As we near the 61st Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, make sure you’re ready for music’s biggest night. The Best New Artist category has eight contenders in it, making it the largest number of artists ever competing in the category and the first time since 1966 that there are more than five artists vying for the title. This year’s category is heavy on country hitmakers (one of them, a pop star with a surprise crossover hit in the genre). While rock, R&B and pop nominees show off an incredible range, there is a suspicious lack of rap or hip-hop nominees in this year’s competition.
The winner of this year’s Best New Artist title is looking to be one of the ceremony’s biggest surprises and is filled with deserved recognition for a variety of singers, songwriters and performers in various stages. Get to know all eight of this year’s nominees.
Chloe x Halle
Who: Atlanta sisters Chloe x Halle first began their rise in 2013, when the pair would post covers on their YouTube channel. Their rendition of “Pretty Hurts” caught the attention of none other than Beyoncé herself, leading to the duo getting signed to the singer’s own Parkwood label. This past year was a turning point for the Baileys: not only did they finally release their debut album The Kids Are Alright, but they found themselves opening for Beyoncé and Jay Z on the couple’s On the Run II tour and starring in the Freeform sitcom Grownish. They also just performed “America the Beautiful” during Super Bowl LIII.
The Hit(s): Chloe x Halle haven’t had a major charting hit yet, but their music is becoming a bigger presence in film and television. They wrote “Grown” as the theme song for Grownish and the track “Warrior” was featured on the soundtrack for A Wrinkle in Time.
Who: Luke Combs has taken country by storm — or, more accurately, by “Hurricane” — over the last couple years. After a few self-released EPs, the North Carolina singer-songwriter began to gain momentum with his aforementioned “Hurricane” in 2015, which began to slide up the country charts. He soon signed to Columbia Nashville, which released his full-length debut This One’s For You last year. It ended up debuting at Number Five on the Billboard 200 and has since elicited a series of Number One country hits.
The Hit(s): “Hurricane,” of course, was Combs’ breakthrough, but it was only the first of four singles to reach Number One on the US Country Airplay chart. His other successes include “When It Rains It Pours,” “One Number Away” and “She Got the Best of Me,” all of which appear on his 2017 LP.
Greta Van Fleet
Who: Rock has had a lowkey year, but Greta Van Fleet have persisted. The Michigan hard rock outfit — which consists of the three Kiszka brothers and their friend Danny Wagner — released their debut album Anthem of the Peaceful Army to a set of fans hungry for the mystical, old school, Seventies rock sound of legends like Led Zeppelin. Their LP debuted at Number Three on the overall album chart and Number One on the rock chart.
The Hit(s): The quartet’s first singles — “Highway Tune,” “Safari Song” and “When the Curtain Falls” — were all Number One hits on the main rock chart and even gained major radio airplay.
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Who: Both mysterious and beloved, H.E.R. is the type of R&B star oft-ignored in a category like Best New Artist. This year, she’s the only Best New Artist nominee who has also been recognized under Album of the Year for her 2017 self-titled compilation featuring her EPs. The 21-year-old first made her debut under the name H.E.R. in 2016 and kept her identity a mystery for a while as a “metaphor” for what she was also writing and singing about. Even so, she caught the attention of big names like Alicia Keys, Bryson Tiller and Issa Rae. Her debut album is still on the way.
The Hit(s): Don’t let the secrecy fool you: H.E.R.’s impact is anything but small. Not only are her streaming number massive, but she’s been teaming up with artists like Khalid, Daniel Caesar, Tiller, Ella Mai and fellow new artist nominee Jorja Smith for singles. H.E.R.’s biggest hit so far is “Focus,” which has been certified Gold.
Who: Londoner Dua Lipa’s smoky voice can be heard all over radio these days. Since the launch of her self-titled debut album last year, Lipa has become one of the busiest rising pop stars. Not only did her album find both critical and commercial success, but she’s found herself partnering with a slew of top names, including Miguel, Calvin Harris, Andrea Bocelli, Black Pink and Silk City (the production superduo moniker for Mark Ronson and Diplo). As a teen, Lipa first began her career by posting covers on YouTube and was eventually signed three years ago. Since then, she’s shown off not only her immense vocal range but genre range as well.
The Hit(s): “New Rules” has become Lipa’s trademark hit: a sassy infectious ode to choosing yourself over an ex. It was the first song of hers to break the Top 10 in the U.S. Other successes include the catchy kiss-off “IDGAF,” Calvin Harris collaboration “One Kiss” and Silk City hit “Electricity.”
Who: Signed to Jack White’s Third Man Records, Margo Price has been an outspoken leader of country’s newest generation. The Illinois native moved to Nashville when she was 20, becoming a fixture in the local music scene and forming a number of bands with husband and guitarist Jeremy Ivey. She eventually launched her solo career, releasing her debut album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter in 2016 and following it up a year later with the Tom Petty-influenced All American Made.
The Hit(s): When Price made her SNL debut last year, she performed her first single “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)” and “Since You Put Me Down,” both off Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. A highlight off All American Made is the Willie Nelson duet “Learning to Lose.”
Who: Staten Island’s Bebe Rexha may be the most seasoned of this year’s nominees, having been jostled through the music industry ringer for nearly a decade before finally releasing her debut album Expectations this year. Her first break was with Pete Wentz’s post-Fall Out Boy project Black Cards, but after that disbanded, she wrote hits like Eminem and Rihanna’s “Monster” (which won a Grammy for those artists, but not Rexha). Her first big hit as a lead artist was the G-Eazy collab “Me, Myself & I” but the most recent breakthrough was the pop-country crossover hit “Meant to Be” with Florida Georgia Line, which is up for Best Country Duo/Group Performance.
The Hit(s): “Meant to Be” was one of the biggest songs of 2017, peaking at Number Two on the Hot 100. Other Rexha hits include “Hey Mama” with David Guetta, Nicki Minaj and Afrojack as well as “In the Name of Love” with Martin Garrix.
Who: Twenty-one-year-old British singer Jorja Smith has become a go-to voice in hip-hop and R&B in just a few years. She made her debut in 2016 with the EP Project 11 but it was two appearances on Drake’s More Life in 2017 that changed the course of her career. She not only got a song named for her (“Jorja Interlude”) but also sang on standout track “Get It Together.” She has since been in the studio with Stormzy, Kendrick Lamar and Khalid. This summer, she released her first full-length LP Lost & Found.
The Hit(s): Smith is already making waves in the UK, but her highest-charting songs here so far are “Get It Together” with Drake’s and this year’s “February 3rd.” Not only did her album crack the Top 50, but it also got Smith shortlisted for the Mercury Prize.