Bangers, be gone.
This year the Recording Academy has fully dropped its inclusion of straight-up EDM and even the inclusion of its more sophisticated cousin, IDM. Instead, the 2021 dance/electronic nominations are celebrating relatively experimental output by artists well-known and much-beloved in the dance scene — Kaytranada, Baauer, Flume and Arca among them.
Those names come alongside a historic nom for Jayda G, dance acts sprinkled throughout non-dance categories and other highlights of this year’s nominations crop. Here are seven things the Grammys got right in this year’s dance/electronic nominations — and a few things they got wrong, too.
Rewarding Respected (But Never Before Nominated) Artists: Baauer, Kaytranada, Madeon and Arca aren’t necessarily the flashiest artists in the scene, but all four veteran producers (and first-time nominees) are revered in the cooler and somewhat more experimental realms of the dance world. While best dance album nominees in years past have been linked by a sort of overall tone or genre, this year the Grammys are simply rewarding slightly offbeat, critically well received albums that reflect where each artist is at on their own personal trajectory rather than where the dance scene is as a whole. And while Disclosure just gets nominated every time they release something, it’s mostly because they deserve to be.
Jayda G: The dance/electronic categories have long had a gender inequality issue, with almost exclusively white cisgendered men getting nominated during much of the last decade. Now, enter Jayda G. The beloved dance world phenom got a much-deserved nomination for her slinky, piano stab-laden house anthem “Both Of Us.” Currently being widely celebrated across the dance scene, G’s nomination simultaneously checks boxes for gender and racial inclusivity, quality and just plain old high caliber club-oriented dance music.
Queer Inclusion: In categories historically dominated by white, cisgendered men, this year the Grammys include a pair of queer artists, Arca and Kaytranada. By including these acts The Grammys nod not only to the excellent albums they made, but to the LGBTQ+ origins of the dance genre and the LGBTQ+ producers who’ve long been killing it in this space.
Including Dance/Electronic Artists in Categories Outside Dance/Electronic: Los Angeles legend Flying Lotus got a much-deserved Producer of the Year nomination (one that he tweeted made him “emotional as hell r now”), while Boreta from The Glitch Mob was nominated for Best New Age album for FORM/LESS, his album as Superposition made with musician Matthew Davis and Kaytranada got the nod for Best New Artist. (We’d argue that that nom has come about a half decade late, but whatever.) While the dance Grammys still don’t get a lot of shine during the actual broadcast, it’s great to see the Recording Academy understands how much influence these artists have both in and beyond their respective genre.
Diplo & Sidepiece: Diplo had a mother lode of releases this year, including an album with Major Lazer and his debut country LP Diplo Presents Thomas Wesley Volume 1: Snake Oil. The best of his 2020 output, however, was arguably via his house-oriented Higher Ground label, the star of which was the undeniably funky collab with Sidepiece, “On My Mind.” One of the best and most buoyant dance tracks of the year, this nomination reflects both the Recording Academy’s ongoing affection for Diplo — who won a Grammy as Jack Ü with Skrillex and as Silk City with Mark Ronson — and Diplo’s own sonic evolution. The funked-out Purple Disco Machine edit of “On My Mind” also should have been nominated for best remixed recording.
Imanbek’s “Roses” Remix Struts Into the (Nominees) Club: Imanbek came out of nowhere (“nowhere” in this case being the producer’s home country of Kazakhstan) this year with his remix of SAINt JHN’s “Roses,” which has spent the bulk of 2020 on top of the Dance/Electronic Songs chart and has been a major hit at sporting events and Zoom weddings throughout 2020. While nominations in this category can often feel a bit arbitrary, it’s cool to see the Recording Academy giving the nod to what was just obviously the most popular edit of the year.
Understanding What’s Dance Music, And What’s Just…Not…Really…Dance Music: Few would dispute that Kygo made an excellent album this year, but many would dispute whether or not that LP, Golden Hour, is actually a dance/electronic album. With artists like Kygo, The Chainsmokers and Marshmello pushing further and further into the pop realms — collabing with pop stars and getting play on charts well beyond Dance/Electronic — with the exclusion of these acts the Recording Academy acknowledged that in terms of dance music, the priorities lie with music that is obviously of the scene versus that which is very specifically trying to exist as a dance/pop crossover.
What The Grammys Got Wrong
Mostly Dudes, Again: The Grammys straight up ignored albums by Jessie Ware, Róisín Murphy and Aluna, instead opting to once again acknowledge a mostly male collection of artists. Too bad.
Club Future Nostalgia Is Shut Out: The best remixed recording eategory is determined by a craft committee rather than member voting, making the nominations process more opaque, but what’s glaringly clear is the absence of a August’s excellent Club Future Nostalgia, a front to back edit of Dua Lipa’s six-time-nominated Future Nostalgia.
Helmed by renowned dance producer and DJ The Blessed Madonna and featuring a who’s who of the dance scene — Yaeji, Jacques Lu Cont, Moodyman, Paul Woolfard, etc. — the remix album contains many tracks that could have (and should have) been put up for Best Remix, The Blessed Madonna’s shimmering take on “Love Is Religion” not the least among them. For whatever reason, nothing from this project got the nod, shutting out a slick, boundary pushing and truly fun project with real deal dance world bonafides and once again excluding any female artists from the best category. (The first woman ever nominated in this category came just last year, with producer Tracy Young winning the Grammy for her edit of Madonna’s “I Rise.”)
Some Big (And Deserving) Acts Are Ignored: Calvin Harris hit acid house gold with his Love Regenerator project, Caribou returned with another round of lush and shimmering bangers in Suddenly, Odesza and Golden Features released one of the best albums of the year with their collaborative project Bronson, and Kevin Saunderson’s Inner City project returned after three decades with the excellent Detroit techno heavy We All Move Together. Did any of them get nominated? Sadly (and strangely) they did not.
See the complete list of dance/electronic nominees below.
Best Dance Recording
“On My Mind” — Diplo & SIDEPIECE
“My High” — Disclosure Featuring Aminé & Slowthai
“The Difference” — Flume Featuring Toro y Moi
“Both Of Us” — Jayda G
“10%” — Kaytranada Featuring Kali Uchis
Best Dance/Electronic Album
Kick I, Arca
Planet’s Mad, Baauer
Good Faith, Madeon
Best Remixed Recording
“Do You Ever (RAC Mix)” — Phil Good
“Imaginary Friends (Morgan Page Remix)” — Deadmau5
“Praying for You (Louie Vega Main Remix)” — Jasper Street Co.
“Roses (Imanbek Remix)” — SAINt JHN
“Young & Alive” (Bazzi vs. Haywyre Remix) — Bazzi