What You Should Know About the 2019 Grammys’ Best New Artist Nominees

There are a whopping eight acts in the category this year, so to help you keep them straight (and maybe even impress your friends with your trivia skills), here are some essential things to know about each one.

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• That is her real name. “Dua” means love in Albanian.

• Her parents are from Kosovo and she was born in London in 1995. Music runs in the family: Dad Dukagjin Lipa, a marketing manager, was the frontman of a Kosovar rock band called Oda. “I did a show in Kosovo two summers ago and me and my band decided to surprise my dad and sing it,” Lipa told Rolling Stone in 2018. “It was so surreal, because everyone in the audience was singing along.”

• She got her start at 14 on YouTube, posting videos of herself singing covers by her favorite artists, such as Pink and Christina Aguilera (though she is also a student of hip-hop), before scoring a record deal with Warner Music Group in 2015.

• Pre-full-time music jobs included modeling for ASOS and working as a hostess at a Mexican restaurant in London’s trendy Soho district. 

• Her self-titled debut album was released in June 2017, which theoretically made her eligible for Best New Artist last year… but better late than never for the “New Rules” singer, who has opened for Bruno Mars, been the musical guest on Saturday Night Live and can count Taylor Swift as a fan. She is also nominated for Best Dance Recording, for “Electricity.”

• Responding to last year’s Grammys controversy, when Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said that women needed to “step up” if they wanted to be more visible, Lipa told Rolling Stone, “Women are stepping up. We just need to be given a chance. These men in power should be supporting everything that’s happening, supporting equality, rather than saying,’You’re just not working hard enough.'”

• Some of her cultural faves these days: Cardi B, Camila Cabello and Rami Malek’s performance in Bohemian Rhapsody.

Bebe Rexha, Grammys Best New Artists nominees

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• Her real first name is Bleta and, like Dua Lipa, her heritage is Albanian. Dad Flamur Rexha emigrated to New York, where he met her mom, Bukurije, who was born in the U.S. to Albanian parents. Bebe hails from Brooklyn and Staten Island.

• She also isn’t exactly new, having released her first single, “I Can’t Stop Drinking About You,” in 2014. But, her debut LP, Expectations, was a 2018 release—and among the genre-blending tracks all over the album, the song “Meant to Be” with Florida Georgia Line is also nominated for Best Country Duo/Group Performance. “I put so much blood, sweat and tears into [Expectations],” Rexha told Billboard. “I was always scared to release an album because I wanted it to be so great and I’m such a perfectionist. It was the first piece of work I put out that I was super proud of.

• She wrote most of Expectations in the bathtub, musing on the toll a full-time music career takes on relationships. “For me, it’s one or the other,” she told Rolling Stone. “It’s either my music or love. Right now, it’s all about my music.” Moreover, “I have very few but very strong friendships. FaceTiming is a godsend and really important. It’s tough but it comes with the territory.”

• Among the many songs she’s had a hand in leading up to her own album release, she co-wrote the 2013 Eminem and Rihanna collaboration “Monster” and sang in Pete Wentz’s side band Black Cards. Her first EP, I Don’t Wanna Grow Up, came out in 2015.

• She made her Grammys debut in 2018 as part of the rather glorious performance of Kesha’s “Praying” also featuring Janelle Monae, Camila Cabello, Julia Michaels, Cyndi Lauper and Audra Day. Rexha said it was easily one of the most defining moments of the year for her. “It was about the female movement and supporting each other, and the message for all the women in the music business as well as up and coming artists… It was very touching.”

Greta Van Fleet, Grammys Best New Artists nominees

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• The only rock band in the bunch this year, the group consists of singer Josh Kiszka, guitarist (and Josh’s twin) Jake Kiszka, bassist (and younger brother) Sam Kiszka, and drummer Danny Wagner. They got together in their hometown of Frankenmuth, Mich., in 2012—but originally with, as these rock tales tend to go, with a different drummer. Wagner came on board in 2017.

• Their name was inspired by a fellow Frankenmuthian, Gretna Van Fleet.

• They’re also nominated for Grammys for Best Rock Album, for their EP From the Fires; Best Rock Song, for “Black Smoke Rising”; and Best Rock Performance, for “Highway Tune.”http://www.eonline.com/”We didn’t even know when the Grammys were or when they would be announced, because as a new band, we often consider awards crooked or stacked against the odds,” Sam Kiszka told Vulture.

• Their debut studio LP, Anthem of the Peaceful Army, was panned so hard by Pitchfork, the October 2018 review became a phenomenon in itself. It begins: “Greta Van Fleet sound like they did weed exactly once, called the cops, and tried to record a Led Zeppelin album before they arrested themselves.”

