With Daft Punk nominated in the record and album of the year categories, the Grammys have a chance to make history and begin to correct decades of misunderstanding and under-representing electronic music genre on Sunday. Throughout the award’s 56-year history, it has struggled in acknowledging, appreciating and even understanding electronic dance music.
Let’s start by going all the way back to the year the Grammys first introduced a dance music category … in 1998 … a whole 28 years after the iconic electronic band Kraftwerk formed.
After Daft Punk lost in the best dance category in 1998 and 1999 (to Madonna), the Grammys had some of its most embarrassing years. In 2000, Cher won for “Believe” (up against Gloria Estefan, Fatboy Slim, Jennifer Lopez and Donna Summer) and in 2001 Baha Men took home the best dance Grammy for “Who Let the Dogs Out?” (seriously).
Let that sink in.
Basically, from 1999 to 2011, the Grammys were extremely confused as to what the difference is between a pop and a dance recording (with a few exceptional winners like Dirty Vegas in 2003, The Chemical Brothers in 2006 and Daft Punk in 2009). A majority of winners during this time were artists like Justin Timberlake, Cher and Britney Spears. Now, you might argue that the lines between the two genres are pretty blurred or that the definition of EDM has only recently been made clear, but at the arguable height of mainstream electronica appreciation, 2010-2011, the winners were Lady Gaga and Rihanna, with an all-pop nominee list…
I need to mention here to emphasize my point: Justin Timberlake won best dance recording in 2007 against Depeche Mode and then again in 2008 against Justice. Edgard Varèse is rolling in his grave.
Sure, you can dance to songs by pop artists, but they already have a category or two. As of this year pop has: best pop solo performance, best pop duo/group performance, best pop instrumental album and best pop vocal album. Three years ago, there were seven categories in the pop field. Compared to the two categories for dance/electronica, with the best dance/electronica album award not being added until 2005.
There are currently five categories for Christian/gospel music, six for American roots (bluegrass, folk, Americana, etc) and eight in the classical music field. (But at least EDM is better off than poor alternative music, which only has one category.)
Everyone threw a huge fit in 2012 when Skrillex took home three Grammys because either you knew who he was and that’s not dubstep or you didn’t and what’s dubstep? But no matter what you think of Skrillex as an artist, his wins marked a turning point in the Grammys’ EDM knowledge. Electronic artists were finally nominated in the categories for dance music.
Skrillex took home both dance categories again in 2013. The problem: The Grammys decided not to even televise Skrillex winning. But 2013 marked the first time where the nominees did not include a single pop artist.
So that leaves us with Sunday’s Grammys Awards, where for the first time ever there’s an EDM act nominated for the record of the year and album of the year awards: electro-lords Daft Punk. If they win either, it’ll be the first time, in the history of the Grammys. The track record for the Grammys’ voters doesn’t look good, but maybe, just maybe, 2014 will mark the year that electronic music clicks at the award show.