2018 GRAMMYs: Meet 15 First-Time Nominees
"It gets no higher than winning a GRAMMY, and it's the ultimate dream for every artist." — Beyoncé
Many firsts in music hold a special significance. The first time you heard your favorite song. The first album you purchased (or streamed). That first instrument. A first concert experience.
For a music creator, a first GRAMMY nomination represents not only an unforgettable career moment but a true form of recognition from one's peers.
The Recording Academy congratulates the entire field of nominees for the 60th GRAMMY Awards, including the complete roster of first-time nominees. Here is a look at 15 first-timers who are among those getting their first shot at the "ultimate dream."
Nominated for Song Of The Year, "Issues"; Best New Artist
Yeah, she's got issues, and one of them is a pair of GRAMMY nominations.
Born in Davenport, Iowa, Julia Michaels first made a name for herself as a songwriter, penning hits for the likes of Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, Rita Ora, Fifth Harmony, and Nick Jonas, among others. She's also been featured on collaborations with Kygo ("Carry Me"), Cash Cash ("Surrender") and Clean Bandit ("I Miss You").
"Me as an artist pretty much started last year," Michaels told GRAMMY.com. "I've always kind of hid behind people and felt very safe there. I've always had it in my head that I'm not good enough and I've always just kind of let the insecure part of me take over the confident side of me."
Michaels' confident side has certainly won out. The Best New Artist nominee released Nervous System EP in 2017, marking her solo debut. Tracks such as the Song Of The Year-nominated "Issues," "Uh Huh," "Pink," and "Worst In Me" show the 24-year-old as a vulnerable and relatable artist who is unafraid to put forth her honest feelings — either in a song or in a relationship.
"I'm such a relationship person. I just lose myself in that person," Michaels told Rolling Stone. And that is all I know how to write about in those moments."— Tim McPhate
Nominated for Best New Artist; Song Of The Year and Best Music Video, "1-800-273-8255"; Best R&B Song, "Location"; Best Urban Contemporary Album, American Teen
The music world loves finding stars unlikely places, and 19-year-old Khalid Robinson's rise to stardom out of El Paso, Texas, is somewhat of a fairy tale. Khalid's day-in-the-life writing style captivated fans on his debut album, American Teen, which Rolling Stone calls, "a mix of slow-moving heartbreak and pop thrills, as if Drake had reworked Katy Perry's catalog as a soundtrack for late-night adventures."
Khalid's smash debut is led by the hit singles "Location," a commentary on modern communication, which peaked at No. 8 Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and the infectious "Young, Dumb & Broke," which went to No. 9 on the Hot 100.
But through his storybook rise to fame, Khalid's ability to be himself leads a new generation in the direction of authenticity and individuality in a pop world that sometimes demands perfection.
A testament to Khalid's sincerity came in the form of one of 2017's biggest songs. Khalid was featured alongside fellow Best New Artist Nominee Alessia Cara on Logic's life-changing single "1-800-273-8255," a plea for anyone who suffers from depression to reach out and get help. The song earned two GRAMMY nominations for Song Of The Year and Best Music Video.
From writing songs about his high school prom to earning a whopping five nominations at the 60th GRAMMY Awards, Khalid has had the kind of year many American teens dream about. — Nate Hertweck
Nominated for Song Of The Year and Best Music Video, "1-800-273-8255"; Best New Artist; Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, "Stay"
It's no surprise that Alessia Cara received her first four career GRAMMY nominations this year. The Canadian singer/songwriter broke through with her 2016 hit "Here," which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, but in 2017, her hits "Stay" and "Scars To Your Beautiful" really pushed her over the top.
Chart success aside, what makes Cara unique are the empowering messages in her music that resonate with fans. Take "Scars To Your Beautiful," for example: "You should know you're beautiful just the way you are/And you don't have to change a thing, the world could change its heart."
