After years of of the dance community firing off hot takes on how the Grammys’ dance/electronic fields didn’t quite get the nominees — and occasionally the winners — right, the realm has been uniquely quiet since the close of the ceremony on Sunday.
This general calm (minus a few predictable naysayers) suggests a mutual agreement that the 2024 Grammys finally, more or less, nailed dance/electronic music.
This success is largely due to the best pop dance recording award, newly introduced in 2024 to honor dance music that crosses over with pop, while also freeing up space in the dance/electronic recording category for more traditional thump-thump, womp-womp, boot-and-cats dance/electronic music.(Albeit more traditional dance/electronic music that’s still, most often, very commercially popular.)
You couldn’t have come up with two more apt figureheads for these factions than Kylie Minogue and Skrillex, with the former winning the pop dance Grammy for her culture-penetrating “Padam Padam” and the latter winning for his widely beloved bass bomb “Rumble,” a collaboration with U.K. grime MC Flowdan and Fred again.., who both also received awards for the win.
It is, of course, difficult to say what the nominee field would have looked like this year if pop dance hadn’t been introduced, but it’s almost certain it wouldn’t have represented the both sonic ends of the dance/electronic world thoroughly. (Racial and gender representation is a different matter: Flowdan was the only person of color nominated in the fields and Romy was the only female producer, encapsulating the dance category’s persistent issue with nominating mostly straight, white men. This issue was particularly acute in 2024, given the big four categories were dominated by women, including three winning queer women.)
Without the extra space provided to dance with the new category, it’s possible the dance/electronic recording category’s most left-of-center nominee, Aphex Twin’s “Blackbox Life Record 21F”, wouldn’t have made the cut. Or maybe only one David Guetta song instead of two would have been nominated.
It’s also possible that “Padam Padam” might have beat “Rumble,” the victory of which is particularly important given the spotlight it puts on grime, a sonic and cultural phenomenon in the U.K. but not yet a commercial force in the U.S. “I think you can put a bit more respect on the [grime] name,” Flowdan told Cracked Magazine following his win, “because in certain areas I feel that the music or the genre or the culture’s kind of downplayed as if it’s not something that’s really influential.”
What’s almost certain, though, is that like in so many years past, without pop dance, the nominee field would have likely ended up being just kind of odd, with dance-oriented pop stars like Minogue potentially up against an avant-garde electronic artist like Aphex Twin. This issue was vividly demonstrated last year, when Beyoncé was up against Bonobo, Kaytranada, Diplo, Rufus du Sol and ODESZA when her “Break My Soul” was nominated for (and won) best dance/electronic recording.
In the category’s early years, the nominee field commonly included artists like Minogue (who won the award in 2004), as well as fellow dance-leaning pop greats Madonna, Cher, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. It started more frequently rewarding electronic-world producers like The Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk in the late ’00s. A few years after that, the category was taken over by a new strain of pop-leaning dance music, EDM, for an era when mainstage bangers by artists like The Chainsmokers competed against more underground acts like Riton — exacerbating the issue that ultimately resulted in the addition of the new category.
Competition between such different artists may have been technically fair, but it never totally made sense. But this year, the pop dance category eradicated the strange-bedfellows phenomenon that’s plagued the dance/electronic recording category since it was introduced to the awards in 1998.
The pop dance category not only made a formal space for producers like Guetta, whose work generally has major crossover with pop, but, by awarding Minogue in particular, pulled off the neat trick of returning an artist like her — one whose work is so often inspired by and at home in the club world — to the dance field where she rightly belongs. Minogue is as much of a dance act as Skrillex, and this year, finally, they didn’t have to fight for space or recognition.
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