Grammy Spotlight: Rock and Alternative Artists to Watch, from Wet Leg to My Chemical Romance

Over the past few Grammy ceremonies, the Recording Academy has seemingly warmed up to the idea of alternative and rock seeping back into the mainstream again. With Glass Animals, Arlo Parks and Japanese Breakfast all getting nominations for best new artist last year, it opens the door for acts other than the usual rock ‘n’ roll Grammy mainstays like Foo Fighters, AC/DC, Paul McCartney and Kings of Leon to really shine.

On top of the alternative album award, which has existed since the early ’90s, they’ve even added a new category, best alternative music performance. This is a track and single category that will eliminate the need to push songs that are generally classified as alternative into either the rock or pop categories, as happened a few years ago when Beck’s “Colors” was thrown in with Post Malone, Camila Cabello, Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga for best pop solo performance at the 2019 Grammy Awards.

With the eligibility period lasting from Oct. 1, 2021 to Sept. 30, 2022, mainstream names and Grammy vets like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Imagine Dragons, Jack White, the War On Drugs, Florence and the Machine, Arcade Fire, the Black Keys and Muse are all eligible for nominations, in addition to previously nominated acts like I Prevail, Big Thief and Fontaines D.C. These things can be difficult to predict, especially with a new category added to the table, but here are a few less-rewarded artists and big fan favorites to keep an eye on, all deserving of voter attention. 

Maggie Rogers

Rogers initially garnered attention as a student, when a video of Pharrell struggling to pick his jaw up off the floor upon hearing her song “Alaska” during a Masterclass at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at N.Y.U. went viral. She lost best new artist to Billie Eilish in 2020, but it would be surprising if her latest release, “Surrender,” or single, “That’s Where I Am,” didn’t pick up a nod in the alternative categories.

Wet Leg

As previously mentioned in Chris Willman’s Grammy predictions, indie-rock juggernauts Wet Leg (pictured above) could be a contender in the best new artist category — especially since they’re actually new. The Isle of Wight duo appeared seemingly overnight with immediate buzz surrounding their cheeky debut single “Chaise Longue,” breathing life into a recovering, post-lockdown music scene. With the newly added best alternative music performance category, they could well be up for noms in both alternative categories as well as new artist. In addition to having Harry Styles blow the newcomers up further by covering “Wet Dream,” their self-titled debut album has been shortlisted for the Mercury Prize 2022.

Ghost

By no means are Ghost strangers to the Grammys. They won their first career Grammy in 2015 for best metal performance for “Cirice,” off the band’s third studio album, “Meliora.” Their album “Prequelle” was also nominated for best rock album in 2018 and single “Rats” for best rock song in 2019. The Swedish rock band is widely popular in its scene, but the Grammy love brought heavy attention outside of the group’s massive and dedicated fanbase. Earlier this year, a TikTok user took a slowed-down version of their 2019 B-side, “Mary on a Cross,” and paired it with an edit from Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” The hashtag #maryonacross now has over a billion views on the app, leading Ghost to release an official “slowed + reverb” version of the song. Thanks to their newfound mainstream popularity online, Papa Emeritus IV and the Group of Nameless Ghouls have cracked the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time. With all eyes on Ghost, their fifth studio album, “Impera,” could land in the best rock album category or one of its singles in rock performance or rock song. With broad eligibility rules, the re-do of “Mary on a Cross” could also qualify for a nomination.  

Sam Fender

The British singer, whose sophomore album “Seventeen Going Under” was also shortlisted for the Mercury Prize this year, debuted with critical acclaim thanks to 2019’s “Hypersonic Missiles,” which entered the U.K. albums chart at NO. 1. Hailing from North Shields, the hometown hero was discovered by Ben Howard’s manager, Owain Davies, while performing at his local pub, Low Lights Tavern, where he also bartended. Already dominating in the U.K., he won the Brit Award for best British alternative/rock act earlier this year. Thanks to some airplay, playlisting and a catchy title track from “Seventeen Going Under” going viral on TikTok, he’s starting to break in the States. With a lot of heavy-hitters eligible, it might be a longshot, but he’s worth a look for alternative music performance for the aforementioned lead single.