"I'll get messages … saying that they appreciate ['Scars …'] and they feel it and they understand, which is a beautiful thing," Cara told Cosmopolitan. "Even when I perform it, I feel like people just get really emotional in the audience, which is beautiful to me because again, that's why we made the song. I want people to feel something. I want people to feel like they're not alone."
It made perfect sense then, for Cara to also be featured on Logic's suicide prevention anthem, "1-800-273-8255," which earned her GRAMMY nods along with Logic and fellow first-time nominee Khalid.
In addition, her collaboration with Zedd, "Stay," stuck in the minds of listeners. It's a catchy tune with ticking clocks, punctuated synth rhythms and Cara's signature vocals. It invites the listener to forget about growing up, and stay a minute locked in time — a concept many can get behind.
"Really honoured to be given this kind of acknowledgment," Cara tweeted about her GRAMMY nods. "I'm not sure what to say or feel at the moment, but for now, thank you to everyone in my corner for all your love." — Renée Fabian
Nominated for Best New Artist; Best R&B Performance, "The Weekend"; Best R&B Song, "Supermodel"; Best Urban Contemporary Album, Ctrl; Best Rap/Sung Performance, "Love Galore"
Adding to the R&B genre's foundations with prolific songwriting and diverse influences, SZA has applied the same intense personal investment of herself to creating art in music that led her to become a champion gymnast as a teen in New Jersey.
She has appeared as a featured artist on hits by DRAM, Lorde, Rihanna, and ScHoolboy Q, as well as Maroon 5, who also took advantage of her talents as a composer. But with her debut studio album, Ctrl, SZA found her own stride, garnering five GRAMMY nominations not only for her performances but also for her songwriting.
Beyond her deep musical talents that find inspiration in film, visual art and physical expression, the first-time GRAMMY nominee is also determined to make genuine music, and she is deeply attuned to that responsibility.
"I was quiet in high school and relatively unpopular, so being noticed is not something that I'm used to," SZA told GRAMMY.com. "Being noticed on a very different end of the spectrum is very intense, but it makes me feel like I have a responsibility because I feel like every person that I'm meeting at a meet-and-greet or at a show — or that's listening to my album or that I'm seeing on the internet — I see that they're genuine reflections of me.
With her first GRAMMY nomination arriving this year, her art will soon be inspiring a much wider audience as well as infusing listeners with a deeper sense of R&B's musical potential. — Philip Merrill
Nominated for Song Of The Year and Best Music Video, "1-800-273-8255"
Logic's meteoric rise to fame since the critical acclaim surrounding his 2013 mixtape, Young Sinatra: Welcome To Forever, landed him a contract with Def Jam Recordings. This year, his third studio album, Everybody, catapulted him to international fame when it became his first to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and the album's third radio single "1-800-273-8255" went Top 10 in more than 10 countries.
"What if I silenced my own fear and I say, 'I'm scared talk about my race. I'm scared to talk about the state of this country but I'm going to do anyway. I'm going to persevere.' Man, how many lives can I really save then?," Logic told Genius about the writing and inspiration for Everybody and his Song Of The Year-nominated "1-800-273-8255."
Titled after the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the song features Best New Artist nominees Alessia Cara and Khalid, and was released as part of an awareness campaign hosted by the non-profit that ultimately generated a 50 percent increase in the number of phone calls made to the hotline by people struggling with suicidal thoughts and mental illness.
"Today I was woken up by my wife calling to tell me I was nominated for Song Of The Year at the GRAMMYs and Best Music Video. I can’t even believe this tweet! Holy s***. I HAVE TO GO BUY A SUIT NOW!" — Brian Haack
Nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album, A Social Call
All signs are pointing in the right direction for Jazzmeia Horn.
The Dallas native won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2013; two years later she took the 2015 Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition prize. In 2017 she released A Social Call, her debut album on Concord Records' Prestige imprint to wide acclaim.
A Social Call showcases an impressive artist with serious jazz pedigree and an inspirational flair for R&B and gospel. Horn's powerful voice permeates throughout the 10-song set, including freshly arranged standards such as "I Remember You" and new takes on familiar songs such as the Stylistics' "People Make The World Go Round."
