Grammy season is upon us, and while the list of 2018 dance nominations saw some familiar faces fade into the background, the new class tips its hat to old favorites and brightly burning upstarts alike. Live electronic music gets a big nod of approval, as do crossover wins.
Some of the names on the list may even surprise you. Here’s how the Billboard Dance team unpacks the news.
Live Bands Favored Over DJs for Best Dance Recording
In the immortal words of James Murphy, “I hear you’re buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real.” The Grammys hear that sentiment loud and clear, as the 2017 nominations for best dance recording make a bold stand for live electronic compositions, favoring bands LCD Soundsystem (“Tonite”), ODESZA (“Line of Sight”), Bonobo (“Bambro Koyo Ganda”) and Gorillaz (“Andromeda”) over snubbed production champion Calvin Harris. Computer-King Skrillex took home the golden Gramophone in three of the past six years, but times, they are a-changin’. Looking back on the year, Gorillaz receiving the award would make for the perfect ending of their impeccable rollout of Humanz.
Club World Gets a Surprising Nod
Only CamelPhat and Elderbrook‘s nomination for “Cola” gives a nod to traditional club jams, a dark house groove that’s begun to break on dance radio and even topped the Dance Club Songs chart with increasing momentum. Despite its continued climb across radio and streaming, the pick seems premature.
Calvin Harris Snubbed
Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 was Calvin Harris‘ third album to take the No. 1 spot on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart and displayed the producer’s greatest evolution since 2012’s 18 Months, but the Grammys chose to skip Harris in every dance category this year. He is nominated for producer of the year, citing his work on the album as a whole, as well as DJ Khaled‘s “Don’t Quit,” but his summer smashes “Feels,” a Billboard Hot 100 top 20 hit, and lead single “Slide” are mysteriously missing.
ODESZA and Bonobo Lead the Race for Best Dance Album
Bonobo and ODESZA get the coveted double-nod for their respective full-length works Migration and A Moment Apart. Both sparked acclaimed live tours and featured beautiful cross-genre collaborations, but Mura Masa’s nominated self-titled debut album stands tall next to them. Assists from Charli XCX, Desiigner, A$AP Rocky and Gorillaz’s Damon Albarn helped push the LP to crack the Billboard 200. However, the storytelling of ODESZA’s body of work is too good not to be crowned.
Indie Dance Makes Its Way Into the Spotlight
North Carolina duo Sylvan Esso cut through the crowd with What Now, a cute and glitchy comment on over-hyped commercial correctness that soared to No. 32 on the Billboard 200, and purists will be pleased to see iconic electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk round out the list with its second official live album 3-D The Catalogue. Not to mention, both ODESZA and Bonobo’s albums were released on taste-making indie label Ninja Tune. Interestingly, Cashmere Cat’s official Interscope LP 9 was left out in the Norwegian cold.
Headliners Lose Footing in Best Remixed Recording
The best remixed recording is typically a headliner’s game. While the past two winners have been RAC and Dave Aude, both of whom have made a name for themselves in the industry with their reworks having the Midas touch, previous artists to be crowned include Justice in 2009, David Guetta in 2010 and 2011, Skrillex in 2012 and 2013, and Cedric Gervais, who dropped the biggest track of his career in 2014 with an explosive remix of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness.”
Louie Vega leads the nominees list with his “Roots Mix” of Loretta Holloway’s “Can’t Let You Go.” While his name might not be familiar to the outside world, Vega is no stranger to the Grammys, as he was nominated and awarded for best remix in 2006.
The 84-Year-Old Outcast
Bobby Rush’s “Funk O’ De Funk,” remixed by up-and-coming act SMLE, comes across as the outcast of the group. Bobby Rush, who recently turned 84, is a blues and soul musician who dished out his debut album Rush Hour in 1979. Fast-forward nearly four decades later and we have his 2016 LP ‘Porcupine Meat’. There’s no doubt SMLE brings some extra funk to the hip-swinging record, but a Grammy nom feels like a stretch.
The xx Delivers Again
Remixes of Depeche Mode, The xx and Kehlani don’t come as a big surprise. Four Tet’s exquisite rendition of “A Violent Noise” by The xx serves as a front-runner for Billboard Dance. The UK producer has a running history of reinterpreting The xx’s records and seems to deliver every time.