Take everything you think you know about the 2013 Grammy Best New Artist category and throw it out the window. The past two years saw major upsets among the newbie nominees as Bon Iver beat out Nicki Minaj and Skrillex in 2012 and in 2011 jazz artist Esperanza Spalding bested pop juggernauts Drake and Justin Bieber, who don’t have a single gramophone between them.
From the gate, Frank Ocean and Fun. look like early favorites, but the Alabama Shakes are indeed a force to be reckoned with. Led by Brittany Howard’s soul-drenched vocals, the Shakes reigned with their southern-soaked brand of rock and soul displayed on their Boys & Girls. Given the Grammy committee’s penchant for making bold statements among the rookie ranks, the Alabama Shakes would be a superb choice.
The Lumineers are no pushovers either. The three-piece rock band struck gold (actually platinum) with their folksy debut single “Ho Hey” last year and shot to the top of Billboard’s Rock Songs chart. Rounding out the category is country music heartthrob Hunter Hayes, whose boyish good looks and sound musical ability (Hayes plays the guitar, piano, drums, accordion and mandolin) easily make a run for this golden gramophone.
A Best New Artist win could come as a consultation prize for Hayes, who is up against his tour mate Carrie Underwood for Best Solo Country performance, a category he doesn’t believe he’ll win. Hunter is clearly humbled, but just in case, the “Wanted” singer has a speech prepared if he takes home any of the three awards he’s up for. “I just feel so grateful being a part of this category because these are people that are making new sounds,” Hayes told MTV News of his fellow Grammy rookies.
Oddmaking experts at Bovada have both Frank Ocean and Fun. tied as 7/4 favorites in the category and while Nate Ruess and company ruled with power singles like “We Are Young,” “Some Nights” and “Carry On,” Ocean without question made the biggest statement in the category.
The Odd Future singer/songwriter wrote some pretty intimate tunes on his major-label debut Channel Orange like the gut-wrenching “Bad Religion” and the delightful “Forrest Gump,” where he clearly directed his love at a “he” instead of a “her.” In advance of the LP’s release, Frank would pen a Tumblr post revealing that his first love was in fact a man and then go on to forgo a physical debut and sell over 131,000 digital copies in his first week. Since then, Ocean has hoisted a gold plaque and dominated the musical conversation while doing a limited amount of press and public appearances, allowing his music to speak for itself.
“He doesn’t define himself by it, but he appreciates it,” Ocean’s manager Christian Clancy told MTV News of his six Grammy nominations. “It wouldn’t be his measure of success, but of course he would like to have a few. Who wouldn’t?”
We know Justin Bieber sure would.