"With A Social Call the idea I had was how my platform can bring light and healing and deep thought," Horn told ColeursJazz.com. "When I think about A Social Call it can be, let's be social and have a drink and listen to this music. [Or] let's be social to benefit the country, world and universe and see our problems and see if you can be aware of them."
"[I prefer] the era that I am living in today, because my name is Jazzmeia Horn and that is not a mistake," she told Jazz.org. "God does not make mistakes." — T.M.
Nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Album, What Now
Comprised of singer/songwriter Amelia Meath and electronic producer Nick Sanborn, electro-pop duo Sylvan Esso threw out the playbook on their second studio album, What Now. The success of their 2014 self-titled debut hinged upon its experimentation with bare-bones instrumentation and relatable melodies, but their sophomore effort is more deliberate and natural.
"The first record was a series of experiments. Now we feel much more confident in getting a song to where we think it wants to be," Sanborn told GRAMMY.com. "These songs ask for a lot of different things than the songs on the first record did. We just tried to follow the thread but I think we felt more capable of going wherever it wanted to go rather than where our limited means took us the first time."
The outcome was something entirely new. Based on the strength of the single "Die Young," What Now garnered both critical acclaim and, along with several key festival appearances, a swelling of fan support.
Variety said of the album, "The hooks are bigger and more refined; the sound is direct and powerful enough to communicate from both festival stages and small computer speakers."
The North Carolina-based duo heads out on an international tour in late January 2018, and hope to take their first GRAMMY win with them as they go up against fellow first-time nominees ODESZA, Mura Masa and Bonobo as well as Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Kraftwerk. — N.H.
Nominated for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song, "Bodak Yellow"
Cardi B's smash "Bodak Yellow" was perhaps one of the most ubiquitous rap singles over the past year, and with good reason. The summer hit peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking the highest-charting song by a female rapper since Lauryn Hill's 1998 "Doo Wop (That Thing)," topping even Nicki Minaj's record when "Anaconda" hit No. 2 in 2014.
On the song itself, it's a "brash flip" of a Kodak Black track called "No Flockin'." And Cardi B went in for the kill on this record. She told Billboard, "Every b**** I don't like came into my head." She spits her verses with verve and a killer flow that lands among the best of them.
"I wanted to do a song that is, like, 'You know what? I'm in a good place in my life right now and I want to stun,'" she continued. "I felt it in my soul — this song is going to be so popping."
And popping it is.
"My current guilty pleasure in music right now is Cardi B's 'Bodak Yellow'," singer/songwriter Bebe Rexha told GRAMMY.com. "I've been listening to that nonstop. … and I was telling everybody, 'Watch she's going to blow up,' and now 'Bodak Yellow' is so big."
More than just her musical success, the hard work Cardi B put into building her career has made the New York-based rapper a beacon of hope for her diverse fanbase who see themselves in her realness and are inspired by her journey and continued success. Cardi B's first career GRAMMY nominations just make this inspiration shine a little brighter.
"Seeing how hard she has worked for everything she has made me think, 'Well, if she can work hard to do the things she's done, I can work hard to help her get even further,'" fan Bri told Complex about why she supports the rapper. "This is a victory for herself, for her family and for women everywhere, especially women of color. So her doing this feels like we all won." — R.F.
The War On Drugs
Nominated for Best Rock Album, A Deeper Understanding
Frontman/songwriter Adam Granduciel's brainchild the War On Drugs celebrated their 12th year of existence and fourth studio album this year — the profound and melodically tactile A Deeper Understanding.
The album has received widespread acclaim from fans and critics alike, with Pitchfork's Mark Richardson labeling the album "[Granduciel's] most layered and meticulous album … a fascinating study in influence," and musing, "it's hard to think of a band with more obvious touchstones that also sounds so original."
