Toward the end of Bebe Rexha’s mini-set at Thursday night’s Spotify party for the Grammys’ Best New Artist nominees at Los Angeles’ Hammer Museum, the pop singer-songwriter stopped her hit “Meant to Be” as the song began. “I worked too hard for this fucking bullshit,” she admonished the lethargic audience. “Call me whatever the fuck you want to call me. I’m being a bitch right now, yes.”
It was a moment of spontaneity and emotion that highlighted the annual party in which nearly every nominee performs a few songs for an industry crowd equally interested in hobnobbing and dealmaking as watching rising stars show off their best work. This year’s crop of nominees — Dua Lipa, Margo Price, Chloe X Halle, Jorja Smith, H.E.R. and Rexha — all gamely tried to rouse the audience to varying degrees of success. (Two other nominees, Luke Combs and Greta Van Fleet, did not perform.) Amid the open bars, A-list sightings like Quincy Jones and countless squeals of “OHMYGODIHAVENTSEENYOUINFOREVERRRRR,” it’s a tough stage, as the crowd seemed more curious onlookers than ardent fans.
Flanked by a cadre of backup dancers, Dua Lipa opened the event with “Electricity,” her collaboration with Silk City duo Mark Ronson and Diplo before dipping into “IDGAF” and breakout hit “New Rules” from her eponymous album. Price pulled from both her 2016 debut Midwest Farmer’s Daughter and 2017’s All American Made as the night’s sole country music ambassador, while R&B duo Chloe x Halle curiously performed double the songs than every other artist. Buoyed by a string quartet and two trumpeters, the sister duo lent dramatic heft to six songs from their self-titled debut. Like their mentor Beyoncé, the pair displayed a fierce confidence, though Chloe’s ad-lib to the crowd of, “I’m excited that some of you have energy,” was the perfect blend of “Happy to be here” and passive-aggressiveness.
British R&B-pop singer Jorja Smith was a clear highlight, sauntering around the stage like a seasoned lounge singer who graduated to the big stage, while H.E.R., whose popularity on streaming services helped vault her to an Album of the Year nomination, closed the evening with a mix of original songs and her cover of Foy Vance’s “Make It Rain.”
The Best New Artist category has always been one of the more fluid, odder categories. Each nominee, as the Grammys put it, “must have achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and impacted the musical landscape during the year’s eligibility period.” As a result, the category can reward artists like Shelby Lynne, who won the award in 2001 despite having released six albums dating back to 1989 at the time of her nomination. Still, it can have career-defining implications for the winner, widening their audience from ardent cult to mainstream success.
The Grammys take place on Sunday, February 10th, at Los Angeles’ Staples Center. Alicia Keys will serve as the show’s host, with confirmed performances by Lady Gaga, Cardi B, Dolly Parton, Travis Scott and Shawn Mendes, among many others.
Spotify Best New Artist Grammy Party Set List
“Four Years of Chances”
“All American Made”
“A Little Pain”
Chloe x Halle
“The Kids Are Alright”
“Happy Without Me”
“On My Mind”
“Me, Myself and I”
“I’m A Mess”
“Meant To Be”
“Make It Rain”
“As I Am”