Five of the artists that are up for best new artist at next Sunday’s Grammy Awards are reimagining their original material as well as covering other artists’ songs, at Spotify’s behest — with Phoebe Bridgers and Chika debuting two new recordings to kick off the series today.
Others taking part in the Spotify Singles rollout in the coming days, doing a pair of songs apiece: hip-hop upstart D Smoke on Wednesday, pop breakout Noah Cyrus on Thursday and country chart-topper Ingrid Andress on Friday. In each case, the artists re-recorded one of their own tunes and also covered a number by a previous best new artist nominee.
For her two Spotify recordings, Bridgers links herself to a couple of classic 1970s singer/songwriters (and we don’t mean guitar-smasher Pete Townshend, or her Twitter arch-nemesis David Crosby).
On her own signature song, “Kyoto,” she’s joined by Jackson Browne on backing vocals. It’s not her first time sharing vocals with Browne; they teamed up to sing “Christmas Song” together back in 2018. “Kyoto” is up for two Grammys, best rock song and best rock performance, on top of Bridgers’ nods for best new artist and best alternative music album (“Punisher”).
Perhaps an even more welcome addition to Bridgers’ recorded canon will be her cover of John Prine’s wistful, bittersweet “Summer’s End.” The song is prefaced by a voice-mail recording of Bridgers’ grandfather wishing her a happy birthday from afar. Singing backup on the Prine cover is Maria Taylor.
And yes, befitting Spotify’s concept, Prine was a best new artist nominee, all the way back in 1973. His Grammy legacy endured: Prine is up for a best American roots recording Grammy this year, for the song “I Remember Everything,” released posthumously after he died of complications from COVID-19 soon into the pandemic last April. Shortly before his death, he received a 2020 lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy.
Chika joined Bridgers in rolling two songs out Tuesday morning. The singer/rapper turned in a stripped-down version of her own “U Should,” along with her cover of Billie Eilish’s “My Future.”
Said Chika, “I picked ‘My Future’ by Billie Eilish as my BNA (best new artist) cover for Spotify because the song is beautiful and presents an interesting opportunity to talk about where I am as an artist, especially on the heels of this nomination. My present is moving so fast that each passing moment is practically the future already. And I’m in love with the ride I’m on.”
Bridgers has had an active partnership with Spotify prior to this. In 2018, she previously took part in the Spotify Singles series, adding a cover of the Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love” as the B-side to her “Scott Street” A-side. Last year, to promote her “Punisher” album, the streaming service came up with a custom Instagram lens that let fans try on her infamous skeleton jumpsuit, and she was invited to curate a Spooky playlist for Halloween.
Titles for the cover songs still to come this week on Spotify from D Smoke, Cyrus and Andress are being held back as surprises.