I am going to go out on a misanthropic music nerd limb and say that the Grammys could be the single worst night of the year for ex college radio DJs. Every time a song like “Roar” or “Suit and Tie” gets nominated over the independent artists, I have to go listen to my most pretentious playlist and cry. James Blake and Kendrick Lamar are fine, but I can’t believe that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis outstripped every female artist with the exception of token country singer Kacey Musgraves. Really?
Here are 5 superior (female) picks for Best New Artist, ranked in no particular order. Consideration given for musicality, rock star hair, and feminist icon potential.
Scottish, synthy, and sporting a proudly feminist frontwoman, CVRCHES is the hipster party group that dreams are made of. Lead singer Lauren Mayberry is a kewpie doll-faced dream girl with an ethereal voice that shines in glittery pop tracks. The Bones of What You Believe is achingly sincere, but CHVRCHES is good enough to pull it off and make an album that’s earnest but not sticky sweet. So far, they’ve shared stages with Depeche Mode, School of Seven Bells, and Passion Pit. Basically, if you like to dance out your many feelings, you’ll like CHVRCHES. And if their addictive music isn’t enough, try reading Mayberry’s blistering takedown of misogyny against female artists. Color us girl crushed.
If you’re going to nominate pop stars, at least pick one that writes her own songs and can pull off a leather jacket. Miley Cyrus’s new bestie Sky Ferreira turns teen angst diary entries into addictive synth pop songs that bring you back to jamming out in your first car with the windows down. Discovered on MySpace way back in 2009, her first studio album, Night Time, My Time, just dropped this year. In addition to being open about her past sexual assault and the objectification of pop stars, a confessional attitude you can spot in the grittiness left over on her studio album and the topless cover art, Sky Ferreira makes danceable music that still has some street cred. She also enviably nails the pretty-punk look and can really work a dark brow with bleached hair.
After forcing us to listen to their fantastic Forever EP on repeat for months and months while we pined for a full length, Haim finally released a studio album this year. Days are Gone is a mature soundtrack for twenty-somethings that you need in your life. A rock band made up of three hot sisters that rock crop tops and middle parts sounds like a gimmick, but Days are Gone masterfully blends influences like slick R&B beats and Fleetwood Mac-esque harmonies into an infectious modern masterpiece. Super precise basslines and crisp vocals will make music geeks happy, and the catchy breakup lyrics appeal to almost anyone ala Tegan & Sara. Someone needs to make a Lifetime movie about these girls and spill all their hair and skin secrets. I am waiting.
Let’s get weird for a second, and pretend that a grimy post-punk rock album could get a group nominated for Best New Artist. Savages is Brits Jehnny Beth, Gemma Thompson, Ayse Hassan, and Fay Milton, and their first album is raw edged rock with growling Siouxie Sioux vocals about struggle and identity. I love a girl band almost more than a female artist, because they shatter two stereotypes at once: girls working together to produce something killer, and girls rocking their own instruments. Your inner tortured soul wants to play this at full volume and do some charcoal sketching. Or, grab a 40 oz and host a blacklight dance party.
Seriously? No Lorde for Best New Artist? She’s nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo, and Best Pop Vocal Album, and skipped for the most anticipated award? Sure, bro. I mean, David Bowie’s approval should really be enough to win any baby pop singer a nomination. Pure Heroine is a solid pop album with legs to go past the “Royals” obsession. Plus, Lorde is remarkably self-assured for a seventeen-year-old pop singer, and seems to have a handle on herself as a pop artist and surprise famous person. Honoring her as Best New Artist would give credit beyond the Billboard Hot 100 that, in my opinion, is well deserved. Also, like everyone else on this list, she possesses a Bernice Bobs Her Hair-crazy worthy mane.