At the 2018 Grammys, the artists likely to crowd the nominations and dominate the Big Four categories (Album of the Year; Song of the Year; Record of the Year; and Best New Artist) are by and large familiar, and expected, names: Kendrick Lamar, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Lorde, Lady Gaga. But they’re far from the only ones with something to prove on music’s biggest night — and some of the Grammys’ most interesting stories exist just on the edge of the Big Four. Here, four potential narratives to watch among the artists circling major nominations.
Challenge: He has worked with big names, but Antonoff is still better known as a prestige player than as a Max Martin-level gold-spinner.
Upshot: Antonoff should be a producer of the year frontrunner, but longer-established names (Steve Mac, Mike WiLL Made-It) lurk closely behind.
Who: The rare rock group to adapt its stadium sound to the streaming age and stay popular (2017’s “Believer” spent 29 weeks atop the Hot Rock Songs chart).
Challenge: The Grammys don’t often reward rockers mixing influences, preferring more traditional groups like Foo Fighters.
Upshot: They scored a record of the year nom for “Radioactive” in 2014. Their crossover success this year may make them unignorable.
Who: Onetime dance-pop diva who won support among fellow artists following her allegations against producer Dr. Luke and reinvented herself with Rainbow.
Challenge: Voters might not reconcile Kesha’s thoughtful transformation with her early not-so-Grammy-friendly, wild-child hits.
Upshot: A redemption arc and a roundly praised new record give Kesha her best shot yet at a Grammy nod, though maybe not in a Big Four category.
Challenge: A longtime outspoken outsider, Isbell refuses to meet the mainstream halfway. That could be a long distance for voters to travel.
Upshot: Isbell’s a Big Four dark horse, but so was similarly well-regarded genre-blender Sturgill Simpson in 2017.