The Linda Lindas

The California quartet, ages 12 to 18, had already been gaining notoriety in the Los Angeles music scene performing with bands like Bikini Kill, Bleached and Best Coast in addition to being featured in Amy Poehler’s Netflix film “Moxie.” That notoriety was further amplified last year after their set in the Los Angeles Public Library as part of their TEENtastic Tuesdays series for Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month went viral. Their performance of “Racist, Sexist Boy,” specifically, not only solidified them as badasses, but also dominated blogs and social media with praise from Tom Morello, Hayley Williams, Flea, Kathleen Hanna, Kid Cudi and more. They’ve since signed with Epitaph, released their debut album, “Growing Up,” played a myriad of festivals, and knocked out an opening slot with Japanese Breakfast and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They’d be the underdogs, but it’s possible they’ll wind up in the best new artist category.

My Chemical Romance

Obviously, My Chemical Romance is a band that’s floated around the mainstream for quite some time. However, they’re worth a mention here because despite their impact on the rock and alternative genres, they’ve only been nominated for one Grammy, 2008’s best boxed or special limited edition package for “The Black Parade.” After they officially announced their split in 2013, the MCR fanbase continued to grow as continuous rumors of a reunion swelled. In 2019 they announced their reunion and took to the stage again at the Shrine in Los Angeles before the world shut down. After multiple postponements thanks to the COVID pandemic, they’re now playing sold-out shows across the country. Their new song, “Foundations of Decay,” released in May of this year, could put them in the running for best rock performance or song.   

Muna

The Phoebe Bridgers cohorts’ third full-length album, “Muna,” was their first to land them on the charts, including the Billboard 200. The self-titled project was also their first under Bridgers’ Saddest Factory Records after being dropped by RCA. Given the growing buzz around the Los Angeles-based trio, being dropped by a major has certainly worked in their favor. Third time is proving to be the charm, as Muna have really come into its own with this latest take. The album also features their poppiest tracks yet, like singles “Silk Chiffon” and “Home by Now.” Muna could earn nominations in an Alternative category and, as as mentioned in our general predictions piece, best new artist, since the Recording Academy seems to go by breakout year rather than an artist actually being “new.”

Gayle

Taylor Gayle Rutherfurd, aka Gayle, had a smash with “Abcdfu,” which was released before the start of this year’s eligibility period. However, it appeared on a subsequent EP and remains Grammy-eligible. She’s a strong bet for a best new artist nomination, even if the pop-punk style isn’t something Grammy voters typically favor for the top award in the top four general categories.  

Idles

The Bristol band broke through in the U.K. ages ago, but the release of their fourth album, “Crawler,” late last year helped them catch America’s attention. Touring the album stateside particularly beefed up their popularity amongst rock and punk fans in each market, with a lingering buzz after every performance. Pairing their unabashed sincerity and intensity with co-producer Kenny Beats (Vince Staples, Denzel Curry) leaves them ripe for rock album and potentially rock performance or song with a slew of singles like “Crawl!,” “The Beachland Ballroom” (a nod to the Cleveland venue) and “Car Crash.”    

Mitski

Despite critical acclaim surrounding Mitski’s fifth album, “Be the Cowboy,” in 2018, that record only walked away with a best recording package nomination. Mitski has an incredibly loyal, cult-like fanbase and has been bubbling directly under the surface of the mainstream for years. Her latest album, “Laurel Hell,” was created over the course of the pandemic lockdown and could be what finally snags her a music Grammy nod. Although she’s way beyond “new,” some see her as a contender for best new artist. “Laurel Hell” is also a strong contender for best alternative music album, and her singles “Working for the Knife” or “The Only Heartbreaker” could receive an alternative music performance nomination.

Other honorable mentions include the Smile, Snail Mail, Turnstile, Måneskin, King Princess, Soccer Mommy, Beach House, Finneas and Black Country, New Road. Nominations for the 65th Grammy Awards will be announced Nov. 15. The awards will be presented Feb. 5, 2023, at Crypto.com Arena and air live on CBS and stream live on demand on Paramount+. 

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