Grammys 2016 Preview: Jamie XX, Skrillex and Diplo and More Dance Music Nominees on Their Hit Music
Best Dance/ Electronic Album
Label Merge Records
Like most electronic-dance producers, Canadian Dan Snaith has more than one alias: Daphni, for spontaneously generated dance tracks, and his longer-lasting alter ego, Caribou, which explores a wide array of less traditional DJ-ready styles. That's audible on Our Love, Snaith's sixth Caribou album, which darts from sunny psychedelia and deep house grooves to moody synth pop and elegant R&B, topped with Snaith's appealingly reedy voice and spacious production. Our Love is also Caribou's highest-charting album to date, peaking at No. 46.
Born In The Echoes
The Chemical Brothers
Born in the Echoes is the Chemical Brothers' fourth consecutive album to land a nomination in this category, and two of them -- 2006's Push the Button and 2008's We Are the Night -- have won. The duo's latest is a characteristically kaleidoscopic piece of work -- especially when compared with most mainstream EDM. The group's Ed Simons told The Guardian, "We like the sense that you go through different experiences."
Label Capitol Records
It's a reasonable bet that if Daft Punk hadn't happened to release its monster hit Random Access Memories in the same time frame, British house duo Disclosure's debut, Settle, would have taken the Best Dance/Electronic Album prize in 2014. That album put the group's syncopated garage sound at the forefront of the dance-music menu, but rather than repeating that style, Disclosure (siblings Guy and Howard Lawrence) switched things around for their follow-up, Caracal, which reached No. 9 on the Billboard 200. "All of our songs are 'songs' now," Howard told Billboard, "as opposed to just instrumental club tracks." Oh, and Caracal also boasts an enviable guest list: Lorde, Miguel, The Weeknd and a return visit from 2015's Grammy champion, "Latch" singer Sam Smith.
Label Young Turks Recordings
Even in the early days of his rock band The xx's success, Jamie xx (born Jamie Smith) was DJ-ing in clubs and recording songs geared toward those sets. The title of his solo electronic debut, In Colour, is particularly fitting: Where The xx's music is black-and-white and grainy, these tracks are lustrous and full of variety but with a similarly filmy overlay that gives the bass and beats a nostalgic flavor. It not only topped the Dance/Electronic Albums chart but brought many xx fans to festival DJ tents.
Skrillex is already a six-time Grammy winner; Diplo was up for producer of the year in 2013 and record of the year in 2009 (for M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes"), among other nominations. So this album, which opened at No. 1 on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart, came with high expectations. "We're trying to make songs that are crazy-sounding productionwise, but at the same time we want songwriting that's just like whoa," Diplo told music website Cuepoint. They've also assembled a guest roster that's similarly whoa, ranging from comeback kid Justin Bieber to dancehall toaster Bunji Garlin and, on a bonus-track remix, another comeback story: Missy Elliott.
Best Dance Recording
"We're All We Need"
Above & Beyond Featuring Zoe Johnston
Producers Andrew Bayer, Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness, Paavo Siljamaki
Mixers Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness, Paavo Siljamaki
From We Are All We Need
Though they have been a top draw on the global dance-festival circuit for years, U.K. trio Above & Beyond's melodic trance-pop is new to the Grammys. The title track of the group's first Billboard Top Dance/Electronic Albums No. 1, "We're All We Need," features a subtle build from whimper to exultation, and Zoe Johnston's tremulous vocal has the sweep of an epic ballad. The secret of Above & Beyond's studio perfectionism, according to member Jono Grant, is that only two members at a time tour so that one can continuously work in the studio.
The Chemical Brothers
Producers Tom Rowlands, Ed Simons
Mixers Steve Dub Jones, Tom Rowlands
From Born in the Echoes
As much as Daft Punk or Skrillex, Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons are practically Grammy royalty: This is the long-running duo's fourth nomination for best dance recording, and the previous time they won -- in 2006, for "Galvanize" -- the track featured rapper Q-Tip as guest vocalist. So does "Go." "To me, it really sounds like where we started, mixing hip-hop and synthesizers together," Rowlands told Pitchfork. "If I were going to a friend's house and there was going to be dancing and fun, I'd want that record in my bag."
The nephew of Alice Coltrane, producer Flying Lotus (born Steven Ellison) has a well-earned reputation for pushing the musical envelope. He's been a prime mover in the healthy exchange between dance music and hip-hop in his native Los Angeles, both as a label head (he founded the Brainfeeder imprint in 2008) and DJ-producer. For this standout cut from his You're Dead! LP, Ellison recruited verses from this year's top Grammy nominee, Kendrick Lamar, after he had worked with the rapper on visuals for his opening stint on Kanye West's Yeezus tour.
"Runaway (U & I)"
Producers Linus Eklow, Christian Karlsson, Svidden
Mixers Linus Eklow, Niklas Flyckt, Christian Karlsson
Label Big Beat/Atlantic
It's no surprise that the Swedish duo Galantis knows how to make hits: As Bloodshy of the production team Bloodshy & Avant, Christian Karlsson won a Grammy for Britney Spears' "Toxic," while Linus Eklow, as Style of Eye, has been making club bangers for more than a decade. "Runaway (U & I)," from Galantis' Pharmacy album, reached No. 9 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart and quickly established itself as a dance-festival DJ standard thanks to its throbbing bassline and helium-pitched vocal sample -- and the album debuted at No. 1 on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart.
"Where Are U Now"
Skrillex & Diplo With Justin Bieber
Producers Sonny Moore, Thomas Pentz
Mixers Sonny Moore, Thomas Pentz
From Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü
Label Owsla/Mad Decent/Atlantic
In one year, Canadian teen idol Justin Bieber went from pop's doghouse to its comeback-of-the-year throne, thanks largely to a couple of dance-music super-producers. "We met Bieber at a club," Diplo told Charlie Rose. "We said, 'Give us a vocal. We'll make it crazy, I promise you.' " They delivered: "Where Are U Now" not only became the Jack U album's breakout track, but it went to No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and cemented the young singer's public turnaround.
This story originally appeared in the Jan. 2 issue of Billboard.