For the first time in memory, the Grammy dance nomination field didn't only honor the worthy (which it's had a tendency of doing these past few years, Al Walser drama notwithstanding): It reflected what America actually grooved to in 2013.
Every song in the "Best Dance Recording" category swooped over a crowded festival field this summer; every nod in "Best Electronic/Dance Album" has been significant in driving the genre forward, in this, its biggest year since a producer first tweaked an 808 synth.
And to mark it, Grammy even made a bit of history: Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories" is the first album to be nominated for both Album of the Year and Best Dance/Electronic Album, since the latter category's inception in 2005. Recorded almost entirely live and sample-free, it's a reminder that "dance" and "electronic" don't always have to go together, especially amidst the synthetic bombast of EDM. (And that is, perhaps, the final act of the robots' stated mission to revive the epic LP.)
Gone from the field are the deserving but "safe" picks; the multiple nods going to the artists most recognizable to the Recording Academy voters, either in name or haircut. (Six-time winner Skrillex didn't have anything eligible this year: What if he had?)
Gone too are the vacationing pop stars, like Rihanna, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and Madonna. You could argue - and some do - that they are indeed dance acts. But don't they get enough love?
In their sloughed and sequined places we have U.K. upstart producer Duke Dumont, whose "Need U (100%)" (Best Dance Song) injected the warm memory of soulful house music onto international dance floors. Zedd and Alesso, whose "Clarity" (Best Dance Recording) and remix of OneRepublic's "If I Lose Myself" (Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical) gave the EDM generation doe-eyed love songs they'll still sing with affection when they're old and gray. Kaskade's "Atmosphere," his first turn as a vocalist, snagged nods for both Recording and Album. Eternal trance god Armin Van Buuren got his first nomination ever for "This is What It Feels Like," a track as huge as the festival audiences it makes ugly-cry. American hero Pretty Lights, U.K. garage youngsters Disclosure, and king of feel-good crossover Calvin Harris also scored nods.
Notably absent from the fun: Dance-rock trio Krewella, whose heavy but hearty “Get Wet” might have suffered from Skrillex-bass voter fatigue. And Avicii, who changed pop radio and won over the toughest critics with “True,” a mélange of folk, blues and whiz-bang beats that might have kneeled too close to the pop fire for dance voters (and too dance for the pop).
All that’s left for Grammy is let the dance categories ride the robots’ wave from the online-only pre-tel straight onto the network telecast. Could this be the year dance finally gets lucky?