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2014 Grammy Awards: Best New Artist prediction & analysis

Expect dark horse Kacey Musgraves to pull the upset and win the Best New Artist Grammy.
Expect dark horse Kacey Musgraves to pull the upset and win the Best New Artist Grammy.
Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images

2014 Grammy Awards: Best New Artist nominees
• James Blake
• Kendrick Lamar
• Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Kacey Musgraves
Ed Sheeran

This year's collection of Grammy Best New Artist nominees is one of the strongest in recent memory, even without New Zealand pop star Lorde, who was mysteriously left off the list.

Most of the pundits are predicting that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis will win the 2014 Best New Artist award, but they're probably wrong. Hip-hop performers never win Best New Artist. It's happened only once, when Lauryn Hill captured the trophy in 1999, and that deserves an asterisk because the entire music world already knew her from the Fugees.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis could be an exception to the rule, since they're mainstream-friendly rap artists who support gay rights. That will help them attract more support from voters than a typical rap artist. But here's why they won't win: Another rapper, Kendrick Lamar, is also nominated.

Lamar is the guy with all the critical acclaim. He's been lauded as one of the most creative hip-hop acts to come along in years. So folks who might be inclined to vote for a rapper in this category will split their votes between Lamar and Macklemore, meaning that neither will win.

British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran will earn a lot of votes, but just as many voters will be turned off by the fact that he's nominated at all. After all, he was a Song of the year nominee last year. How can you earn a Song of the Year nod and perform live on the 2013 Grammy broadcast and then come back the following year and still claim to be a "new" artist?

Since the other obvious potential winner in this category, Lorde, wasn't even nominated, who does that leave? Take a good hard look at country singer Kacey Musgraves. Her major-label debut Same Trailer, Different Park was a shockingly insightful and mature look at small-town American life and immediately vaulted Musgraves to the top of the heap of today's singer-songwriter crowd. She won Best New Artist at the CMA Awards and will have support far beyond just the Nashville contingent of the voting academy.

Plus, look at the history of this category. Female artists almost always triumph - 12 of the past 17 winners have been solo women. As the only female in the category in 2014, Musgraves has a big advantage. And country artists have a strong history here as well - Leann Rimes, Carrie Underwood, and Zac Brown Band are among the recent country acts who won Best New Artist.

With that in mind, Kacey Musgraves is the obvious choice here. We predict Musgraves wins the 2014 Grammy for Best New Artist.

Should win: Kacey Musgraves
Will win: Kacey Musgraves
Should have also been nominated: Lorde

Check out more of my Grammy Awards articles.