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GREIN ON GRAMMYS: HANDICAPPING THE CLASS OF 2016 (PART TWO)

We’re a little more than three-quarters of the way through the eligibility year for the 59th annual Grammy Awards (which runs through Sept. 30). As such, it’s a good time to see how the key races are shaping up, Today, we work through the field of potential nominees for… 

BEST NEW ARTIST

With a good chance at an Album of the Year nomination, Chance the Rapper is a sure thing to be nominated in this category. By the same token, with likely nominations for Record and Song of the Year, Lukas Graham is also a front-runner here.

The other likely nominees are Alessia Cara, Bryson Tiller and either Margo Price or Maren Morris. Tiller won two major awards at the BET Awards—Best New Artist and Best Male R&B/Pop Artist. (He beat The Weeknd in the latter category, which was a jaw-dropper.) Morris’ first major-label album topped the country chart in June.

The list of likely alternates includes several artists who had had top 10 hits during the year—The Chainsmokers (who had two Top 10 hits with “Roses” and “Don’t Let Me Down”), Kent Jones (“Don’t Mind”), Desiigner (“Panda”) and Bebe Rexha (“Me, Myself & I”).

The list of possibilities also includes two artists whose breakthrough hits blew up in 2015, but who weren’t eligible then—Charlie Puth and Rachel Platten. Puth was nominated for three Grammys last year, including Song of the Year for “See You Again.” Platten’s anthemic “Fight Song” was a big hit last year.

Last year, 431 artists were entered for Best New Artist—and that was the least crowded of the Big Four categories.

Anohni, whose first solo album, Hopelessness, has received rave reviews, is an intriguing possibility. She recorded four previous albums as the leader of Antony and the Johnsons, which may or may not disqualify her. The committee may have an added interest in Anohni, who would become the first transgender nominee in this category. A transgender artist performing on the Grammys? Now that’s what I call a Grammy Moment.

Leslie Odom Jr., the Tony-winning star of Hamilton, is also a possibility. Since 1980, two other Broadway stars (and Tony winners) went on to receive Grammy noms for Best New Artist. They are Jennifer Holliday (Dreamgirls) and Heather Headley (Aida).

Other candidates include Troye Sivan, Jordan Smith, Bishop Briggs and The Strumbellas.

Note: I assume Sturgill Simpson and twenty one pilots will be ruled ineligible, on the grounds that they achieved prominence prior to this eligibility year. (Simpson’s previous album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, was nominated for Best Americana Album.) If they’re somehow allowed in, they’re sure to be nominated.

To recap, the likely nominees are Chance the Rapper, Lukas Graham, Alessia Cara, Bryson Tiller and Margo Price.

A final thought: As you can see, these categories are extremely competitive. Last year, 431 artists were entered for Best New Artist—and that was the least crowded of the Big Four categories. (More than a thousand songs were entered for Song of the Year.) So when artists (excluding the never-satisfied Kanye West) say “it’s an honor just to be nominated,” it really is. People in the media throw the word “snub” around a lot. If an artist isn’t nominated, they were “snubbed.” But it may just mean they came in sixth or seventh or eighth, still a good showing, just not quite good enough.

Paul Grein has been reporting on the Grammys long enough to know that Alessia Cara wouldn’t be the first artist with that surname to receive a Best New Artist nomination. Irene Cara (no relation) was nominated in 1980.

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