• As it turns out, they remind Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin as well. The British singer said GVF sounded like “Led Zeppelin I” when asked what current bands he was enjoying in 2018.

• Asked about the harsh Pitchfork review, Sam Kiszka told Vulture, “I don’t know the intent behind the piece. I haven’t read it. I’m not sure if it’s a publication trying to get attention or if it’s somebody who genuinely doesn’t like us and what we’re doing. I really don’t think we get worked up about that, because here’s one person who’s complaining about it. If you can’t do it, then you just write about it. I feel like this man has had a troubled past. Prayers up for him. But it actually feels really good, because some of our favorite bands have had some pretty aggressive criticism. I think it’s cool.”

• Jeremy D. Larson, who wrote the review, tweeted out that highlighted passage. And when another person added, “You saw your parents gunned down in an alleyway, and that’s when you decided to become a music critic,” Larson replied, “Also I can ‘do’ I played sax in a funk-rock band called Resurrected Grooves and we were to Incubus what they are to Led Zeppelin so just goes to show everyone sucks.”


 Chloe X Halle, Grammys Best New Artists nominees

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• The Bailey sisters are from Atlanta, where their father taught them about the structure of songwriting. Chloe is older by two years. At 20 and 18, they’re the youngest nominees in the Best New Artist category.

• Beyoncé knows. Queen Bey was turned onto YouTube star sisters Chloe and Halle Bailey—who launched their channel with a cover of “Best Thing I Never Had”—in 2015. She signed them to her Parkwood Entertainment label and featured them, along with Serena Williams, Zendaya and more badass women, in her epic Lemonade.  Michelle Obama then picked them to open for her at her 2016 South by Southwest Keynote appearance. 

• Chloe x Halle’s biggest break yet was opening for Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s On the Run II Tour, and now their debut album, The Kids Are Alright, is competing against Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s The Carters for Best Urban Contemporary Album.

• Halle told Essence, “We still feel like we’re dreaming about the Grammy nominations. We’re forever grateful, and we know that no more matter what happens, this honor, it will stay with us for the rest of our lives—and it just inspires us to keep going.”

• You can also catch the sisters on ABC’s Grown-ish with Yara Shahidi.

Margo Price, Grammys Best New Artists nominees

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• The country singer already has two studio albums under her belt, 2016’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter and 2017’s All American Mad(both released by Jack White’s Third Man Records) and had been recording and playing for a decade before that, so Price was a little surprised when her name was called. “I’ve watched the Grammys since I was a kid,” she told Pitchfork. I’ve dreamed about being there as long as I can remember. I was pinching myself.”

• And she’s cool with the category. “It’s a cliché, but I’m just honored to be nominated. I think, and correct me if I’m wrong, I might be the only indie artist in that category. So I might be ‘new’ because I’m still on a smaller label. I don’t know, but I’ll take it.”

• When she first moved to Nashville, she took all sorts of jobs to get by, including waiting tables at a place called The Flying Saucer. “I made a good amount of money, but all the girls had to wear Catholic schoolgirl outfits,” Price told People. “It was kind of degrading.”

• All American Made features very poignant messages about the ongoing subjugation of women and basically anyone struggling financially in this country. “I know that the album didn’t impress everybody,” the Aledo, Ill. (pop: 3,640 in 2010) native told Pitchfork. “I’m sure it made other organizations shy away from me. So it really means a lot that the Recording Academy is paying attention and digging what I’m doing.” 

• She’s pregnant and due in May! (She called herself “in good company,” thinking about Beyoncé performing in 2017 while pregnant with twins.) Price and husband Jeremy Ivey are also parents to son Judah, who was born in 2010. He was a twin, but his brother, Ezra, died two weeks after they were born from a rare heart condition that surgery couldn’t fix. “Nobody should ever lose a child; I would never wish that upon my greatest enemy,” Price told NPR in 2016. “It was something that was really hard for us to get through, but we made it, somehow.” 

• Price fell into a depression and started drinking heavily after losing Ezra, at one point ending up in jail for three days after a rough night. She credits Ivey with helping her through that dark period. “When you lose a child you cope differently,” she told People. “I think it’s amazing that our marriage lasted after that because the statistics are not in our favor. But he’s been there right beside me.” She has a tattoo on her left shoulder, a t

H.E.R., Grammys Best New Artists nominees

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• Her stage name stands for “Having Everything Revealed,” and her real name is Gabriella Wilson. She goes by Gabi.

