Sorry GRAMMY Awards, but how the hell is Kaytranada up for Best New Artist?
There are some strange inclusions and omissions every GRAMMY Awards, but Kaytranada being nominated as a Best New Artist really takes the cake.
There's some kind of tomfoolery at every GRAMMY nominations announce, it's about as certain as a washed-up old band from the 80s doing a ten-minute melody of hits while current, award-nominated artists only get 30 seconds on stage to play half a chorus and that's it. This year, however, is proving extra controversial.
Overnight, the GRAMMYs announced their official nominations docket for 2021's event airing on January 31st, and as expected, there's a glaring list of inclusions and omissions driving everyone wild. For starters, The Weeknd isn't nominated for a single award despite his record After Hours seemingly being a shoe-in for sweeping the whole thing ("The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency..." he wrote on Twitter). There's also expected inclusions for Fiona Apple and Phoebe Bridgers absent from the Album of the Year category, despite their placements in smaller, genre-specific categories.
However, the most bizarre - and the category that tends to always be the most bizarre - has to be the Best New Artist award. It's one of the 'big four' categories (along with Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year) with a heavy emphasis on its winner every year; that act often being a break-out artist of the future (in the last ten years, for example, it's been won by Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Chance The Rapper, Sam Smith, Bon Iver and more).
This year is certainly no different, including acts that have become both critically and commercially acclaimed over the span of the last decade, let alone the last twelve months specifically. This year, there's American country singer Ingrid Andress, Phoebe Bridgers (who sure, shared one of 2020's best albums, but also shared one of 2017's too), rapper Chika, Noah Cyrus, D Smoke, Doja Cat (again, has been around for a minute, but fair enough considering the success of Hot Pink), Megan Thee Stallion, and Kaytranada (!).
And the Best New Artist nominees for the 63rd #GRAMMYs are.... @IngridAndress, @phoebe_bridgers, Chika (@oranicuhh), @noahcyrus, @DSmoke7, @DojaCat, @KAYTRANADA, and Megan @theestallion: https://t.co/teAbOeBzZ9 pic.twitter.com/ivGrXhIvem— Recording Academy / GRAMMYs (@RecordingAcad) November 24, 2020
There's a couple of acts in here that really stand tall from the rest, mostly because they've been both a commercial and critical success for far longer than just the last year. Take Phoebe Bridgers, whose Stranger In The Alps topped several year-end lists in 2017; Doja Cat, who of course has been unstoppable in 2020, but was also quite a success back in 2018); Megan Thee Stallion (similar again to Doja, with albums in 2018 and 2019); and of course, Kaytranada.
Sure, the official GRAMMYs dictation of what makes a new artist blurs the lines - "For a new artist who releases, during the Eligibility Year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist," it reads - and makes a bit of sense regarding Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion's inclusions, both blossoming in the public eye over the course of 2020. However, it doesn't really explain Kaytranada's inclusion, which is amongst the most confusing 'Best New Artist' additions we've heard in recent memory.
The award is based off the success of his late-2019 album BUBBA, and more specifically, its Kali Uchis-featuring single 10%. It's a brilliant record (and one of the best songs of Kaytranada's career, in terms of the single) that really emphasises Kaytranada's talent in production, but for it to be the pinnacle of Kaytranada's public and critical identity is a far shot considering he's been a visible and favourite addition to electronica ever since his emergence a literal decade ago.
It also kind-of displaces the success of his 2016 debut album 99.9%, which found itself almost all end-of-year lists and took out Canada's esteemed 2016 Polaris Music Prize, ushering Kaytranada into a new era and solidifying his place as one of electronic's most beloved and adored musicians, both in the commercial mainstream world and within the underground.
On one side, it almost feels like the GRAMMYs are catching up, emphasising their lack of speed when it comes to supporting genuinely new artists finding their break-out. On the other hand, it's incredible to see someone like Kaytranada nominated - a queer, Haitian producer standing tall amongst the rest and shining recognition on the kids who look up to him, both in regards to the pocket of electronica he's helped define and influence over the last decade, and to those who look up to him as a figure, and someone in the public eye.
As you can kinda expect, reaction to it has been kind-of here-and-there. "Kaytranada nominated for Best New Artist and he's been dropping heat for ten years. God bless," wrote one tweet. Others screenshotted his discography (which takes several screenshots, FYI) to point out his depth, while others point out that he actually played a GRAMMYs party four years ago, when he should've been nominated for 99.9%.
Either way, you fucking go get 'em Kaytranada - and we hope people can dig into it for inspiration to not give up, even if the suits aren't paying attention.
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