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Grammy Hype: Breakout stars of 2010

Nicki Minaj, singer, songwriter and rapper supports Pink

Nicki Minaj, singer, songwriter and rapper supports Pink Friday and the fight against breast cancer. Photo Credit: Business Wire

The Beatles won in 1965, Mariah Carey won in 1991, and Alicia Keys won in 2002. I'm talking about the best new artist Grammy, a prize that has predicted some of music's great stars ... except for the years when it didn't.

Past nominees have included C+C Music Factory, Ace of Base, Backstreet Boys and Sisqo. Yes, Sisqo, best known for "The Thong Song." Think that's ridiculous? 

Past winners have included Hootie & the Blowfish, Milli Vanilli (beating out Tone Loc that year) and Maroon 5, which topped Kanye West in 2005. Can you say free-for-all?

As shown in Grammys past, one-hit-wonders might get the nomination. And the superstars of tomorrow might get topped by someone who fades from the airwaves by summertime, if not sooner.

With all of that in mind, here are our picks for the best new artist of 2010, separated by category. Watch the music videos at the end to get acquainted with these breakout acts, then vote for who you think will win the annual honor.

NEW SUPERGROUPS

Broken Bells: James Mercer, the lead vocalist of The Shins, and Danger Mouse, who released the Beatles-Jay-Z mashup, "The Grey Album," in 2004 and is half of Gnarls Barkley (Cee-Lo Green is the other half), joined forces to form Broken Bells. They released their self-titled album in March, and it's good stuff.

Fistful of Mercy: Ben Harper, Joseph Arthur and Dhani Harrison formed a band. They released their debut album, "As I Call You Down," in October, and have since performed live on "Conan" and "Jimmy Fallon." Check out "Father's Son," the first single from the album.

POPSTERS

Bruno Mars: If you haven't heard "Just the Way You Are," the lead single from this singer-songwriter's first album, "Doo-Wops & Hooligans," you've clearly been living under a rock. It's been in one of the top spots on Billboard's Hot 100 for the past 16 weeks and counting. I find it annoying. Clearly others don't.

Neon Trees: This band opened up for 30 Seconds To Mars in the spring, headlining their own tour this summer behind their debut album, "Habits," released in March. "Animal," the lead single," is now on the radio nonstop and currently No. 5 on Billboard's Alternative Songs list (No. 15 on the Hot 100).

Jason Derulo: This artist quickly became a household name with three hit singles from his self-titled debut album, "In My Head," "Ridin' Solo" and "Whatcha Say," which went triple platinum. He's opened for both Lady Gaga and The Black Eyed Peas. 

Mike Posner: "Cooler Than Me," a single from "31 Minutes to Takeoff," which was released in August, is catchy, yes. But it's also really, really annoying. He seems like a longshot for the nomination, but you never know... 

INDIE ACTS

Sleigh Bells: Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss, the duo that makes up Sleigh Bells, have not  been touring tirelessly for years trying to get noticed. Nope, they joined forces and formed the band in 2008 after meeting at a Williamsburg restaurant and were quickly plucked from obscurity by M.I.A. They're noisy, and the tracks sound kind of insane on first listen; but after the second, third and fourth times, it all becomes kind of amazing.

Mumford & Sons: This band showcases accessible folk rock on their debut album, "Sigh No More," released in February in the United States. Many of the songs' lyrics come from literary influences, like Shakespeare and Steinbeck, the band's vocalist, Marcus Mumford, has said in interviews. Give "Little Lion Man" a listen.

Jonsi: The Sigur Ros frontman sings in English on his debut solo album, "Go," not the invented Icelandic jibberish favored by the band, which makes it much, much easier to sing along. To me, "Boy Lilikoi" and "Go Do," two of the albums' tracks, are what I consider happy music, plain and simple. Kind of obscure to get a Grammy nod, but we shall see.

COUNTRY CROONERS

The Band Perry: Despite spending four years in Nashville, I admittedly don't know much about country music. "If I Die Young," a single from The Band Perry's self-titled debut album, released in October, is simple and pretty. The band is made-up of a trio of siblings who seem to have a future in country music.

RAP STARS

Nicki Minaj: With her lyrical skills and Barbie doll look, this Queens native has come a long way from her days at LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts. Nicki Minaj gained respect through the underground rap circuit with mixtapes “Play Time Is Over,” the infamous “Sucka Free” and “Beam Me Up Scotty.” Her career took off after signing with Lil Wayne’s Young Money label in August 2009, and the hard-hitting collaborations began. She has been featured on hit singles with artists including Ludacris, Trey Songz, Usher and Kanye West. Her first solo single, “Your Love,” was No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 list this summer. Her debut album, “Pink Friday,” drops Nov. 22, and the hype surrounding this release is bananas.

Drake: From “Degrassi” to dominating the music charts, Drake was labeled one of the hottest new rappers in the game before his highly acclaimed album, “Thank Me Later,”  even dropped in June. This mixtape king exploded on the scene in 2009 with “So Far Gone,” which featured the hits, “Best I Ever Had” and “Successful.” Another Young Money signee, Drake was featured on numerous tracks with artists including Trey Songz, Timberland, Mary J. Blige and Lil Wayne.

B.o.B: This down-South rapper reps Atlanta to the fullest and has been a breath of fresh air since he appeared on the scene. His debut album, “B.o.B presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray,” includes the summer banger, “Nothing on You,” featuring newcomer Bruno Mars. He has his eyes set on the top, and his latest singles, “Airplanes” featuring Haley Willams, and “I Got the Magic” are helping him reach his destination.

With Risa Dixon (Nicki Minaj, B.o.B, Drake and Jason Derulo)

Image: Nicki Minaj

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