The Best New Artist category is traditionally the hardest of Grammy Awards winners to predict. This year, with breakout superstar Lady Gaga ineligible for the prize due to an early single's nomination in 2009, the field is particularly wide-open.
For the Ting-Tings, the British pop duo whose catchy songs like "That's Not My Name" and "Shut Up (And Let Me Go)" made the pair a girl-power favorite around the planet, the nomination is the culmination of a two year adventure that has already taken home numerous trophies. But the recognition in the United States is a bit mysterious as the competition is very different for the Grammys than anywhere else.
"We know MGMT," The Ting Tings singer Katie White told Billboard during a recent swing though New York to play on Saturday Night Live. "They're probably one of our favorite bands. The others we don't really know. There's so many bands in America that you don't here about in the U.K. and Europe. But we're probably the worst people to ask that question - we don't even have a TV."
A Grammy nomination wasn't even a consideration for the members of Silversun Pickups, the L.A.-based alternative rock band whose frequent tours helped propel its second album, "Swoon," to a No. 7 debut on the Billboard 200. As the nominations were announced, the band was dreaming of something else, literally.
"We were asleep on the bus and everybody kind of has this memory of all the phones making that vibrating noise," remembers Brian Aubert, the Silversun Pickups lead singer and guitarist. "We woke up to these texts and e-mails and didn't quite know what people were talking about, even though they were pretty much telling us. We kind of looked at each other and went, 'What? No...The Grammys? Are you kidding me?' We just sort of stared blankly at each other and thought, 'Wow, that's really strange.'"
As Billboard predicted earlier in the week, in many ways the award is Zac Brown Band's to lose on Grammy night. The Atlanta-based country outfit broke out in a big way last year with a No. 1 country song ("Toes") and two more singles -- "Chicken Fried" and "Whatever It Is" -- reaching No. 2. Brown and company have also sold over twice as many copies of their last album than any of their fellow nominees -- "The Foundation" stands at 1,350,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan, an achievement that doesn't go unrecognized by NARAS voters."
"I'm sure we'll get a great deal of Nashville support, but I don't know what people really base their vote on," says Zac Brown Band's Clay Cook. "Then there are artists who get nominated who have had multiple albums out previously, like when Shelby Lynne won in 2001. It's kind of a quirky category, so you just feel lucky to be nominated."
"[The Grammys] were something that we never thought about and never really paid attention to," Silversun's Aubert added. "It wasn't something that we even fantasized about, so we just kind of felt like, 'Holy shit! I can't believe we made a splash big enough for the Grammys to pay attention.'"
(Aditional reporting by M. Tye Comer and Monica Herrera)