As pop undergoes a transformation from underdog to critical darling, there are plenty of artists who deserve credit both for helping the genre rise, while coming up quickly on their own. Sometimes the blinding light of pop’s superstars can eclipse the very talented middle class, but if there’s one thing that can set an emerging artist apart from the pack, it’s the Grammys. It’s been a fascinating, inventive year for pop, and plenty of young upstarts are vying for the biggest award in music.
Considering the 2020 nominations are just around the corner, it seemed like the perfect time to highlight some of the newer artists who deserve a look from music’s biggest institution. Before anyone brings up Troye Sivan or Charlie Puth (Voicenotes still goes), please note that the eligibility period for the 2020 Grammys includes any albums and songs released between October 1, 2018, to August 31, 2019. Without further ado, here’s my picks for pop newcomers who deserve the nod.
Maggie Rogers — Heard It In A Past Life
Release Date: January 18, 2019
To see Maggie Rogers live is to see a pop legend in the making. Her gorgeous debut album Heard It In A Past Life follows up a hit 2017 single, “Alaska,” and an origin story that’s pure dream stuff. A little bit Florence + The Machine, a little bit Stevie Nicks, and 100% herself, Rogers could be up for genre nominations for album and song, and possibly cross over into some major categories as well, particularly Best New Artist.
Broods — Don’t Feed the Pop Monster
Release Date: February, 1, 2019
This New Zealand sibling duo share a producer with Lorde, along with an uncanny knack for lyrics that will gut you. While Lorde has moved on to Jack Antonoff to shift her sound, Georgia and Caleb Nott doubled down with Joel Little on their third album, Don’t Feed The Pop Monster an unfairly slept-on, glittering pop release that came out at the top of the year and has been gaining momentum ever since. While genre-specific nominations are most likely for these two, a rollercoaster single like “Peach” is ripe to receive the international recognition it deserves.
Lizzo — Cuz I Love You
Release Date: April 19, 2019
It’s hard to overstate Lizzo’s impact on pop this year, with the smash success of her record-breaking, slow-burning single “Truth Hurts” and her major label debut album Cuz I Love You that’s spawned multiple hits on its own. Lizzo is a shoo-in for nominations like Best New Artist, and will probably garner plenty of nominations in the major categories, along with accolades in pop and hip-hop. Considering she does a lot more singing than rapping, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the pop vocal performance categories were on the table.
Sigrid — Sucker Punch
Release Date: March 8, 2019
As a Scandinavian pop star on the rise, Sigrid has plenty of expectations to live up to. Her debut album Sucker Punch is already getting comparisons to the likes of Lykke Li and Robyn, as she turns burning heartache into ebullient pop music. Keep an eye out for her to crop up in some of the pop categories — everyone knows the Grammys love pop stars and producers from that whole peninsula.
Billie Eilish — When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Release Date: March 29, 2019
Billie Eilish is the other star who has broken out so far over the course of the year that it won’t be surprising to see hits like “Bad Guy” make its way into the Song Of The Year category. Still, there’s plenty of room to honor just how impactful her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, has been in the realm of pop. At the tender age of 17, Billie is bound to set a few records when and if she earns a slew of nominations for both her singles, videos, and her album.
Sabrina Carpenter — Truth Is
Release Date: July 19, 2019
As a newcomer in the R&B range of pop, Sabrina Carpenter has already been able to build a strong following based off her gorgeous voice and strong collaborations with other huge pop talents like Zayn and rising rappers like 6LACK. Truth Is is an old world collection of love songs that paves the way for a career artist, and seeing it earn some early nominations in pop categories wouldn’t be surprising at all. Her song featuring Zayn, “Rumors,” is also ripe for some attention in the songs categories.
Mark Ronson — Late Night Feelings
Release Date: June 21, 2019
If there is any justice in the world, Late Night Feelings will sweep every single pop category in existence for 2020. Okay, I’m slightly exaggerating, but still, this record is an instant classic, an arguable masterpiece, highlights women’s voices all the way through, and unequivocally deserves to be honored for the work of art that it is by the Grammys committee. F*ck pop, give Ronson everything. He deserves it — and so do all the women he put on.
Nilüfer Yanya — Miss Universe
Release Date: March 22, 2019
While some may argue that Nilüfer Yanya is indie rock — and yes, there are a lot of guitars on this album — I’d argue that Yanya’s ambitions are too big to be kept in that small box. When she performs live, Nilüfer is as captivating as an arena performer, and she’s already spent time out on the road opening for the likes of indie legend Sharon Van Etten. Considering she’s only 23-years-old, the aesthetic she’s built up, and how talented she is, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Miss Universe as a dark horse nominee in a few pop categories.
Clairo — Immunity
Release Date: August 2, 2019
Like Nilüfer, Clairo also has one foot in the indie world, but she’s too charismatic to sit back on her heels and let the appeal of pop pass her by. On a strong debut, Immunity, this young songwriter proved that she’s a wizard with lyrics and knows how to enlist producers who can help her craft melodies just as catchy as her breakout hit, “Pretty Girl.” Regardless of looks, Clairo would be a great left-field pick for some early recognition by the Recording Academy, because she’s clearly going to be around for a long, long time.