Breaking It Down: 54th Annual Grammy Awards: Best New Artist

You know what I love? Surprises in awards shows. The Grammys have raised the "what was that?" game to another level with Best New Artist this year. Let's learn a little more about all the nominees. As a reminder up front, the eligibility period for this year's ceremony was 1 October 2010 to 30 September 2011. For those keeping score, these dates have shifted a few times this year, allowing for surprises.

The Band Perry

The Band Perry is a country ensemble comprised of three siblings. Kimberly takes on lead vocals, guitar, and piano. Reid takes on bass and background vocals. Neil takes on accordion, mandolin, drums, and background vocals. They've been on the scene since 2009 and I'm glad to see them get some recognition.

Their debut full-length album came out 12 October 2010, putting them firmly in the eligibility period. The only tricky part about this nomination is that the band's best known crossover song, "If I Die Young," would have been up for Grammys last year. In fact, it was nominated for Best Country Song. Got to love that Lady Gaga eligibility rule for Best New Artist.

The Band Perry went to number 2 on the Country charts and number 4 on the Billboard 200. "If I Die Young" has gone platinum three times already and topped the Country and Adult Contemporary singles charts. They are only nominated for Best New Artist.

Bon Iver

Bon Iver is this year's token rock act. That's not meant to be an insult. There are certain genres that the Grammys, as a whole, tend to nominate here: country, rock, hip-hop, plus 2 wildcards.

Technically, Bon Iver is folk, but it's close enough to check off on the predictable list. The quartet consists of Justin Vernon, Michael Noyce, Sean Carey, and Matthew McCaughan. They received a big push from their label for their single "Holocene," which led to a Best New Artist nomination for a band that's been around since 2007.

It's always interesting to note how long an act has been eligible because of all the hoopla about the Lady Gaga rule. That rule states that artists who were previously nominated for Grammys can be nominated for Best New Artist, so long as they weren't nominated for their debut album as a whole.

But I digress. Bon Iver's filling that void that previously let more mellow acts like Feist and Mumford & Sons get nominated. Their Bon Iver album, released 21 July 2011, went to number 2 on the Billboard 200 and topped the Alternative, Indie, and Rock charts in the US. "Holocene" has not charted. Bon Iver is nominated for four grammys, including Record and Song of the Year.

J. Cole

J. Cole is the most interesting nominee if it wasn't for a seemingly random one we'll get to at the end of this post. He is a rapper whose debut album came out 27 September 2011. For those keeping score, that's a whopping 3 days before the end of the eligibility period.

For all of the rave reviews his debut album Cole World: The Sidelines received, he is best known for his single "Work Out." It did the strange feat of debuting on the pop charts, falling off the charts, and then reentering the charts months later and doing even better.

Timing can be key in getting a major Grammy nomination. J. Cole is the king of timing this year. Not only did his album come out the last possible release date, it debuted at number one. That means a brand new artist was at the top of the charts when the ballots went out. You do the math. He is only nominated for Best New Artist.

Nicki Minaj

My girl. Nicki Minaj is the seemingly ubiquitous rapper who has been appearing on everyone's rap singles since 2009 when she had a solo verse on the single "Bed Rock." Since then, she's had six solo singles chart in the top 40 and a number one platinum album.

Nicki's big single right now, "Super Bass," is not nominated for anything. The Grammy's focused on "Moment 4 Life" featuring Drake, which was released 7 December 2010.

Nicki is tied for first beneficiary of the Lady Gaga rule. She was nominated last year for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for her feature on Ludacris' single "My Chick Bad." It still stings that they didn't win that. Regardless, Nikki is a chart monster. No explanation necessary here. She is nominated for three Grammys, including Best Rap Album.


Who? Oh, Skrillex. A Dubstep artist. A hardcore dance act is nominated for Best New Artist. This makes nominations for acts like The Ting Tings seem positively mainstream by comparison.

Skrillex, aka Sonny Moore, aka Twipz (what I know him as, or at least the name of his I've seen before) has been producing and remixing music for video games, TV commercials, and other artists since 2008. This is also when he started putting out solo music and performing as Skrillex. He has not charted anywhere. His latest single is "First of the Year (Equinox)."

Skrillex is nominated for five Grammys, including Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical. That producer nomination explains how enough voters knew him to nominate him for Best New Artist.

Who Will Win?

Count out The Band Perry and J. Cole because they only have one nomination each. Count out Skrillex for not having enough cross-genre support to garner more than the dance/production vote. Nicki Minaj is the populist nominee who so very rarely wins. That leaves Bon Iver possibly getting Best New Artist as a consolation prize for losing Song and Record of the Year to Adele.

Thoughts? Who are you rooting for? Who was snubbed?

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