Grammy countdown: The best new artist spotlight turns to Silver Lake and Brooklyn
The category: Best new artist
The field at a glance: Historically, best new artist has been one of the more puzzling Grammy categories. Just last year the Jonas Brothers contended for the prize despite having had a top-10 album in prior Grammy eligibility years. This year for late-blooming Grammy voters, Silver Lake's the Silversun Pickups are the artists of choice, having had their biggest hit single back in 2007 with "Lazy Eye."
Easy jabs aside, best new artist remains one of the more exciting Grammy categories. Its range of artists is diverse -- this year all major pop genres but hip-hop are represented -- and expect it to be the only televised category on Jan. 31 with some non-household names.
The biggest brands in this year's crop come from country and R&B. Producer/artist Keri Hilson went into 2009 as one of the year's most talked-about artists and had a top-10 debut with "In a Perfect World..." She's a singer who puts the rhythm first and can comfortably handle the type of backdrops seemingly more fit for a rapper. Meanwhile, the easy-going country boys of the Zac Brown Band have been quietly consistent -- their first major label album "The Foundation" is still in the top-30 after 60 weeks on the chart.
The Silversun Pickups took a step up with its sophomore effort "Swoon," an album that proudly recalls the mid-'90s era of alterna-rock. English pop duo the Ting Tings were a breakout act at South by Southwest in 2008 and are still riding the success of snappy electro-rock singles "That's Not My Name" and "Great DJ."
Brooklyn synth duo MGMT represents a somewhat surprising choice by Grammy voters, an underground band with an adventurous bent. MGMT should have been in the running a year ago, but then the act was still somewhat of an indie buzz band to Grammy voters. The success of "Kids" -- a sour, midtempo single -- changed that, and put MGMT and its danceable keyboard textures on the Grammys' radar.
And the Grammy goes to? MGMT. In a year when Grammy voters largely went with the year's most popular acts in its top categories, voters will jump at the chance to prove they're not quite so staid -- or at least that's what we hope. Keri may be the safer bet, but with a new album on the horizon, MGMT is a buzz band that still feels like it has its best days ahead.
And who deserves it? As far as the duos in this category goes, the Ting Tings are more electric.