Yes, yes, we know Ariana Grande's been around for a hot minute—but Haim snagged a 2015 Best New Artist GRAMMY nomination more than a year after their debut album dropped. And we really think it was Ari's time to shine.
The singer earned her first two GRAMMY nominations this year (Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance). Plus, the Academy has a knack for plucking the female voice of each generation. In 1991, Mariah Carey won Best New Artist; Christina Aguilera earned the honor in 2000, and then Adele in 2009. Among all of today's young singers, Grande has proven herself a talent to be reckoned with. If she isn't the vocal diva of tomorrow, then who do they think is?!
We could understand if the GRAMMYs were hesitant to nominate Hozier simply off the success of "Take Me to Church." But the Irish singer's self-titled full-length was released before the cutoff date and has been widely praised for its blend of folk, rock and blues. Audiences are responding big time, so far sending nine of the album's tracks onto Billboard's Hot Rock Songs chart, and the self-titled disc continues to sell big numbers.
An EDM act has never won Best New Artist, but if the Recording Academy wanted to take a bet on one artist, Zhu would be their dude. The anonymous DJ/producer's critically adored single "Faded" snagged a nod for Best Dance Recording, and he's been tapped as the producer/DJ to watch in 2015. With breakdowns as good as the ones in "Faded," Zhu's showing a ton of promise.
Called a modern-day David Bowie, the quirky chanteuse earned widespread recognition this past year. She nabbed her first GRAMMY nomination, a Best Alternative Music Album nod, for her self-titled LP released in February. St. Vincent would definitely be a pick the hipsters could applaud, and she'd expose America to Annie Clark's "party record you could play at a funeral."
Plus, St. Vincent was one of the best-reviewed albums of 2014. Based on 40 reviews on Metacritic, it's got a score of 89/100, indicating "universal acclaim." It was Annie's year to get some big recognition as a "new artist," even if she's been releasing music since 2007.
The Black Hippy MC's major-label debut Oxymoron won acclaim for its authenticity and gritty subject matter. A year after Macklemore and Ryan Lewis ignited a kerfuffle by being one of the few hip hop acts to ever win Best New Artist, giving a nod to ScHoolboy Q would have been a wise way to get rap fans back in the GRAMMYS' corner.
Killer Mike and El-P's sophomore tag-team release, Run the Jewels 2, gave the duo their big breakthrough, charting on the Billboard 200 at No. 50. And just like St. Vincent, RTJ2 was also one of the year's best-reviewed releases with a score of 89/100 on Metacritic, based off 35 reviews.
Killer Mike got national media attention throughout the year, speaking passionately and informatively about the waves of racially motivated police brutality making headlines every day. And El-P's banging beats are unlike anything happening in hip hop. But still, it wasn't enough for the GRAMMYS to show some love.
Curiously, Paul Epworth earned a Producer of the Year nomination in part for his work on FKA Twigs single "Pendulum." But the only recognition the mysterious British singer got for her LP1 album was for Best Recording Package, which honors the the visual look of an album. Big mistake: The singer's debut full-length is a meticulously crafted, genre-blurring set centered around her unmistakable, honeyed vocals. If the GRAMMYs were struggling to FKA Twigs in a category (Is she electronic? R&B? Alternative?), she wouldn't have stuck out in the Best New Artist category.
After years of putting out mixtapes, YG dropped his debut full-length My Krazy Life, a majority of which was helmed by DJ Mustard. The producer's signature, slinky sound invaded and defined hip hop in 2014, and a nod for the Compton MC would've proved that the GRAMMYs know what's up in rap today.
My Krazy Life scored loads of critical praise, including Complex naming it the best album from the first-half of 2014 and Billboard deeming it the best rap album of the year. It was one of our favorites, too.
It's been almost a decade since an R&B star won Best New Artist (John Legend in 2006), while it's been 13 years since a soul-singing woman took home the prize (Alicia Keys in 2002). With R&B finding a new class of young superstars, Jhené Aiko is certainly a top pick for the genre's new leader. The Academy already recognized both her songwriting and performance skills this year with a Best R&B Song nomination for "The Worst" (which she co-wrote) and a Best Urban Contemporary Album nod for her EP Sail Out. So where was the Best New Artist recognition?