Hear The 2018 Grammy Nominees For Best New Artist Before They Were Famous

They've come a long way.

You may view Album of the Year as the most coveted award at the Grammys, but don't overlook the Best New Artist category. Past winners — including The Beatles, Mariah Carey, and Adele — have gone on to have some pretty iconic careers, and last year's winner Chance the Rapper is already on his way to joining them.

This year's group of nominees covers several genres, and their journeys started well before this year's high-profile recognition. From acoustic YouTube performances to self-released EPs, these artists have put in the work and the passion to make it big.


Below, check out early performances by nominees Alessia Cara, Khalid, Lil Uzi Vert, Julia Michaels, and SZA, years before they were Grammy-nominated. They may be just the motivation you need to keep working toward your own dreams, musical or otherwise.

1. Alessia Cara

Before she released her emotional hit song "Scars to Your Beautiful" or collaborated with Logic on the Grammy-nominated "1-800-273-8255," Canadian singer Alessia Cara posted cover performances on her YouTube account. The earliest upload is an acoustic rendition of Jessie J's "Price Tag," from February 2011, when she was just 14 years old.

Now 21, Cara has come a long way from singing in her living room. In 2015, she released her debut single "Here," which was featured later that year on her album Know-It-All. In the time since, "Scars to Your Beautiful" has reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and Cara has lent her voice to the song "How Far I'll Go" for the Moana soundtrack. This year, she's also nominated for "Stay," her collaboration with Zedd

2. Khalid

At only 19, singer Khalid already has a successful album, five Grammy nominations, and a collaboration with one of his favorite artists. He started recording music for SoundCloud during high school, after his family moved to El Paso, Texas.

"My high school was what crafted my interest in recording," he told USA Today. "Everyone at Americas [High] showed me a lot of support. I always wanted to do music and record, but I never had the confidence to do it. I was really nervous."

His song "Location," which was the debut single on his certified-platinum album American Teen, got a boost from Kylie Jenner's Snapchat. Before that, Khalid was promoting his music on Twitter, where he suggested rapper Logic give it a listen. Last year, he collaborated with Logic and fellow nominee Alessia Cara on "1-800-273-8255." Talk about full circle.

3. Lil Uzi Vert

Before Lil Uzi Vert (real name Symere Woods) hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart with his debut studio album Luv Is Rage 2, he went by the name Sealab Vertical. Below, the then-17-year-old raps with William Aston and A.Y. in the video for "Steaktown Anthem" — a reference to Uzi's native Philadelphia. (Warning for some NSFW lyrics.) 

Many of Uzi's current fans have flocked to the video to witness his early days. "I'm not surprised he blew up," one user wrote.

After releasing several mixtapes and signing a deal with record label Generation Now, Uzi collaborated with Migos on the Grammy-nominated track "Bad and Boujee," which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. "XO TOUR Llif3," the lead single from his album, was also a hit.

4. Julia Michaels

Julia Michaels, born Julia Carin Cavazos, has been songwriting since she was a teenager. Her credits include Demi Lovato's "Fire Starter," Justin Bieber's "Sorry," and Selena Gomez's "Bad Liar." She also co-wrote the theme song to the Disney Channel show Austin & Ally.

"I definitely always thought of myself as a songwriter before a singer," Michaels told Billboard. "I've been the person who hides behind people and lets everyone else do their thing, and I've been content there."

Over the years, 24-year-old Michaels has posted covers and original songs on YouTube. Below, she performs Anna Nalick's "Breathe (2 AM)." She's also released three solo EPs since 2010, and her Grammy-nominated single "Issues" helped launch her as a star in her own right, reaching No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

5. SZA

In addition to Best New Artist, singer SZA (real name Solána Imani Rowe) is also nominated for four other Grammys this year, following the 2017 release of her debut studio album Ctrl, which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart and features tracks such as "Supermodel," "The Weekend," and "Love Galore." You may have also heard her featured on Maroon 5's recent single, "What Lovers Do."

SZA, 27, started out self-releasing two EPs, starting with See.SZA.Run (which featured the song "Country," below), before she was signed to the record label Top Dawg Entertainment in 2013. According to the New York Times, the artist was plagued by self-doubt during the creation of Ctrl. "I never imagined anything like this would happen in a million years," she said of the album's success.

Find out which of these artists will take home the Best New Artist prize when the Grammys air on CBS this Sunday, January 28, at 7:30 p.m. ET.


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