10 Up-and-Coming Grammy Nominees Whose Names You Should Learn
Earn some serious music cool points from your grandkids with these young artists
En español | When the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards air on TV on March 14, you may recognize a few big names among the nominees, such as Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Harry Styles and John Legend. But even more so than in other recent years, the major categories are dominated by new voices — including some that might even be discoveries for your music-loving grandchildren. Here's a guide to 10 young acts, from a Quincy Jones–approved whiz kid to a psychedelic-soul band from Austin, Texas, who you should listen to before the ceremony. We promise: If you play them for your kids or grandkids, they're sure to be impressed ... and you may decide you want them on your own playlists!
The Artist: Jacob Collier
The Nominations: 3, including album of the year for Djesse Vol. 3 and best R&B performance for “All I Need”
What You Should Know: This 26-year-old English prodigy's music may sound strange and futuristic, but his considerable talents are rooted in the basics: His violinist mother is a professor at the Royal Academy of Music; his mentors are Quincy Jones (87) and Herbie Hancock (80); and he can play many, many instruments, from autoharp to dulcimer to mandolin. Check out some of his YouTube videos to see how he makes magic, including his Grammy-winning arrangement of “Moon River,” which saw him harmonizing with 144 collaborators (including David Crosby, 79) and 5,000 of his own vocal tracks.
Who He'll Remind You Of: His wild experimentation calls to mind Prince or David Bowie.
Where to Start: Collier's stunning Moon River video
The Artist: Phoebe Bridgers
The Nominations: 4, including best new artist and best rock performance for “Kyoto”
What You Should Know: This 26-year-old indie darling is beloved for her spare, poetic lyrics, and her album Punisher appeared on many critics’ best-of-2020 lists, including Rolling Stone, NPR, and The New Yorker. Much like Bruce Springsteen (71), Bridgers has a way of evoking entire worlds through the tiniest of details. Take, for instance, the song “I Know the End,” in which she describes a long drive as follows: “Windows down, scream along / to some America-first rap country song / A slaughterhouse, an outlet mall / Slot machines, fear of God.”
Who She'll Remind You Of: Bridgers recently listened through the entire catalogs of Joni Mitchell (77) and Neil Young (75) — and it shows.
Where to Start: Bridgers’ September 2020 Tiny Desk (Home) Concert
The Artist: Dua Lipa
The Nominations: 6, including album of the year for Future Nostalgia and record and song of the year for “Don't Start Now”
What You Should Know: You've heard of the British Invasion, but did you know American pop music is currently undergoing a Balkan Invasion? No less than four singers — Dua Lipa, Rita Ora, Bebe Rexha, and Ava Max — come from or trace their roots to the region. The leader of the pack on the U.S. charts is the London-born Dua Lipa, who won the Grammy for best new artist in 2019. Chances are you've heard (or sung along) to her disco-tinged single “Don't Start Now” even if you don't know the 25-year-old by name.
Who She'll Remind You Of: Her ‘80s-inspired dance tunes sound like Madonna (62), Eurythmics or Olivia Newton-John (72), whose biggest hit is referenced in the single “Physical.”
Where to Start: Lipa's We're Good video
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The Artist: Billie Eilish
The Nominations: 4, including record and song of the year for “Everything I Wanted"
What You Should Know: Last year, the 19-year-old pop singer became the youngest person in Grammy history to win best new artist and record, song and album of the year. Chalk it up to youthful energy, but since her big victories, she has released even more new music, including “No Time to Die,” the theme song for the pandemic-delayed James Bond film of the same name, and “Everything I Wanted,” a minimalist, piano-heavy single about her close relationship with her brother and writing partner Finneas O'Connell.
Who She'll Remind You Of: Her dark wit is reminiscent of Fiona Apple, a triple Grammy nominee this year for her critically adored Fetch the Bolt Cutters.
Where to Start: Eilish's No Time to Die video
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The Artist: Haim
The Nominations: 2, including album of the year for Women in Music Pt III and best rock performance for “The Steps”
What You Should Know: This sister trio, who takes their name from the Hebrew word for “life,” got their start in a family cover band called Rockinhaim, and they played their first gig as Haim at Canter's Deli in L.A., where they were paid in matzo ball soup. They grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and the influence of 1970s Southern California folk-rock has certainly seeped into their sunny songs, which also draw on ‘90s R&B.
