Random thought I just had: the Grammys could save themselves — and us — a lot of trouble if they changed their Best New Artist category to Best Breakthrough Artist.
Different artists get popular at different speeds (if they get popular at all, of course). Some become well known on the very first single from their very first album. But others toil under the radar and maybe get their first big public recognition on their fourth or fifth album. The problem with Best “New” Artist is that newness is difficult to define. Should you have released your very first studio album in the eligibility year? What if you had a previous album that no one (least of all Grammy voters) ever listened to? And “New” is kind of insulting to a nominee who’s been working for a while without recognition, as if to say, “As far as we’re concerned, you didn’t exist before now.”
“Breakthrough” gives the Grammys leeway. You can acknowledge an artist’s first big cultural impact without demanding that they be brand new on the scene (like Shelby Lynne’s win a while back). In this case, the only criteria you would need would be that you never had any previous Grammy nominations.
I think they should keep the same name and just make a definitive rule. I think this category’s biggest problem has always been the inconsistencies of the rules. It almost feels like they change them all the time to help people they want to be nominated… sorry, but I just think bending the rules to benefit certain people is plain cheating, not fair at all to the other people nominated or up for a nomination. As for Daniel’s point about people breaking through later in their careers, it does make sense if you’re an indie act for example… it is harder to get noticed right off the bat if ever, but if you are on a major label, it’s really messed up going past your debut album and still be considered for this award…
I agree with both Daniel and kadu. Either make a definitive rule for Best New Artist to end the confusion or rename the category to Best Breakthrough Artist and keep the rules you already have. I don’t see what’s so hard about changing the name of the category or just coming up with a simple rule(s) of what a “new artist” truly is. I think every act should be put on equal footing if you’re going to keep the “Best New Artist” name.