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A brief primer on how to become a Best New Artist at the Grammys

December 4, 2009 | 12:08 pm


While everybody in Los Angeles should feel thrilled for local rockers Silversun Pickups on their Best New Artist Grammy nomination, it does beg one question -- how does a band whose 2006 full-length debut "Carnavas" sold 370,000 copies get considered a potential "Best New Artist" in 2010? The band's long-simmering rise to the top of the Silver Lake rock heap has been exceedingly documented in these pages over many years, and they've been a national act at least since their single "Lazy Eye" topped out at No. 5 on Billboard's Alternative Rock chart in 2007. If Lady Gaga can be out of the running due to her "Best Dance Recording" nomination in 2009, how can the Pickups make the cut this year?

In short, because they haven't been nominated before. The official rulebook for the Best New Artist category is as follows:

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. Any previous GRAMMY nomination for the artist as a performer precludes eligibility in the Best New Artist category (including a nomination as an established performing member of a nominated group). Eligibility may, however, include individuals or groups who have appeared as non-featured performers on prior recordings and solo artists formerly with groups whose recordings were released prior to the eligibility year, provided they had not received a GRAMMY Award in a performance category as a member of the group. NOTE: The artist must have released, as a featured performing artist, at least one album but not more than three; and the artist must not have been entered for Best New Artist more than three times, including as a performing member of an established group. Choirs, choruses and large band ensembles are not eligible.

So the Pickups, who have two full-length albums to their name, have not been nominated for a previous Grammy and weren't entered more than three times for consideration up until now, technically are, in fact, a "new artist" under this metric. Because Gaga surfaced on a minor Grammy nomination just a hair too early in her career, she misses out on what would have been all but a shoo-in for a Best New Artist nod. Kid Cudi and Phoenix fell prey to similar technicalities.

This might actually be the perfect scenario for the Pickups -- a bit of mainstream notoriety for "Swoon" (which has sold 191,000 copies thus far, according to SoundScan), but likely without the burden of winning and its rumored attendant sales curse as the out-there indie rock slot rarely captures the actual prize. If I were Keri Hilson, however, I'd be making rough drafts for an acceptance letter, and maybe sweating a bit.

-- August Brown


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Photo: Brian Aubert of Silversun Pickups; Credit: Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times