The Recording Academy has fixed a gaping hole in its eligibility requirements for Best New Artist. As a result, hip-hop newcomers Drake and Kid Cudi will be able to compete for the award, even though both artists were nominated in multiple categories at the show that was telecast in January.
The academy had a rule that artists were ineligible for Best New Artist if they had ever received a Grammy nomination in any category. That may seem reasonable at first glance, but the rule kept two prime candidates, Jennifer Hudson and Lady Gaga, from competing for Best New Artist in the past two years.
Hudson had been nominated in 2007 for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media for Dreamgirls, in which she appeared with Beyonce Knowles and Anika Noni Rose, among others. Gaga and Colby O'Donis had been nominated in 2008 for Best Dance Recording for her breakthrough smash, "Just Dance."
These early recordings preceded the release of their debut albums, Jennifer Hudson and The Fame, respectively.
Hudson and Gaga were caught in a classic Catch-22. Grammy rules dictated that artists could be considered for Best New Artist only when they released a full album. But when those artists finally did release their debut albums, they weren't eligible for Best New Artist because they had previously received Grammy nominations in other categories! They literally couldn't win. To its credit, the Recording Academy saw the problem and fixed it this year.
The correction came too late for Lady Gaga, who would almost certainly have won Best New Artist in January if she'd been eligible. She was nominated for all three of the leading awards, Album, Record and Song of the Year, which is highly unusual for a new artist. (The Best New Artist winner, country favorites the Zac Brown Band, wasn't nominated in any of those marquee categories.)
Hudson, too, might have won Best New Artist in February 2009 if she'd been eligible. She certainly would have been nominated. Her Jennifer Hudson album won for Best R&B Album, beating Al Green's Lay It Down. (Green is a long-time Grammy favorite, with 11 awards to his name.) Adele, a blue-eyed soul singer from England, took home the award as Best New Artist.
For awhile, it looked as though Drake and Kid Cudi would suffer the same fate that befell Gaga and Hudson. Both artists were nominated for multiple awards at the 52nd annual Grammy Awards on Jan. 31. Drake was a contender for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Solo Performance, both for "Best I Ever Had." Kid Cudi was nominated in both of those same categories for "Day 'N Night" and also for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for "Make Her Say," a collabo with Kanye West and Common.
This would have put the artists of luck, even though their debut albums were released in the current eligibility year, which began on Sept. 1, 2009. Drake's EP So Far Gone and Kid Cudi's Man On The Moon: The End Of Day were both released on Sept. 15. Drake's first full-length album, Thank Me Later, was released three weeks ago. It is already #10 in sales for the year-to-date.
Now that he's eligible, Drake has an excellent chance of winning the award. His main competition will include Susan Boyle, Ke$ha, Kid Cudi, Justin Bieber and B.o.B. Drake would be the first rap artist to win as Best New Artist since Arrested Development took home the prize way back in February 1993.
Even with the rule change, if an artist actually wins a Grammy in any category, they are still precluded from competing for Best New Artist when their debut album is released. So if Hudson or Lady Gaga had won on any those early nominations, they would still have been knocked out of the Best New Artist race.
Here are the current Best New Artist eligibility requirements: "The artist must have released, as a featured performing artist, at least one album but not more than three; and the artist must not have been entered for Best New Artist more than three times, including as a performing member of an established group. Any previous Grammy nomination for the artist as performer precludes eligibility in the Best New Artist category (including a nomination as an established performing member of a nominated group)."
These rules remain in effect with the following exception. "If an artist/group is nominated (but does not win) for the release of a single or as a featured artist or collaborator on a compilation or other artist's album before the artist/group has released an entire album (and becomes eligible in this category for the first time), the artist/group may enter this category in the eligibility year during which his/her/their first album is released."
That is written in Grammy-ese, which is only slightly easier to understand than Mandarin. But here's the bottom line: Drake will be a Best New Artist nominee, and quite possibly the winner when the 53rd annual Grammy Awards are telecast on Feb. 13.