• A child piano prodigy from Vallejo, Calif., Wilson was featured on Today when she was 10 covering Alicia Keys, who is hosting the 2019 Grammys. In fact, the two have known each other for a decade, and Keys told the AP in 2018, “I saw H.E.R. developing as an artist, and she really had this thing about her that was so exciting because it was such serious musicianship. And then fast forwarding now, X amount years later, to where she is now and seeing that all come together, I think the beauty of that is the fact that she was really able to take her time and be an artist and develop and be a young girl. Her eyes and her destiny have always been on this place and needed to land in this world. And it’s only going to get brighter, bigger and better.”

• Rolling Stone had the shrouded-in-mystery singer on its 10 New Artists You Need to Know list in March 2017, calling H.E.R. tailor-made for fans of Aaliyah and Solange.

• She’s the only Best New Artist nominee who is also up for Album of the Year, for her self-titled debut; as well as Best R&B Album; Best R&B Song, for “Focus”; and Best R&B Performance, for “Best Part,” featuring Daniel Caesar.

• Wilson, who’s 21, has said that she worried about not being taken seriously when she first started out because of her age, so she didn’t reveal much about herself, or even show her face. But she told the AP in November 2018, “I’m so thankful that at this point, even if you see my face or know who I am, it doesn’t matter, because you already love the music. You’ve already accepted it.”

Jorja Smith, Grammys Best New Artists nominees

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• The singer-songwriter hails from the industrial town of Walsall in England’s West Midlands. Her father, who’s from Jamaica, sang in a neo-soul group called 2nd Naicha, and always encouraged her. “Sound has always followed me. A lot of reggae when mum was cooking. I’d write songs with my dad or play him anything I’d worked on,” she told The Cut in 2018. I wrote my first full song when I was 11, called ‘Life Is A Path Worth Taking,’ about chasing the right path. They are always showing me new stuff. My dad texts me links to new stuff all the time.” She took off for London at 18 and worked at Starbucks while trying to make it as an artist.

• Which she did. Her debut single, “Blue Lights,” went viral on SoundCloud; Drake gave a shout-out to her second-ever single, “Where Did I Go?” in Entertainment Weekly; and then it was off to the races. He slid into her DMs, and she’s the Jorja in question on his “Jorja Interlude” from More Life. She didn’t want to be on “Get It Together” at first, but then she and her boyfriend broke up and all of a sudden it made sense to her. (No, she and Drake have never dated.)

• Smith told The Cut that she grew up always wanting to look different than she did. “I wanted to be pale,” she said. “I didn’t wanna go in the sun, because I was in school with a lot of white girls. I remember one girl said to me, ‘You look better pale.’ And I was like, ‘Well, you’re tan!’ She was like, ‘It’s not the same.’ I didn’t wanna have a bum, I didn’t wanna have lips.”

• Her debut album, Lost & Found, came out in June 2018, and she sings “I Am” on the Album of the Year-nominated Black Panther soundtrack.

Luke Combs, Grammys Best New Artists nominees

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• The North Carolina native’s debut album, This One’s for You, has been certified platinum and was named Billboard‘s Top Country Album of 2018. So leaving college just shy of graduation to try and make it in Nashville did prove to be the right choice. And even if it hadn’t, “I would be doing this in some capacity, whether I was known or a complete nobody,” Combs told Forbes in December 2018.

• His song “Beautiful Crazy” is about his fiancée, Nicole Hocking. “I wrote it about my now-fiancée before we started dating,” Combs told Forbes. He popped the question in November. “I think it was a first-time thing for me as far as having that direct inspiration for a song. It’s fun and it’s lighthearted, but it also has a message: you’re supposed to love someone for who they are. That was the idea when we wrote the song. There might be things that are quirky or weird about somebody, but sometimes, those are the things that draw you to that person.”

• Combs has gone from playing restaurants and bars to festivals and theaters and he is beyond grateful for the response from fans, as well as the critical recognition from his peers, which so far includes a CMA Award for New Artist of the Year. “To go from playing a chicken wing restaurant in Asheville, the Wild Wing Cafe, to selling out PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte where I used to go see concerts when I was a kid is absolutely mind-blowing,” he told Forbes. “Having 20,000 people buy tickets, that is insane to me.” As for the Grammy nomination, “It’s an absolute honor and doesn’t even seem like something that can happen to somebody like myself. There are things that when you grow up lower middle class that seem very unattainable or unreachable. Goals that you think would be impossible to hit or could never happen to you and that is one of those things.” 

May they all have a night to remember.



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