On Sunday night, Bon Iver won the Grammy for Best New Artist. Monday morning, Gawker posted the video of Bon Iver’s acceptance speech, noting his “ironic detachment.”
I was really hoping that Justin Vernon would get up there and thank folks for the award and then tell everyone in the auditorium and those sitting at home about to start the internet meme of asking Who is Bon Iver, that he wasn’t a new artist. This was his second full album.
I don’t take the Grammys all that seriously. I actually went to sleep on Sunday night at 9 pm. I still strongly believe that if an artist performs and is backstage when an award they’ve been nominated for is being announced, they are the winner. Despite this lack of interest, the one thing about the Grammys that always angers is me is how they handle the Best New Artist category. This has been a thorn in my side since Fountains of Wayne was nominated in 2004 for Welcome Interstate Managers. It wasn’t that the album wasn’t good – it was. And it wasn’t that Fountains of Wayne didn’t deserve recognition – they did. It was that this was their third album. Their first had been released in 1996.
In fairness to the Grammys, the rules for Best New Artist don’t really require the artist to be new. Their rules state: “For a new artist who releases, during the Eligibility Year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist.”
Maybe this is nothing more than semantics, but does that guideline need the word “new” if it also covers the first recording “which establishes the public identity of that artist”? Either the artist is new or they’re not. If the Grammys are going to include artists who have released albums before, they need to change the name of the award.
Take a look at some of the Best New Artists winners since 2000. Some of the artists or groups were recognized for their first album, like Christina Aguilera or Norah Jones or Evanescence. However, in 2001, Shelby Lynne won after spending 13 years in the music industry and releasing six albums. Far worse is the example of Maroon 5. They won in 2005 after one of the songs from their 2002 album was released as a single.
None of this is to take away from the hard work and accomplishments of the bands and singers who are nominated or those who win. I just want to know how the Grammys can justify giving the Best New Artist award to a guy whose 2007 debut made it on Rolling Stones’ Top 100 Albums of the 2000s. Sure sounds like a guy who established his public identity.
But it’s time for the Grammys to make up their mind. Every year in this category, the Grammys compare apples and oranges. They’ve got to make a decision. Either it’s only artists who have released their debut album in the past year or remove the word “new” from the guidelines and the title. Make it the “rising star” award or some other title the Grammy folks could come up with. Because right now they sound like your friend who starts liking indie bands after they are played during some CW show. And until the Grammys figure it out, I’m secluding myself in a cabin in northwestern Wisconsin.