Point: Maren Morris Deserves Best New Artist at the 2017 Grammy Awards
On Feb. 12, the Recording Academy will hand out 2017's Grammy Awards trophies, and for the first time in more than a decade, two country artists will be competing for the all-genre Best New Artist award. Both Kelsea Ballerini and Maren Morris earned nominations in that category this year, along with the Chainsmokers, Chance the Rapper and Anderson .Paak -- but The Boot's bet is on Morris.
Country fans, in general, have gotten pretty familiar with Morris over the last year, but for the uninitiated, here's a quick rundown: Maren Morris is 26 years old and from Arlington, Texas. She self-released a few projects in her teens, but then, at 21 and after a decade of trying to "make it," she decided that it was time for a change ... so, she packed up and moved to Nashville to pursue a songwriting career, leaving her time as an artist herself behind.
In Music City, Morris started finding success with some of her work, but her publisher kept having the same issue: "I would get the same emails back,” Morris recalls, “and it would say, ‘Maren, I love this song, but I don’t even know who to send this to because it just has you written all over it.'”
It was “My Church,” Morris' debut single, that convinced her to give it another go as an artist. Morris released "My Church" in January of 2016, and its irreverent-but-honest lyrics, raw vocals and gritty, blues-tinged melody helped her make quite the entrance: The song hit No. 1 on Billboard's Country Digital Songs chart, No. 5 on the Hot Country Songs chart, No. 9 on the Country Airplay chart and No. 50 on the all-genre Hot 100; in April, it was certified gold.
Morris released her major-label debut record, Hero, in June, to even more acclaim: The project became the first debut album to top Billboard‘s Top Country Albums chart in 2016, and debuted at No. 5 on the all-genre Billboard 200. Hero's second single, "80s Mercedes," currently sits just outside the Top 10 on both the Country Airplay and Hot Country Songs charts.
Maren Morris knows what she likes and wants to be, and she knows how to make it happen.
More important, though, is what Hero said about Morris as a creative force: Its songs' synth-pop hooks and retro reverb introduced a sound that is all Morris' own, and its credits (Morris co-wrote and co-produced the project) show that Morris is in charge of her own creative direction.
In short, Morris knows what she likes and wants to be, and she knows how to make it happen -- and fans and critics alike are eating it up. Morris didn't only receive a Best New Artist nomination at the 2017 Grammys -- she received four nods: Best New Artist, Best Country Album (Hero), Best Country Song ("My Church") and Best Country Solo Performance ("My Church"). In fact, Morris has the most nominations of any country artist this year, and is among those with the most nods overall, across all genres, setting her up to potentially be one of the night's biggest winners; the only Best New Artist nominee with more nominations in 2017 is Chance the Rapper, who received seven nods.
Morris has also received a bevy of industry awards and honors, in just the last few months: She was voted the CMA New Artist of the Year in November, crowned Billboard's Women in Music 2016 Breakthrough Artist in December, performed on Saturday Night Live just before the holidays and was bestowed her own holiday in her hometown in between Christmas and New Year's. In 2017, Morris will perform as part of the CRS New Faces of Country Music showcase and kick off her first headlining tour in February; ACM Awards nominations and a spot on a major summer tour are likely to follow.
If you ask us, so should a Grammys Best New Artist win.
The Boot and Taste of Country’s collaborative Point / Counterpoint series features staff members from the two sites debating topics of interest within country music once per month. Check back on Feb. 21 for another installment.
2017 Grammy Awards Nominees: The Country Surprises and Snubs
Who Is Maren Morris?