Well, it’s Grammys season yet again, so get out your couture gowns and surprise faces! Anticipation is running high for all the awards — but one of the most exciting awards of the year (no offense, Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album!) is Best New Artist, where the year’s biggest breakout talents compete in a cutthroat battle for survival. (Just kidding, that’s The Hunger Games.)
But seriously! Seriously. Up for the award are some seriously boldface names who were last year’s “Who?”s: fun., Frank Ocean and The Lumineers. Head below to see our breakdown of the Best New Artist category.
BEST NEW ARTIST NOMINEES:
THOUGHTS ON THE NOMINEES:
Boy, Frank Ocean had a banner year, didn’t he? For a guy not many people in the mainstream had heard of at the top of 2012, he absolutely owned the following year, his publicity buoyed partially by his public coming-out-by-Tumblr, which put his name on the lips of a lot of new fans, but mostly by releasing a jaw-droppingly good debut album in the form of channel ORANGE. In terms of critical respectability married with commercial success, he demolished the last 12 months.
But if mainstream popularity is the primary metric by which this award should be judged, both fun. and The Lumineers would be more deserving of acclaim: With the meteoric rise and eventual ubiquity of “We Are Young” (and later, “Some Nights”), fun. became — if not a household name — a wildly successful band making damn good rock music with a real pop sensibility. Meanwhile, The Lumineers had a huge organic hit with “Ho Hey,” a song that may be more of a novelty tune than “We Are Young” but with a genre following that indicates they may have legs beyond that song’s initial ascent up the charts.
Hunter Hayes’ sharp songcraft put him on the map as one of the freshest new voices in country — and certainly, opening for Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood on tour probably didn’t hurt — but ultimately, he didn’t have the kind of crossover impact that the other nominees had. A similar argument could be made for Alabama Shakes, although they are even better-regarded critically than Hayes; their bluesy sound resonated with viewers, but their chart success in the UK has yet to be replicated here, and they’re probably the most esoteric act to be nominated this year.
WHO SHOULD WIN:
For us, the clear-cut artist who deserves this most is Frank Ocean, who had a strong ascent from relative obscurity to mainstream success, buoyed by a deeply compelling personal backstory that likely allowed for an even greater connection with listeners. His genre-bending, emotive songs — as personal and provocative as any of his contemporaries — make him a clear choice.
WHO WILL WIN:
Again, we’re going with Frank Ocean for this one. Voters aren’t just responding to Ocean’s music in a vacuum — they’re responding to how he’s emerged as one of the most compelling artists in recent memory. It would be a shock to see them give this award to anyone else.