The 55th Annual Grammy Awards are Feb. 10 and this year there will be some hotly contested races. Unlike last year when Adele was the presumptive (and actual) winner in many categories, there are few clear frontrunners.

As we lead up to the ceremony, we’ll take a different category every day and evaluate the nominees. Today, we look at Best New Artist.

Best New Artist nominees:

Alabama Shakes
Fun.
Hunter Hayes
The Lumineers
Frank Ocean


WHO’S MISSING: First off, let’s look at who’s not here: While the field is strong, leaving out One Direction seems like a major oversight. Though she hasn’t had the same success here as she has in the U.K., Emeli Sande was also a strong contender and while she’s looking a little like a one-hit wonder right now, Carly Rae Jepsen had the pop culture hit of the year with “Call Me Maybe.”

THE PLAYERS: Instead, based on Alabama Shakes and The Lumineers, it’s clear the Grammy voters leaned toward authentic, roots-oriented rock. Both groups are known for their rambunctious, free-flowing live shows and reliance on acoustic instruments as much as for their radio hits: The Shakes with “Hold On,” and the Lumineers with the seemingly omnipresent “Ho Hey.” Both look like solid bets for artists who will have good, long careers regardless of radio support.

Neither fun. nor Frank Ocean are roots-oriented, but they represent a new standard bearer for the Grammys: Fun.’s brand of pop is commercial and wildly successful, but is also well-crafted, intelligent, well-sung and well-played. R&B artist Ocean, whose “Channel Orange” topped many best-of lists for 2012 (including mine) was a fresh voice that arrived fully formed.  

Hunter Hayes may be unknown outside of his country base, but he’s a budding star within the format and Nashville’s collective voting power helped seal his nomination over some more likely pop contenders.

THE ODDS:
This is a race between fun. and Ocean. In addition to best new artist, fun. ran the board: receiving nominations in the other three general categories: record, song and album of the year. Only a handful of artists, such as Norah Jones, Amy Winehouse, and Christopher Cross have ever achieved that feat. Ocean almost scored as well, landing album and record of the year nods (both artists also have nominations in other fields).

It’s almost too close to call this year. If only music critics were voting, Ocean would be the clear winner. Both acts have had great years and show tremendous promise, the question will come down to whether fun’s greater dominance at pop radio will get them more votes. It’s the first year in many that I’ve wished for a tie.

WINNER: Frank Ocean