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Sorry Lady Gaga, no Grammy changes to best new artist category -- for now

November 23, 2009 | 11:19 am


One of the breakout artists of 2009, fashion-conscious pop-star Lady Gaga showed off her ability to break glass on last night's "American Music Awards." But there are limits to her power.

Speculation that the Recording Academy would consider changing its eligibility rules for the best new artist category was shot down this morning by an official spokeswoman for the group. Ballots already have been returned for the 2010 gala, nominees for which will be announced Dec. 2, and there are no further rule changes on tap until after the Jan. 31 ceremony.

"First-round ballots were due back in early/mid-October, so it would be extremely challenging to change the rules now with nominations being announced next week," said the Recording Academy spokeswoman. "Any changes to be made will be considered after this year's show and therefore would not affect the current rule, which does disqualify her."

Lady Gaga was nominated at the 2009 awards for her single "Just Dance," which was submitted in the best dance recording field. The fine print says an artist who has previously received a nomination at a prior ceremony cannot be in the running for best new artist at future Grammys -- unless, of course, the artist was a "non-featured" performer on the previously nominated track, such as a minor guest on a song.

Sunday night, Entertainment Weekly's Music Mix blog wrote that Recording Academy chief Neil Portnow was considering changes to the best new artist category that would allow Lady Gaga to be nominated. Said the EW post: "We asked Portnow if the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences might consider a rule change to let the year’s biggest breakout act compete for the prestigious prize. 'Yes,' Portnow said. 'The awards and nominations committee meets to review the rules every year. We change the rules frequently. We recognize that situation is not perfect, and we are looking at ways to figure it out.' "

With one of the bestselling newcomers of the year shut out of the best new artist field --  Lady Gaga's Interscope release "Fame" has sold more than 1.6 million copies since its release last October -- it is entirely plausible that this year's ceremony may spur the Recording Academy to rethink its rules. Yet such changes will not be made until after this year's Grammy Awards.

Don't feel too bad for Miss Gaga. She's expected to receive multiple Grammy nominations for the 2010 gala. Her "Fame" is a favorite to receive a nomination for album of the year, and her "Poker Face" is on the ballots for record and song of the year. 

There are plenty of quirks to the best new artist field. The official Grammy rules state that an artist must have released at least one album during the nominated year but no more than three. That's why, as Variety noted last week, hip-hop newcomer Kid Cudi won't be represented in the 2010 best new artist field His "Day 'n' Night" was released on Sept. 15, after the Aug. 31 cutoff for this year's eligibility period.

Though Lady Gaga is on her first album, there is a chance that veteran artists, as well as those who released records in 2008, will be nominated. Rock acts MGMT, the Ting Tings and the Silversun Pickups are all on the ballots for the 2010 ceremony. Los Angeles' Silversun Pickups have their sophomore effort in "Swoon," released this year on Dangerbird Records, and MGMT and the Ting Tings are still promoting albums that were released in 2008.

The best new artist field is generally one of the most debated of the Grammy categories. Recording Academy rules define the parameters this way: "A new artist is defined as any performing artist who releases, during the eligibility year, the recording that first establishes the public identity of that artist as a performer."

Such a definition is open to interpretation. Famously, singer-songwriter Shelby Lynne was recognized as best new artist at the 2001 awards despite having a solid decade of experience. In 2009, teen sensations the Jonas Brothers were nominated for best new artist, despite having high-charting albums in prior eligibility years.

Nominations for the 2010 awards will be announced in a live television broadcast Dec. 2 from downtown L.A.'s Club Nokia. The Grammy Awards will be broadcast live on CBS (tape delayed for Los Angeles viewers) from Staples Center on Jan. 31.

--Todd Martens


Guess who's getting Grammy nominations?

Grammys 2010: An early look at album of the year contenders (Part 1)

Grammys 2010: An early look at album of the year (Part 2)

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Photo: Lady Gaga at the American Music Awards. Credit: Associated Presss