"When you're working at a song, you just keep chipping away at it and you're kind of waiting for that feeling," Granduciel told Noisey of his approach to writing. "The sound of the music is that feeling, but it's tough when you're really inside of it, because you're like: 'Am I even capable of experiencing the feeling that I think I'm supposed to achieve?'"
A Deeper Understanding has already climbed to No. 2 on the Billboard Top Alternative Albums and Top Rock Albums charts, and reached similar chart status in at least seven other countries.
"Alright!!! A Deeper Understanding got nominated for a GRAMMY today for Best Rock Album!" Ganduciel said on Instagram upon learning of his GRAMMY nomination. "Most importantly, huge thanks to all of our awesome friends and fans who have been coming out to our shows, buying our records and making us feel so welcome all these years. We love ya!" — B.H.
Portugal. The Man
Nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, "Feel It Still"
The eighth studio album was a charm for Portland-based indie rockers Portugal. The Man, as their 2017 Woodstock release has garnered the band's first GRAMMY nomination in the form of the track "Feel It Still."
In an interview with GRAMMY.com, frontman John Gourley described how after years of paying dues with fellow bandmates bassist Zachary Scott Carothers, keyboardist Kyle O'Quin, guitarist Eric Howk, and drummer Jason Sechrist, the hit "Feel It Still" came out at the end of a long day as he was noodling a bassline.
"Asa Taccone from Electric Guest happened to be in this room, and he heard me playing this bassline," said Gourley. "Asa said, 'Hey, do you have a bridge?' I said, 'Yeah, it's music, man.' And he was like, 'Well, write a bridge.'"
Naming their album after the historic music festival was meant to indicate music's special strength to thrill and unite, as singer/songwriter Richie Havens did back at the original festival. Portugal. The Man picked up the baton and ran with it long before their latest, but Woodstock the 2017 album, has proved to have special strengths all its own. — P.M.
Nominated for Best Metal Performance, "Forever"
In 10 years' time, Code Orange have graduated from the streets of Pittsburgh to first-time GRAMMY nominees. The metalcore group's third studio album, Forever, is full of menacing mayhem driven by bone-crushing guitar riffs, booming bass, huge drums, and eerie vocals.
The quintet — Eric Balderose (guitar), Reba Meyers (vocals/guitar), Jami Morgan (drums), Joe Goldman (bass), and recent arrival Dominic Landolina (guitar) — had the specific goal of taking their sound on Forever to new levels of heavy. The title track showcases this new level in all its punishing splendor, with dark atmospheric moods, industrial colorings and jarring textures combining to form a type of cohesive chaos.
Fittingly, it's this distinct mixture that has helped Code Orange find their place in the overarching metal genre, while yielding a mission statement of sorts.
"Everywhere we've turned, we've met a lot of 'You're not this enough for this, or that enough for that,'" Morgan told Rolling Stone. "'Forever' opens it up by saying, 'F*** you, we're here. We're gonna do whatever the f*** we wanna do, and there are no rules.'" — T.M.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Nominated for Best Music Film, One More Time With Feeling
Although this is Nick Cave's first career GRAMMY nomination, the Australian singer/songwriter has been conjuring hauntingly audacious rock and roll since the early '80s with his band the Bad Seeds and, before that, with Birthday Party. Equal parts Edgar Allen Poe and Jim Morrison, Cave's devilish musical concoction of blues, rock, poetry and psychedelia has earned him the most elite of underground cult hero status.
One More Time With Feeling, the film that earned him his first GRAMMY nomination, is a documentary focused on the process of making 2016's Skeleton Tree, the most recent album by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. The backdrop for the film — and the album — is the tragic death of Cave's 15-year-old son. The result is an exhibition of grief, fragility and musical brilliance, or as NME puts it, "There's deep, if bittersweet pleasure to be had from observing the inner workings of possibly the most enigmatic man on the planet. Altogether, a moving portrait of a man brought down to earth."
