WEST HOLLYWOOD – It’s a wide-open competition for this year’s best new artist crown at Sunday’s Grammy Awards, and a live platform for the nominees reminded how tough the decision was for Recording Academy voters.
For the first time since 2020, Spotify hosted its Best New Artist party, a showcase for the hopefuls to perform and prove their worthiness. And with this year’s nominees ranging from bluegrass to jazz to straight up rock ‘n’ roll, diversity was in full supply.
Held at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, the gathering offered performances from all 10 of this year’s nominees during the four-plus hour event: Anitta, Omar Apollo (who was also on the guest list at the Warner Music Grammy party at the nearby Hollywood Athletic Club earlier in the evening), Muni Long, Samara Joy, Latto, Måneskin, Tobe Nwigwe, Molly Tuttle and Wet Leg. Here’s a look at a handful of the standout performances.
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Backed by her four-piece Golden Highway band, Tuttle, the resident bluegrass nominee in this year’s lineup, charmed with songs from her 2022 “Crooked Tree” album, including the banjo-heavy title track and “Dooley’s Farm.” Clad in a short black sparkly dress, her acoustic guitar draped over her shoulder, Tuttle presented a warm, welcoming presence.
The young New Yorker – she’s 23 – spotlighted her old soul on “Can’t Get Out of This Mood,” the first track from her acclaimed “Linger Awhile” album. With a standup bassist and pianist joining her onstage, Joy dug into her throaty jazz leanings during her short set that included a dusky, organ-flecked read of Adele’s “Someone Like You.”
While she’s no stranger to writing potent songs – Kelly Clarkson’s “Love So Soft” and Pitbull and Kesha’s “Timber” are among her musical creations – Long broke through as a solo artist last year with “Hrs and Hrs,” which she performed Thursday with a heavy dose of sultry. Flanked by a pack of male dancers in suits, Long (born Priscilla Hamilton), also demonstrated her pop instincts on “Time Machine” replete with squealing guitar.
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In matching white suits and under a halo of fiery strobe lights, Italy’s saviors of rock demonstrated once again how they’ve blossomed the past year. From the opening “Kool Kids” and cynical “Gossip,” both from new album “Rush!,” the quartet of singer Damiano David, guitarist Thomas Raggi, drummer Ethan Torchio and bassist Victoria De Angelis romped with their usual taut musicianship and flair. Their unvarnished rock display peaked with the growlingly seductive “I Wanna Be Your Slave,” a song from their 2021 album, “Teatro d’ira: Vol. I,” that still throbs.
Though she sang to a backing track, the Brazilian sizzler (born Larissa de Macedo Machado), still made a notable impression with her undeniable stage presence. Sporting shades, teeny shorts and a spangly bra, Anitta rolled through her pulsing hit “Lobby,” eventually joined by a pack of dancers to keep her company on stage. Following “Envolver,” Anitta cooed “Welcome to Brazil” before engaging in a lengthy dance routine and segueing into the driving pop of “Boys Don’t Cry,” a detour that flaunted her stylistic range.
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