Gayle must have had mixed emotions when the 65th annual Grammy nominations were announced last week. Her delightful pop smash “abcdefu” was nominated for song of the year, but she was passed over for a best new artist nod.
Gayle would not have been the first artist to have a “Oh great!!! – wait – what?” reaction – a blend of delight, disappointment and confusion. Since 2000, this is the 13th instance of a new artist who was entered and eligible for best new artist and was passed over for a nod in that category, but got one in song of the year.
Why has this happened so often? In the years that a select committee made the final choices in the Big Four categories – album, record and song of the year plus best new artist – the committee members may have consciously or subconsciously tried to “share the wealth.” They may have figured one nomination in a marquee category was enough in many cases, so why not let another artist have some shine?
In the past two years, the nominations have been determined strictly by voting members of the Recording Academy, but that kind of thinking could still be in play.
When a new artist is nominated for song of the year but not for best new artist, it leaves an impression (whether intended or not) that the nominating committee – and now the voters – liked that one song very much, but they weren’t sure that the artist would have a big future. If that was the thought process, in some cases it was more or less right. In others, it was very wrong. Sara Bareilles and Lorde, both of whom were passed over for best new artist nods, both went on to receive album of the year nominations. Other artists who have amassed Grammy nods since being passed over for best new artist in their rookie years are Miguel, Estelle and Ella Mai.
Note: Ed Sheeran was nominated for song of the year in 2012 for writing “The A Team,” but he was passed over for a best new artist nod that year. The Academy allowed him a second year of eligibility for best new artist in 2013 (when his debut album dropped) and this time he was nominated. Since he was eventually nominated for best new artist, we left him off this list.
Let’s scroll back through the new artists who were nominated for song of the year but were passed over for best new artist nods. All of these artists were entered and eligible for best new artist in these years. The last data point tells you how many nominations the artist has received since their rookie year. (That tally doesn’t count nominations from their rookie year.)