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After Gaga drama, Grammys amend best new artist rules

July 7, 2010 | 10:51 am


The Recording Academy has altered the eligibility rules for the best new artist category at its annual Grammy Awards, amending the fine print to allow for some leeway if an artist had been previously nominated. The changes will be in place for the 53rd annual Grammy Awards, which are set for Feb. 13 at downtown's Staples Center.  

Best new artist has long been one of the most contentious categories at the Grammy Awards, with veteran artists often showing up on the ballot. This year, for instance, Silver Lake's Silversun Pickups were in the running, despite having a commercial breakthrough with their 2006 debut, "Carnavas." The year before, Disney's Jonas Brothers scored a best new artist nomination, despite having a top 10 album in prior eligibility years. 

Headlines were made when Lady Gaga, who shot to international superstardom with her debut effort, "The Fame," was deemed not eligible for the best new artist field. Lady Gaga was nominated at the 2009 awards for her single "Just Dance," which was submitted in the best dance recording field. At the time, it was noted than an artist who had received a nomination at a previous ceremony could not be in the running for best new artist at a future Grammy program.

The changes for 2011 will allow for an act in a similar situation to be considered for best new artist, provided the act or group did not win a Grammy. This will be good news to rap artists such as Kid Cudi and Drake, both of whom were nominated for singles at the 2010 awards but failed to win. 

In a statement, the Recording Academy outlined the reasoning for the changes. "More and more, the first release of a new artist is as a featured artist on someone else's album, or the new artist may release a single long before the release of his/her/their entire first album. By current rules, if the other artist's album or the new artist's single receives a nomination, the new artist may never have the opportunity to compete in the best new artist category."

Other rules for the category remain unchanged. An artist must have released at least one album, but not more than three. Additionally, an artist can be submitted a total of three times. The Recording Academy notes that the amended rules mean that "each artist will have at least one opportunity to enter in this important and highly visible category," although it is earlier implied in the release that a prior win would still deem the artist ineligible for best new artist consideration. 

On the flip side, the changes could shut the doors even more for lesser-known artists earning a shot at a best new artist nomination. Such a nod for Lady Gaga might have provided added drama at the 2010 telecast, but it also would have locked out an act such as MGMT, the Silversun Pickups, the Ting-Tings, Keri Hilson or the Zac Brown Band in favor of one of the world's most popular artists. 

Looking ahead to 2011, Drake, for instance, would now seem a lock for a nod, despite having achieved his initial fame in 2009.
"Every year, we diligently examine our awards process to ensure that it remains relevant within the current musical landscape," Neil Portnow, president/chief executive of the Recording Academy, said in a statement. "These eligibility amendments recognize present trends in music, and our Board of Trustees continues to demonstrate its dedication to keeping the Recording Academy a pertinent and responsive organization in our dynamic music community."

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Lady Gaga at the 2009 Grammy Awards. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times
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