An enigmatic man indeed, Cave is also an accomplished author, screenwriter and film composer, making it somewhat fitting that his first-ever GRAMMY nomination comes for Best Music Film, and for a project that showcases the full scope of his persona as songwriter, bandleader, musician, father, and human.
Directed by Cave's longtime friend Andrew Dominik, One More Time With Feeling candidly details the recording sessions for Skeleton Tree shot in striking black-and-white 3-D, providing a powerful visual portal into the intensity of human experience, all expressed the way Cave does best: through his bold, moving music. — N.H.
Nominated for Best Comedy Album, What Now?
On Aug. 30, 2015, 53,000 people at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field attended the historic stand-up comedy performance called What Now? that has resulted in Kevin Hart's first GRAMMY nomination.
In the film version, now online and on DVD, preparations for that big event take Hart into an alternate reality as Agent 0054, trying to make his upcoming performance a smash. (Spoiler alert: It was a smash.)
In theaters, What Now? zoomed to more than $23 million, faster out of the gate than Hart's 2013 film, Let Me Explain, but lighter on the bottom line --the movie was never expected to make more than $15 million, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
Accustomed to breaking boundaries and records, Hart has been No. 1 on The Hollywood Reporter's ranking of top comedians in social media. His book I Can't Make This Up: Life Lessons was published earlier this year, stunning many readers with profound insights to go along with the comedy that helped Hart laugh all the way to a first-time GRAMMY nomination. — P.M.
Nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance, "Praying"; Best Pop Vocal Album, Rainbow
Kesha's journey has been one of the great comeback stories of 2017. In the midst of a lengthy and painful legal battle, we hadn't heard a note from Kesha since 2012's Warrior.
While dance/pop party bangers have defined Kesha since her debut, her GRAMMY-nominated album Rainbow sees the singer/songwriter taking a slightly different approach. In fact, Kesha has written her way back to the top with grace and wisdom on this album, which started with the first single, "Praying."
"'Praying,' my first single in almost four years, comes out today," Kesha wrote for Lenny Letter. "This song is about coming to feel empathy for someone else even if they hurt you or scare you. It's a song about learning to be proud of the person you are even during low moments when you feel alone. It's also about hoping everyone, even someone who hurt you, can heal."
This sentiment, finding meaning in life's darkest moments, propels the rest of Rainbow, whether it's the soul-wrenching "Praying," the reflective but catchy "Learn To Let Go," the empowering foot stomper "Woman," featuring the Dap-Kings, and the Dolly Parton cover with the lady herself, "Old Flames (Can't Hold A Candle To You)." And yes, there's still a little classic party Kesha on the album.
"I've written every song on this album, and they're all so personal," Kesha said on "Good Morning America." "I think this record is quite literally saving my life. And I hope you guys like it, and I hope you can hear it, and I hope it helps people." — R.F.
Nominated for Best Dance Recording, "Line Of Sight"; Best Dance/Electronic Album, A Moment Apart
Seattle-based electronic duo ODESZA's third studio album, A Moment Apart, made a big splash this year for the two young producers, debuting at No. 3 on the Billboard 200.
As they began to approach the writing phase for A Moment Apart, the pair — comprising Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight — made sure to keep their minds open and their ears to the ground via artist incubator platforms like SoundCloud to search out other potential young artists to build new collaborative relationships.
"We really wanted to try new things and collaborate in a new way. It was a lot of actually going into the studio, vibing it out with the song, and trying to find a new route together," said Mills in an interview with GRAMMY.com.
Knight was quick to echo the sentiment, adding, "It was more collaborative this time, as opposed to In Return, where it felt like there was more space between us and the other artists."
Billboard called A Moment Apart, "ODESZA's most grandiose offering to date. It's a fully-fleshed concept with a strong, hopeful point of view — the uplifting sort of magic the world can really use."
"HOLY S*** - Just found out we’re nominated for 2 GRAMMY awards!" Clayton and Mills said in a celebratory tweet earlier this week. "Thank you to everyone involved in making this album and to everyone who supported it." — B.H.