Who They'll Remind You Of: You'll hear notes of Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell (77), Carly Simon (75) and Carole King (79).
Where to Start: Haim's Grammy-nominated The Steps video
The Artist: Brittany Howard
The Nominations: 5, including best rock performance for “Stay High” and best alternative music album for Jaime
What You Should Know: The 32-year-old lead singer of the blues-rock band Alabama Shakes is known for her powerhouse vocals, which would be as at home in a gospel choir as they would on stage at Woodstock. Blending the personal with the political, Howard's debut solo album Jaime is named for and dedicated to her late sister, who died of retinoblastoma at the age of 13. Funky, earthy and lyrically adventurous, the album tackles such weighty topics as racism, poverty, sexuality and faith, born of her experiences growing up in an Alabama trailer park.
Who She'll Remind You Of: Howard often gets compared to Janis Joplin, but she also cites Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Curtis Mayfield, Tina Turner (81) and Mavis Staples (81) as influences.
Where to Start: Brittany Howard's live Stay High video
The Artist: Black Pumas
The Nominations: 3, including album of the year for Black Pumas and record of the year for “Colors"
What You Should Know: Frontman Eric Burton was busking on a street corner in Austin when a man approached him and insisted he call his friend, producer Adrian Quesada. Soon, Burton was singing to Quesada over the phone, and this psychedelic-soul duo was born. Only 31 years old, Burton draws on decades of funk and soul stylings for his timeless vocals, which he puts to great use on “Colors,” a rousing anthem of togetherness in a time of division.
Who They'll Remind You Of: Much like their contemporaries, Leon Bridges and Gary Clark Jr., the duo are reminiscent of James Brown, Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding.
Where to Start: The Black Pumas live Colors video
The Artist: Chloe x Halle
The Nominations: 3, including best progressive R&B album for Ungodly Hour and best R&B song for “Do It”
What You Should Know: Remember these sisters’ names before they take over the entertainment world. Chloe, 22, and Halle Bailey got their start performing covers on YouTube, before Beyoncé discovered them and signed the duo to her record label. In addition to singing and dancing, the 2019 Grammy nominees for best new artist star on Grown-ish, the college-set spinoff of the sitcom Black-ish, and Halle, 20, is set to take on a career-making turn as Ariel in Disney's live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.
Who They'll Remind You Of: You may be reminded of another triple threat: Janet Jackson (54).
Where to Start: Chloe x Halle's December 2020 Tiny Desk (Home) Concert
The Artist: Ingrid Andress
The Nominations: 3, including best new artist and best country album for Lady Like
What You Should Know: This 29-year-old country singer-songwriter from Colorado attended the prestigious Berklee School of Music and was a contestant on NBC's a cappella singing competition The Sing-Off while still a student. Her breakout ballad, “More Hearts Than Mine,” is about bringing her new boyfriend back to her hometown to meet her family and friends. “Oh, if we break up, I'll be fine,” she sings, “but you'll be breaking more hearts than mine."
Who She'll Remind You Of: Andress has called Faith Hill (53) and The Chicks her biggest influences.
Where to Start: Ingrid Andress's More Hearts Than Mine video
The Artist: Jhené Aiko
The Nominations: 3, including album of the year for Chilombo and best R&B performance for “Lightning & Thunder”
What You Should Know: You may recognize this R&B singer's name from Barack Obama's favorite music of the year list, which included her song “Summer 2020.” Aiko, 32, is known for delivering gritty, dark lyrics (be warned: She isn't afraid of a well-placed profanity!) in her trademark smooth-as-silk voice. Her new album Chilombo includes soothing singing bowls and guest vocals from John Legend, Miguel, and H.E.R. — herself a three-time Grammy nominee this year.
Who She'll Remind You Of: Aiko has often been called hip-hop's answer to Sade (62).
Where to Start: Jhené Aiko's October 2020 Tiny Desk (Home) Concert
Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.