Best New Artist is a coveted category at the Grammy Awards and is considered one of the "big four" awards of the night.
The category has bred future superstars, such as Mariah Carey (1991), Alicia Keys (2002), Adele (2009) and most recently Megan Thee Stallion (2021), among many others.
However, the award is also known for being notoriously bad for the careers of some of its recipients, who could never duplicate the levels of success they enjoyed in their debut year.
Best New Artist is also a peculiar category, because the recording academy's definition of "new" isn't quite colloquial. The official guidelines in the category of Best New Artist state that to qualify for a year, a nominee must release a "recording which establishes the public identity of that artist."
A brief glance at the nominees for this year's Grammy Awards for Best New Artist
This category always has an interesting bunch of artists. Here's a list of this year's nominees for Best New Artist :
1) Arooj Aftab
The Brooklyn-based Pakistani crooner is a dark horse in this race. Her style can best be defined as a mixture of minimalism, jazz and neo-sufi.
She has also been nominated for Best Global Music Performance for her melancholic rendition of Mehdi Hasan's iconic ghazal Mohobbat. The song also featured on Barack Obama's year-end list, which is an incomparable honor in itself.
2) Jimmie Allen
Current country darling Jimmie Allen, with his uplifting, nostalgic, rustic tunes, is a perfect genre rep for the category of Best New Artist. Jimmie started his career from abject poverty and multiple reality show rejections, but since the release of his single Best Shot in early 2018, he has seen meteoric success.
With the single and subsequent album Mercury Lane (2019) and beyond, he has become one of the first black artists to achieve this level of mainstream success in the genre.
3) Baby Keem
Very few artists can boast of having collaborated with Kanye, Kendrick and Travis Scott, but Baby Keem has conquered the trifecta. His cadence is heavily inspired by personal idol Kid Cudi and his cousin Kendrick Lamar.
Baby Keem represents the continuing domination of hip-hop in popular music. His debut album Melodic Blue (2021) has been praised for being focused, sharp and confident.
Despite his contributions to the mammoth success of his sister Billie Eilish (which have won him eight Grammys already) overshadowing much of his solo work, Finneas is undeniably an artist in his own right. In addition to his own music, he has garnered production credits for a string of pop stalwarts.
In 2021, Finneas released even more solo material, such as his debut album Optimist, and composed the score for teen drama The Fallout.
5) Glass Animals
British indie rock band Glass Animals are another classic example of 'not-so-new' artists being given a nod in the Best New Artist category. Their debut album Zaba (2014) already has quite a following, with the single Gooey standing at over 253 million streams on Spotify at the time of this article's publication.
But the astounding viral success of Heat Waves from their latest record has finally garnered them a nod from the academy, albeit only in the Best New Artist category.
6) Japanese Breakfast
Lo-fi indie rock darlings Japanese Breakfast are the brainchild of Korean-American musician, director, and author Michelle Zauner, who even directs their intricately haunting, plotted music videos.
The band has been active since 2013, and has released a string of acclaimed experimental pop records. Their latest album, Jubilee (2021), is much more joyful than their previous works, and has been nominated for Best Alternative Music Album.
7) The Kid LAROI
Anyone not living under a gigantic soundproof rock this year has heard The Kid LAROI sing "I'll be f**cked up if you can't be right here" somewhere. Laroi originally gained recognition from his association and friendship with late American rapper Juice WRLD while he was on tour in Australia.
Since then, he has released a mixtape named F**k Love and garnered massive features with Miley Cyrus (Without You) and Justin Bieber (Stay). Perhaps the most virally notorious of the bunch, The Kid LAROI is a strong contender for Best New Artist.
8) Arlo Parks
Arlo Parks' ruminative but groovy, lush but sweet indie pop tunes are the stuff of pure slice-of-life pleasure. Her debut album, Collapsed In Sunbeams (2021) is versatile and vulnerable. It is the kind of universal album which has a story for everyone, coupled with melodies which alternate between upbeat and laid-back.
Arlo is the most underrated among those nominated for Best New Artist, and she is also the artist most people need to give a listen to.
9) Olivia Rodrigo
Olivia Rodrigo's Sour (2021) couldn't be further apart from Arlo's introspective musings. After the meteoric success of her single Driver's License, Olivia pooled her myriad pop influences, from Avril Lavigne to Billie Eilish, into a magnetic album that alternates between bombastic pop-punk and bedroom pop with ease.
Sour was the definitive Gen Z record of the year. Rodrigo is the one to beat for Best New Artist.
Continuing in the footsteps of powerful female artists who own their sexuality, such as Doja Cat (who is a frequent collaborator) and Meghan Thee Stallion, Saweetie is the freshest artist of the bunch, and the only one without a single album under her belt (her debut, Pretty B*tch Music, is scheduled for an early 2022 release).
But this nominee for Best New Artist is already a force to be reckoned with, as her debut single Icy Girl has been certified platinum, and the latest singles Tap In and Best Friend (featuring Doja Cat), which precede her album, are Top 20 hits.