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Grammy countdown: Do the Jonas Brothers have best new artist locked up?

January 28, 2009 |  8:00 am

Grammy countdown: Best new artist


The field at at glance:
The presence of last year's winner, Amy Winehouse, continues to be felt.

With Adele and Duffy, there's plenty of U.K.-bred retro soul amid the best new artist crop. While neither artist has the '60s-inspired theatricality as Winehouse -- although the bumping, keyboard-scorched groove of Duffy's "Mercy" comes close -- both are tapping into a vintage, Grammy-approved sound. Aside from Winehouse, a number of recent best new artist winners channel an old-school soul sound, from John Legend in 2006 to Alicia Keys in 2002 and even Norah Jones in 2003.

Adele and Duffy will compete with teen pop studs the Jonas Brothers, who are also booked to perform on the telecast, and another soul/R&B newcomer in Jazmine Sullivan. Sullivan, in fact, can probably even be lumped in with Duffy and Adele as an artist with a retro vibe.

The Philadelphia-based singer snared five Grammy noms, and was surely on the mind of voters toward the end of the year, as September release "Fearless" has been a steady seller (it's currently at No. 71 on the Billboard album chart). Sullivan has a bit more pop swing than her soul/R&B peers in the category, and even knows a thing or two about comedic timing -- check the deliriously lusty girl group bounce of "Switch."

Rounding out the field is the now annual country representative. Last year was pop queen Taylor Swift, the year prior was "American Idol" champ Carrie Underwood and this year the title belongs to good-time country rock trio Lady Antebellum. Despite winning the like-minded field at the County Music Assn. Awards, don't expect the act to be much of a factor here, as the group doesn't have the crossover success or critical acclaim to take home the award.

That all sounds nice, but we may as well give the award to the Jonas Brothers, no?

Not quite, but JoBros should not be taken lightly, either. Despite their Disney-connections and participation in "Camp Rock" shenanigans, Disney has done a good of job of positioning the boys as the real deal. Additionally, the JoBros have managed to keep one foot in the teen pop world -- check the upcoming Disney Channel series "J.O.N.A.S." -- while still getting big boy gigs such as performing on the MTV Video Music Awards, not to mention the Grammys.

Finally, the kids surely scored some goodwill amidst Recording Academy voters when they gifted about $75,000 to the recently-opened Grammy Museum. While that won't buy the band the award, it further illustrates that they mean business when it comes to scoring a Grammy.

If anything hurts them, it's the fact that they were also superstars in 2007, and should have been nominated for this award last year. Additionally, Grammy voters may opt to bestow the prize upon an artist that the world takes just a little more seriously. As big as the JoBros are, there's a question of career staying power from anyone coming from the teen pop world, and Adele, Duffy and Sullivan are all safer long-term bets.

So the award goes to? Adele. There's some consensus that Adele and Duffy will split the votes, and a worthy argument can be made to support the theory. Additionally, Grammy voters certainly may want to shy away from giving the trophy to a British soul singer two years running.

If that's the case, it could -- emphasis on could -- open the field up for Sullivan. She's a deserving contender, but Pop & Hiss is still regarding her as a long-shot here. Sullivan just doesn't have the name yet to squeak past the JoBros, who have all over the media since nominations were announced (it wasn't Sullivan who got to perform a concert in the White House).

Adele, however, has made quite a case for herself the past few months. Since appearing on "Saturday Night Live" in October (the Sarah Palin episode), her album has been a hot seller. To date, she's sold 364,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, with more than half of those coming after her "SNL" performance.

Adele, who has a sold-out gig in Los Angeles on Friday at the Wiltern, also isn't as tied to a '60s-inspired vibe her British contemporaries. She's adept at handling a stark, acoustic-driven song, and brings a more challenging, jazz-inspired phrasing to her vocals. She should win, and she likely will win.

-Todd Martens

Photo (top left): Adele / Associated Press

Photo (center): Jonas Brothers / EPA

Photo (top right):