What constitutes a new artist? It’s a question that’s likely on the minds of many who have pored over the list of best new artist nominees at next year’s Grammys.
Indeed, this year’s crop — announced along with the rest of the nominees on Friday (Nov. 10) — includes several acts with notably deep discographies. Jelly Roll — one of 2023’s biggest breakthroughs — started releasing a long string of albums more than a decade ago. Victoria Monét put out her debut EP way back in 2015. And prior to releasing this year’s Lover’s Game, Americana duo The War and Treaty already had three albums under their belt and years of experience outside the band before that.
This is far from a new phenomenon. Chance the Rapper, who won best new artist in 2017, had released three albums prior to winning the award. Lizzo had also put out three full-lengths, including her breakthrough smash Cuz I Love You, prior to her 2020 nomination in the category. And the category’s 2011 winner, Esperanza Spalding, had likewise put out a trio of albums prior to taking home the award.
Some of this is the result of The Recording Academy changing the eligibility criteria over the last decade-and-a-half. After Lady Gaga was deemed ineligible for best new artist in 2010 because she’d been nominated for a Grammy for best dance recording the year prior, the academy updated its rules to allow previous nominees to be nominated for best new artist — just as long as they hadn’t actually won a Grammy, or released an entire album.
Six years after that, the academy again updated the eligibility requirements “to remove the album barrier given current trends in how new music and developing artists are released and promoted.” It also required artists to have “released a minimum of five singles/tracks or one album, but no more than 30 singles/tracks or three albums” in order to qualify.
In 2020, the academy updated the requirements once more by declining to specify the “maximum number of releases” an artist could put out before being deemed ineligible. Instead, it stated that “screening committees will determine whether the artist had attained a breakthrough or prominence prior to the eligibility year.” Today, the academy officially describes the category as recognizing “an artist whose eligibility-year release(s) achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and notably impacted the musical landscape.” In sum, the definition of “new” has become more open-ended than ever.
That may be why this year’s group of nominees is arguably one of the most head-scratching in Grammys history. Below, we take a look at just how “new” this year’s best new artist nominees really are.
The 2024 Grammy Awards ceremony will be telecast live from Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on Feb. 4.
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