Every year this category is a hot mess. This year will be no different. Let’s go:
Realistically, this is Olivia Rodrigo’s award to lose with The Kid LAROI having an outside shot at stealing it from her. With two enormous #1 singles, a blockbuster album, sustained visibility throughout the year, and great narratives to boot… Olivia missing out on a nomination here would be downright criminal. The Kid LAROI also had a strong breakthrough year with two top 10 hits, “Without You (with Miley Cyrus)” and “Stay (with Justin Bieber)” and blockbuster streaming numbers. He’s also a safe bet for a nomination here. Although Polo G and Moneybagg Yo released their debut albums in 2018, both are eligible this year. With songs that became cultural touchstones like “Wockesha” and “RAPSTAR,” both rappers have really strong changes at recognition in this category. Best New Artist is often the most welcoming of the General Field categories when it comes to rappers, so that will only work in their favor. In a similar vein, there’s Saweetie. Realistically, Saweetie broke out on the scene back on 2018 with “Icy Girl,” and she’s had multiple sizable hits since then. By all accounts and measures, she’s not a new artist. Nevertheless, with Crocs and McDonald’s collaborations under her belt, along with collaborations with Little Mix, Black Eyed Peas, Anitta, and more, 2021 was almost a formal introduction for Saweetie to the general public. If nominated this year, the decision would probably be scoffed at. It is what it is!
Finally, we have Gabby Barrett and Arlo Parks. Gabby cranked out hit after hit with her Goldmine album, and with equivalent nominations at awards shows like the Academy of Country Music Awards, the Country Music Association Awards, and the Billboard Music Awards, the stars are aligning for Grammy gold for her in this category. As an American Idol alumna and a country music star, there’s fairly strong precedent (Carrie Underwood, LeAnn Rimes, Taylor Swift, Ingrid Andress, Margo Price, Maren Morris, etc.) that indicate that Gabby should have no problem making the final lineup. As for Arlo Parks, the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter won the Mercury Prize and scored three BRIT Awards nominations for her debut album Collapsed In Sunbeams. All signs point to Arlo following in the footsteps of Adele, Amy Winehouse, James Blunt, Imogen Heap, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, James Blake, and more, as a British critical darling embraced by the Academy. Finally, Blxst, thanks to a strong Soul Train Awards nominations haul and the success of “Chosen,” is also a safe bet for a nomination here.
Måneskin; Clairo; Celeste; Glass Animals; Tate McRae; Rauw Alejandro; Baby Keem; Tems; Ava Max
Similar to Saweetie, Ava Max has been around for a minute, and she had a much more explosive year in 2020. With hits like “Sweet but Psycho,” “So Am I,” and “Kings & Queens” dating back to 2018, a nomination for Best New Artist in 2022 feels delayed. Alas, such are the Grammys. Glass Animals debuted in 2010 and even have a Platinum single (“Gooey”) from 2014, yet they are also in contention for a Best New Artist nomination. Admittedly, “Heat Waves” is their true Stateside breakthrough single, but part of me anticipates that the Academy will recognize them in Best Pop Duo/Group Performance before Best New Artist. Another band, Måneskin, used a Eurovision win and TikTok virality to buoy big hits like their cover of The Four Seasons’s “Beggin'” and “I Wanna Be Your Slave.” Their non-UK international status may slightly dim their chances, but they very well could pull through to the final 8. Clairo has also been able to use TikTok to turn songs that normally wouldn’t be embraced by Top 40 into bonafide hits. With guest appearances all over Lorde’s Solar Power and her most recent album, Sling, becoming her most successful yet, Clairo is certainly in the running.
Tate McRae has found considerable pop success, but she would be a bigger threat with a more dominant year. Celeste made major waves across the pond when she earned three BRIT Awards nods and a Mercury Prize nomination for her debut album Not Your Muse. Stateside, she earned a Best Original Song Oscar nomination for “Hear My Voice” from Trial of the Chicago 7. Although she’s been putting out music since 2014, Celeste truly broke through last year and could definitely find herself sitting snuggly next to Arlo Parks in the final lineup. Tems should (hopefully) be a major contender in Global Music Performance as well as Record and Song of the Year thanks to her featured turn on Wizkid’s “Essence.” She may be able to translate that love into a Best New Artist nomination which would be more than deserved based on her stellar solo EP If Orange Was A Place. Baby Keem is also a strong contender. His debut album, The Melodic Blue, drew favorable reviews (73 on Metacritic) and he has the privilege of a Kendrick Lamar co-sign. Finally, Latin star Rauw Alejandro had a massive year, and he would be a great name to see in the final lineup. He isn’t the critical darling that ROSALÍA is, but he definitely makes up for it with his commercial success.
The Kid LAROI
ALT: Tate McRae; Ava Max; Glass Animals