Words by Jada Gordon
Illustration by Katie Herchenroeder
The Grammys bring the elite of each genre together every year to celebrate the best of music. The Grammys celebrate the past, present, and future of music. Each year the celebration brings us bringing us unexpected collaborations, fashion moments, and controversy. This controversy usually stems from the artists who win the major categories: Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best New Artist, and the coveted Album of the Year.
The Grammys time and time again have proven that even the most coveted awards are not just obtained by popularity. Through all of the controversy, the Grammys never cease to surprise and shock viewers every year. This year is a year of firsts for the Grammys. For the first time ever, the major categories have eight nomination slots instead of five, which makes the decision-making process much more diverse, but also difficult. Also, for the first time in fourteen years, a woman will be hosting the Grammys. That esteemed woman is no other than fifteen- time Grammy winner herself, Alicia Keys.
The Grammys’ performance lineup – which has been met with controversy as well – is heavy with multiple first-time female nominees ready to hit the stage. Dolly Parton is performing at the Grammys for the first time since 2001. Although there are heavy hitters such as Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Cardi B, and Childish Gambino taking the bulk of nominations in major categories, it is shortsighted to count out the underdogs of the Grammys – the newcomers, the indie darlings, and obscure acts that could win categories expected to be won more popular acts.
Album of the Year:
The only outliers of this coveted award are folk singer Brandi Carlile, country staple Kacey Musgraves, and R&B artist and actress Janelle Monae. All three have had a break out year of success both in their genre and in pop music. Kacey Musgraves fifth studio album Golden Hour sold moderate numbers in album sales but has garnered praise from critics across the board, being included on many best albums 2018 lists. Kacey Musgraves has been a consistent standout in a now-crowded country and country crossover world. Musgraves also has two nominations for Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Album. Musgraves stands on the shoulders of crossover country gems such as former American Idol winner Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton, Taylor Swift, and icon Dolly Parton. Musgraves is one to surely look out for on Sunday night and years ahead.
Brandi Carlile is this year’s most nominated female artist with six nominations including Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year. Brandi Carlile song The Joke – nominated for song and record of the year – even received a co-sign by former President Barack Obama, landing on his year-end playlist. Her seventh album, By The Way, I Forgive You has been described as a “delicate masterpiece” by Rolling Stone magazine. Brandi Carlile has been a career Folk/Americana singer-songwriter releasing albums since 2007’s The Story. Carlile is no stranger to the Grammys, being nominated seven times throughout her acclaimed career. With such a remarkable record, will By The Way, I Forgive You & The Joke snag the coveted titles?
Janelle Monae has a decorated and multifaceted career that’s showing no signs of slowing down. The electric lady is an eight-time Grammy nominee, singer-songwriter, actress, and activist. Monae has also acted in two high profile films, Hidden Figures, as NASA mathematician and aerospace engineer Mary Jackson, and Moonlight, which won the coveted Academy Award for Best Picture in 2017. Janelle Monae has released three albums and her third album Dirty Computer, also a visual concept album, has been critically lauded and debuted at number six on the US Billboard Hot 200. Further, Janelle Monae is also an amazing live performer, sure to amaze and entertain a crowd. Janelle Monae has proven to be a force to be reckoned with on the big screen, the stage, and in music. With two nominations including Best Music Video on her roster this year and slated to perform for the star-filled crowd, Janelle Monae might be the big winner of the night.
Best New Artist:
Although all of these artists are new, their names are seemingly everywhere. Since it is now eight nominees instead of five, the competition is more diverse and even more fierce. Artists such as Chloe X Halle, H.E.R. – who is up for five Grammys – and Dua Lipa – who is scheduled to perform with alternative heavyweight St.Vincent – are all Best New Artist nominees scheduled to perform. Here is look at the other new artists up for winning this coveted title:
Luke Combs is a newcomer to the country scene, but is already making a name for himself. His debut album This One’s for You reached number one on the Top Country Album Charts and number 5 on the US Billboard 200. Then, the deluxe reissue This One’s for You debuted at number five on the Billboard 200. The album spawned the five hit singles including “Hurricane,” “When It Rains It Pours,” and “She Got the Best of Me.” With his momentum and Country music producing crossover talent, Luke Combs might be the next Best New Artist winner.
Greta Van Fleet is a Detroit rock band that channels the seventies style of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. They may be responsible for putting on a younger generation to the hard rock of the seventies, but that is up for more analysis. Whether they are a fever dream or a legitimate rock band capable of carving a more unique sound, they are standing out from the rest. Greta Van Fleet’s debut album Anthem of the Peaceful Army climbed to number one on the Billboard Rock Album Charts, Hard Rock Album Charts, and Top Album Sales Chart in the first week of its release. The album’s first single, “When the Curtain Falls,” was released early and became their third number one single on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Charts. The band also has three other nominations in the rock categories. Greta Van Fleet is a real contender for the coveted spot of Best New Artist.
Margo Price has already been described as “country’s next star,” by The Fader magazine. Her debut album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter was released under rock icon Jack White’s label “Third Man Records,” and is the labels first country release. Midwest Farmer’s Daughter debuted at number 189 on the Billboard 200, but received rave reviews from music publications and music critics. Her most recent album All American Made landed at number 89 on the Billboard 200 and received positive reviews from music critics and publications alike. Margo Price’s sound, although country primarily, lends itself to other genres – such as American Roots music, R&B, and spacy indie rock. In the past, the Grammys have proven that an artist does not have to be mainstream or largely popular to win coveted title. So, will Margo Price walk away from the Grammys a Best New Artist winner?
Jorja Smith, a British singer-songwriter, already made history in her hometown of the U.K. as the first independent artists to win the Brits Critics Choice Award. Jorja Smith has captivated audiences globally with her raw vocals and smooth, yet impactful melodies. Smith has opened for fellow Grammy winner Bruno Mars and contributed to another Grammy legend Kendrick Lamar’s Black Panther album. Her debut collection Lost & Found received praise for its style, lyrical content, and vocal performance. Lost & Found debuted at number three on the U.K. Albums Chart and number one on the regions’ R&B charts. Lost & Found was eventually certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry. Smith’s album also performed moderately in the U.S and internationally. Even more, Jorja Smith’s single “Blue Lights” was released on Soundcloud and got the attention of Skrillex, U.K rapper Stormzy, and Drake, who also featured her on his playlist More Life. Smith’s combination of raw vocal ability, diverse, melodic R&B, and appreciation from music’s tastemakers, helps her case for Best New Artist.
Now, quick, tune in!