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Grammys 2013: An early look at the new artist contenders

December 03, 2012|By Todd Martens
  • Frank Ocean onstage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., earlier this year.
Frank Ocean onstage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio,… (Karl Walker )

When the nominations for the 55th Grammys are unveiled Wednesday night from Nashville, expect to see plenty of new faces dotted among the usual stars and heritage acts. With some superstar artists having missed the Sept. 30 eligibility cut-off with their latest albums -- including Taylor Swift's "Red" and Rihanna's "Unapologetic" -- a surprise or two should be able to sneak into the top Grammy categories.

Indeed, Carly Rae Jepsen and her inescapable "Call Me Maybe" is far from the only notable newcomer over the last 12 months. Album sales remain hard to come by, and that's allowed names such as the Lumineers and fun. to nest in the upper echelon of the pop charts alongside household names such as Swift and Adele.

If the Grammy telecast isn't necessarily geared toward discovery, the new artist field remains one category that can make new fans of lesser-known performers. To this day, it's still one of the more  unpredictable Grammy categories; its prize in 2012 was won by avant-softie Bon Iver. The year prior,  the Grammys recognized Esperanza Spalding as its best new artist, a rare win for a jazz artist.  

With the acknowledgment that any predictions will be irrelevant in about 48 hours, Pop & Hiss provides a snapshot of some of those who should vie for new artist at the upcoming Grammys. The nominations will be unveiled Wednesday in an hour-long special on CBS at 10 p.m. Eastern time, and Pop & Hiss will have live coverage. 

Frank Ocean: Grammy voters should take a liking to Ocean. The rising star has both mainstream appeal and underground roots, having long been associated with local hip-hop rabble-rousers Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. His collaborator list is long -- Kanye West and Justin Bieber are among them -- and his adventurous debut, "Channel Orange," has been a steady seller. The album, an electronic-tinged collection that's equally fragile and otherworldly, has sold more than 383,000 copies in the U.S. in its 20 weeks on the chart, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Gotye: The musical project of Australia's Wouter De Backer, Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" was inescapable for months, and the single alone has sold more than 6.7 million downloads. That popularity helped earn him a new artist nomination at the American Music Awards. His percussion-heavy, folksy electro-pop is charming enough to woo the Grammy voting audience, but in such a crowded, unpredictable field, the question is whether or not Gotye has established an identity beyond "Somebody That I Used to Know."

fun. The act's breakthrough single, "We Are Young," dates back to the fall of 2011, but the breathlessly enthusiastic pop band has managed to maintain that momentum for much of 2012. Current album "Some Nights" has sold more than 753,000 copies, and the band's disdain for subtlety and love of Broadway flourishes seems made for Grammy TV.

The Lumineers. As with recent Grammy breakouts Mumford & Sons, Denver's Lumineers deliver folk-pop with arena-rock grandeur. The band's self-titled April debut remains one of 2012's biggest success stories; after more than 30 weeks on the chart, the title has sold more than 488,000 copies. Young musicians who bring a twist to tradition are right in the wheelhouse of Grammy voters (see everyone from Adele to Spalding), and the band's fun-with-acoustics approach should have voters salivating. 

Miguel. This could be a big year for young R&B stars at the Grammy Awards. Miguel's "Kaleidoscope Dream" just made this year's eligibility period, and it's already off to a solid start, having sold more than 180,000 copies. As with many a great R&B artist, Miguel's attention is largely focused on what happens in the  bedroom, but there's a social conscious underlying an album full of genre-hopping freedom. 

Hunter Hayes. Grammy voters have been careful to nominate at least one country artist in the new artist field for much of the last decade, and this young Southern pop strummer will be performing at  Wednesday's nomination concert. Just as important, he's been endorsed by Carrie Underwood, a previous new artist winner who has gone on to superstardom.

Ellie Goulding. She's on her second album, but such details matter not when it comes to the new artist field. What matters is that Goulding's celestial electro-pop resulted in the hit single "Lights," which has sold more than 3.5 million downloads. Her latest album, "Halcyon," hasn't been an instant hit, but feel-good track "Anything Can Happen" has been rising this fall. 

Kendrick Lamar. His album "good kid, m.A.A.d city" deals with hard times and evil temptations with humor. However,  it missed the Grammy eligibility period. But some of the collection's singles made the window, and Lamar's arrival has been hyped since 2011. He's already been welcomed with critical and commercial success, as well as endorsements from everyone from  Dr. Dre to Lady Gaga. A new artist nomination would set the stage to more openly embrace "good kid" next year. 

The Grammy Awards are scheduled for Feb. 10, 2013, and will once again be held at  Staples Center.

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