Grammys 2013 best dance electronica album: Who will win and who got snubbedBy Alan Cox | February 8th, 2013 | 5 comments
By Erik Myers
Electronic elements have become so prevalent in practically every genre, it can be difficult to determine what does and doesn’t belong in the Grammys 2013 best dance electronica album category. Take Coldplay; synths are at the heart of all of their greatest hits, but they’re largely accepted as a rock band. Lady Gaga, however, won this category in 2010 with “The Fame.” What gives?
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Not to worry, because the National Academy of Recording Arts & Science has a definition: “Vocal or instrumental albums containing at least 51 percent playing time of newly recorded material. This category is intended for groove-oriented recordings with electronic based instrumentation.”
Unfortunately, quite a few bad albums find their way into this category. Disagree? Read about best dance recording nominee Al Washer. To ease the pain, we’ll provide a cut from the album that, in a sane world, would’ve be nominated instead.
“Wonderland”, by Steve Aoki
Who? If you don’t recognize the name, the face should be familiar. When he isn’t a punchline to hipster jokes (all of which, of course, are of the inside variety), the ubiquitous Aoki produces, DJs and shows up in other artists’ music videos. His greatest contribution, however, would be Dim Mak, the record label he founded in 1996, introducing the world to good acts like Bloc Party, the Kills and Battles.
Will they win? Hah, no. The atrocious “Wonderland” revels in EDM clichés from the last decade, from the cookie-cutter song structures to nonsensical cameos. Rivers Cuomo singing over a techno beat is a twisted concept, but what if said track’s “extended version” is crammed in at the end? Sadistic, eh? Do yourself a favor and don’t click those links.
What album deserves this spot? “Floral Shoppe”, by Macintosh Plus. America deserves a higher standard of ridiculousness in this category, which is why I suggest this, the arch album of vaporwave. Where chillwave was all about making dance music out of early video game synths, vaporwave is more about recreating the squishy feeling of sitting in your school computer lab playing Oregon Trail instead of practicing typing.
“Don’t Think”, by The Chemical Brothers
Who? The esteemed Manchester duo have been popular since 1995 when they teamed with Noel Gallagher for “Setting Sun.” Since then, they’ve created some cool music, made some cool things and collaborated with some cool people. They also picked up two Grammys in this category somewhere along the way, making them the top dogs in this pack.
Will they win? The Chemical Brothers are this year’s spoiler. They’re well-respected by both industry and critic circles, making them a safe pick. But live albums have a mixed record in this category, and that it’s actually good kind of works against them here.
What album deserves this spot? “Galaxy Garden”, by Lone. This album has amazing percussion and a lovely lush atmosphere, ideal for “active chilling,” as termed by me.
“> album title goes here <”, by Deadmau5
Who? Deadmau5 (pronounced “dead mouse”) is the Canadian producer whose gimmick involves wearing oversized mouse masks while he performs. He’s part of the current generation of producers subverting dubstep, bringing in an audience far removed from the sun-deprived purists who once, long ago, called this genre their own.
Will he win? He’s the dark horse candidate. Judges might recognize the “serious” tone of Deadmau5’s obnoxiously titled, which is stacked tall with glum melodies on big beat structures. This effort isn’t overtly awful, excepting the song with the My Chemical Romance guy, but it’s bland enough to make its reception by Academy judges unpredictable.
What album deserves this spot? “Luxury Problems” by Andy Stott. It takes about 13 minutes for the Manchester producer’s third full-length to go from interesting to amazing, sedated bliss.
“Fire & Ice” – Kaskade
Who? Not only is Kaskade is the first producer from Chicago’s treasured house scene to receive this nomination, but he’s also the first Mormon. This might not matter if not for the fact that he’s the real church-every-Sunday deal, making him a unique character with a pretty standard sound.
Will he win? No. Kaskade’s background makes him a tempting choice, but his best song is years behind him. I suspect the Academy only included him because his name isn’t quite as “household” as his fellow nominees, so his inclusion makes the list seem deep to the unknowing eye. In this regard, Kaskade joins unusual-sounding names like Goldfrapp and LCD Soundsystem.
What album deserves this spot? “Shrines”, by Purity Ring. This Canadian duo will remind many of the Knife, but mostly because they possesses the deftness to move in so many directions within the span of a single record.
“Bangarang” – Skrillex
Who? Few Grammy nominees are as polarizing as Skrillex, the long-haired Los Angeles producer who returns after sweeping the dance categories last year with “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.” His unusual goth geek style hints to a former life as a screamo singer, one quickly disposed as he matured into the belligerent beat music which has had an indelible impact on electronic music as a whole. Having bashed almost every artist on this list, I now step down from my self-made pedestal to own up to the guilty pleasure he provides me.
Will he win? Yes. Anyone who takes away his title belt will be a spoiler on the level of the Baltimore Ravens, and the Chemical Brothers are without a Jacoby Jones. Skrillex is more popular and respected than any of his “brostep” peers simply because he is so much better at scouring catchy melodies out of the blare. Where Steve Aoki has Rivers Cuomo, Skrillex has Ellie Goulding, A$AP Rocky and his own Cirque du Soleil show.
What album deserves this spot? “Express Yourself”, by Diplo. (Video is NSFW!) While everyone’s favorite Philly DJ is nominated for the relatively lame “Best Non-Classical Producer” award, some of his best work ever is contained in this raucous dance EP, influenced by styles across the globe.
Electronic blogger Erik Myers is a Denver-based writer and new contributor to Reverb. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter.