2020 Grammy Watch: Best New Artist

Ah, Best New Artist. This is always the most amusing of the Big Four categories. With a yearly set of new rules and a “curse” behind its name, Best New Artist is an interesting category. As it stands, the rules for this category are…

An artist, duo, or group:

  • Must have released a minimum of five singles/tracks or one album, but no more than 30 singles/tracks or three albums.
  • May not have entered into this category more than three times, including as a performing member of an established group.
  • Must have achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and impacted the musical landscape during the eligibility period.

If you can keep those requirements straight, let’s start analyzing the potential nominees.

LOCKS

I don’t want to jinx anything, but this award is Billie Eilish‘s to lose. The 17-year-old exploded onto the scene this year with a #1 album (WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?) and a #1 single (“bad guy“). She’s hit all the marks of commercial success, critical acclaim, and musical impact. It would be one of the biggest misses in awards show history if she were snubbed from this category. Lil Nas X‘s “Old Town Road” remix broke the record for most weeks at #1 on the Hot 100 of all time. His follow-up, “Panini,” just hit the Top 5. Lil Nas represents a new generation of social media stars turned artists that the Academy would be remiss to ignore. Finally, there’s the case of Lizzo. If you follow music, you know that Lizzo isn’t exactly a *new* artist. As of this writing, Lizzo has released three studio albums, two EPs, and two mixtapes on all listening platforms. This definitely puts her over the 30-track limit for this category. The catch is, only Cuz I Love You (her major label debut album) and Coconut Oil EP are currently available on digital platforms. It’s up to the academy whether or not to include her in this year’s lineup. Recently, the Academy deemed her #1 hit, “Truth Hurts,” eligible for the upcoming awards show despite it being released a year before the eligibility period. So, we’ll see.

LEADING CONTENDERS

Megan Thee Stallion has had a banner year. She scored her first Top 10 on the Billboard 200 with her Fever mixtape and scored hits with “Big Ole Freak”; “Cash S**t”; and “Hot Girl Summer.” If she (or Lizzo, Saweetie, or City Girls) pulls off a nomination, she would become just the fourth female rapper to be nominated for this award following Lauryn Hill, Iggy Azalea, and Nicki Minaj. BLACKPINK has broken through stateside with multiple VMA nominations this year and one of the most streamed tracks of the year with “Kill This Love.” They have a great shot at becoming the first K-Pop act to be nominated for this award. ROSALÍA has been making waves with “urban flamenco” style. She could certainly pull of a surprise Album of the Year nomination for El Mal Querer, but a Best New Artist nomination is more likely. Maggie Rogers could also surprise elsewhere in the General Field, but the indie star’s best bet is here. DaBaby had an anthem this year with “Suge” and he’s one of the few new male rappers that can actually rap well. I think he has a solid shot a nomination. Finally, we have Normani. Normani was entered into this category as apart of Fifth Harmony, but I believe they were only entered once. Definitely not three times. As a solo artist, Normani has released just eight tracks (four of them as a lead artist, one solo). If the Academy allows her to compete, she would be a highly likely nominee.

POSSIBLE NOMINEES

I’ve written a lot this year about how much female rap has exploded. Saweetie and City Girls could potentially be nominees. “Act Up” and “My Type” were huge urban hits, but ghostwriting rumors and more quality female rappers (and other nominees, in general) will present a challenge for them. Lil Baby, Lil Tecca, and Blueface, all scored Top 10 hits this year and could possibly represent rap in this category as well. Lil Baby is by far the most acclaimed and established of the three, and his Best New Artist win at the BET Awards should help him a bit. Lewis Capaldi could likely score three (Pop Solo, Record, and Song of the Year) nominations for “Someone You Loved,” so a Best New Artist nod probably isn’t far-fetched. Country music’s best shot a nomination should come by way of Morgan Wallen. His “Whiskey Glasses” could show up in the country categories, and he’s a solid artist who would help with genre diversity. Joji, a Japanese singer/rapper, released the sublime “Slow Dancing In the Dark” this year, so he’s another possibility. Lovelytheband is the closest thing we have to a new “rock” act, and their song “Broken” made waves earlier this year. Finally, in the vein of Dua Lipa, who won this award last year, Ava Max could make her way into the nominations lineup. She popped onto the scene with “Sweet but Psycho,” but has yet to follow that up with another hit.

Final Predictions

Billie Eilish

Lil Nas X

ROSALÍA

Lewis Capaldi

Megan Thee Stallion

Maggie Rogers

DaBaby

Morgan Wallen

ALT: Lizzo (if eligible) OR Normani (if eligible); *if neither are eligible* BLACKPINK OR Lil Baby

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