997) and Carrie Underwood (2007). Clark’s relationship with past GRAMMY winner Kacey Musgraves can’t hurt either, especially since, as Clark told Radio.com, Musgraves was her publicist before she actually had a publicist. “So much of what [Kacey]’s doing artistically is really opening major doors for a record like mine,” Clark said. “Had Kacey’s record not come out when it did, I don’t know if my record would have been received the way it was. I feel like she’s really opened the door for a different kind of song and for some of those topics that are a little bit more taboo.”
Clark also happens to have the least name or song recognition amongst the pop-heavy nominees this year, which puts the country singer/songwriter in the Esperanza Spalding or Bon Iver category. If she wins, we can undoubtedly imagine a lot of viewers taking to Twitter to butcher her name and ask, “Who the heck is that?!” Which, in this case, isn’t such a bad thing.
If you went to any festival—Coachella, Lollapalooza, Governors Ball—in the last two years, you’ve heard of HAIM. And if you haven’t actually seen them live yet, shame on you. Before they even dropped their debut, Days Are Gone, last year, the Haim sisters—Alana, Danielle and Este—were the people’s favorite band thanks to their percussion-heavy bass-face-filled live shows. Opening up for over 20 different bands including Mumford and Sons, Florence + the Machine and Rihanna in the last three years didn’t hurt either. All their hard work resulted in them signing with Jay Z‘s Roc Nation. So yes, HOV is their boss. “We honestly didn’t expect him to even know the first syllable of our band name,” Alana said about the first time she the rapper. “But he was just so nice. He just said like, ‘You guys just know what you’re doing. We’re just really excited that you want to be a part of the company.'”
Amongst the long list of female pop stars, HAIM is a breath of fresh air. A group of girls who play their own brand of indie rock and all of their own instruments, which they hope will inspire some other little girls to pick up a guitar in the future. “A lot of my favorite musicians growing up were girls,” Este said. “I think that’s a hole that needs to be filled.”
They’re a band for everyone, earning raves from other musicians ranging from Taylor Swift to Vampire Weekend‘s Ezra Koenig to Stevie Nicks to A$AP Ferg. But, this doesn’t mean they pander to the masses. They do their own thing, which is what makes them stand out. “I like to call us the wolf pack,” Alana said. “We’re very strong in our opinions. It’s really hard to sway us. I don’t think anyone’s ever done it.”
Chances Of Winning: 3:2 against
We think the ladies, though talented, are in the lower ranks among the nominees. Their album, though well-received by critics and music fans alike, came out in 2013, and the band hasn’t really been in the pop conversation as of late. They’re not exactly on people’s minds, which could be a bad thing. Of course, voters could give another listen and realize how much they missed them. But, unfortunately, we think they might have to settle for being the coolest girls at the GRAMMY party instead of Best New Artist winners this time around. When they drop their next album though, we count on them making another beeline for GRAMMY gold.
With five nominations—including Album of the Year and Record of the Year—Smith is tied with the Queen Bey herself for the most nominations this year. Not too shabby for his first year of GRAMMY eligibility. And not surprising since Smith’s “Stay With Me” off his debut, In The Lonely Hour, is one of the biggest songs of the year. The song may have peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100—his album also peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 200—but it’s been inescapable. In a good way, of course. Smith has become a household name in the matter of months, the romantic underdog that we’re all rooting for. With “Stay With Me,” Smith gave us a new song to ugly cry to. Seriously, “Someone Like You” is sooo three years ago. Sorry, not sorry, Adele.
Chances Of Winning: 4:1 in favor
Let’s be honest, it’s basically his to lose. In the last two years, both Best New Artist winners—Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and fun.—were nominated for seven and six awards a piece, respectively, including Album of the Year, and took home the award for Best New Artist. Smith seems to be on the fast track to continue this streak. We’re not gamblers over here at Radio.com, but if you happen to be, may we suggest you put a whole lot of money down on Smith going home with this one.
Watch the 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards on Sunday, Feb. 8, at 8 pm EST on CBS.