Check out this year’s Grammy nominees for Best New Artist — a group hailing from rock, pop, soul, hip-hop and country.
After years as a songwriting force in Nashville, Clark may be the most promising best new artist nominee of the nine country acts to make the category since 2004. After co-writing Miranda Lambert‘s “Mama’s Broken Heart” with Shane McAnally and Kacey Musgraves (who in 2013 was nominated for best new artist) in 2011 and earning a writing credit on The Band Perry‘s 2012 hit “Better Dig Two,” Clark released her darkly comic debut album, 12 Stories, in October 2013. In 2014, she toured with Sugarland‘s Jennifer Nettles, performing songs from the album, and won song of the year at the Country Music Association Awards for “Follow Your Arrow,” the pro-tolerance anthem on Musgraves’ debut LP, Same Trailer Different Park. (Clark is openly gay.) 12 Stories is also nominated for best country album at this year’s Grammys.
Incorporating medieval chants, allusions to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and an arena-ready chorus, “Pompeii” was the song that changed everything for this cerebral and chest-beating London group, fronted by singer Dan Smith: The song grew into a hit in the United Kingdom in early 2013, nearly a year before invading American radio and climbing into the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 in January 2014. On debut album Bad Blood, Bastille pumps up its songs with the string-driven arrangements that helped it hold its own while opening for widescreen art-rock band Muse on its 2013 arena tour. Prior to its best new artist nomination, Bastille earned the British breakthrough act trophy at the 2014 BRIT Awards, following U.K. phenoms like Ed Sheeran and Arctic Monkeys.
Before they struck out on their own, the Haim sisters — Danielle, Este and Alana — famously gigged around Los Angeles with their parents in the early 2000s, performing classic rock covers and calling themselves Rockinhaim. Mom and dad dropped out in 2006, and the three sisters spent seven years working up their ’70s-imbued rock sound and grinding out tour dates before finally releasing their debut album, Days Are Gone, in September 2013. With production from Ariel Rechtshaid (Charli XCX, Sky Ferreira), the album scored multiple hits on the Hot Rock Songs chart, not to mention a pile of adoring reviews. Haim has since collaborated with artists ranging from A$AP Ferg to Calvin Harris, toured with acts like Mumford & Sons and Rihanna, and performed at Coachella and Glastonbury. And the sisters aren’t wasting a moment on the road, devoting downtime to writing their much-anticipated sophomore LP.
The New Classic is a gutsy title for a debut, especially coming from an artist who has ridden the major-label carousel and experienced years of album delays. But the Australian-born, Los Angeles-honed rap star’s first (and still biggest) Hot 100 hit, “Fancy,” made good on the promise she showed as a member of T.I.‘s Grand Hustle crew, capturing Billboard’s Song of the Summer crown for 2014 and helping launch the mainstream career of its co-performer, Charli XCX. Azalea further demonstrated her knack for collaborations on Ariana Grande‘s smash “Problem”; her “Fancy” follow-up “Black Widow,” featuring Rita Ora; and “Beg for It,” a new top 40 hit with MØ from the deluxe edition of The New Classic. Finally, Azalea — who opened for Beyoncé on select dates of her Mrs. Carter arena tour in late 2013 — already has announced an arena run of her own for 2015.
Prior to 2014, British singer-songwriter Sam Smith was known as the soaring voice featured on two overseas club smashes, Disclosure‘s “Latch” and Naughty Boy‘s “La La La.” Both eventually became top 40 hits in the United States as well, but the 22-year-old artist is best known to American listeners for a more somber cut, the gospel-influenced ballad “Stay With Me,” which showcased Smith’s vocal power on its way to a No. 2 peak on the Hot 100. The overwhelming radio success of “Stay With Me” coincided with the June release of his Capitol Records debut, In the Lonely Hour, a longing set now nominated for album of the year. With “Stay With Me” also earning him nominations in both the record and song of the year categories, Smith becomes the first artist since fun. in 2012 to earn nods in all four major Grammy categories.
This story first appeared in the Dec. 26 issue of Billboard.