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BEST NEW ARTIST:
FIRST ROUND AND THE WINDS OF CHANGE

This year’s first-round Grammy ballot includes such contenders for BNA as Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Lil Nas X, Rosalía, Maggie Rogers, Lewis Capaldi, Badflower, Tyler Childers, Dominic Fike, Juice WRLD, Lil Tecca, Saweetie, Morgan Wallen and Megan Thee Stallion among the 275 names advanced for the category.

The scuttlebutt from Grammyland, as voters review their first-round ballots, is that change is in the wind.

There’s been much controversy surrounding the rules governing Best New Artist eligibility, which will undoubtedly be among the first agenda items for review.

At present, we’re told, a research team tabulates a potential nominee’s releases to determine whether an artist is in or out. The first rule is three albums—more than that, the current rules state, and you’re not a new artist. But the total tracks on those three can exceed the much-talked-about 30-song limit. It’s when there are singles or other releases beyond the three albums, we’re told, that the song limit can be used to disqualify.

Insiders report that there is some wiggle room and the above is subject to the committee’s discretion. But it’s said that no one is particularly happy with how the sausage is made—and that next time around we could be looking at changes to the recipe. Why, for example, should a teen artist who’s uploaded every song she’s ever recorded to SoundCloud—but who’s never formally released an album—be penalized?

The qualification process is always a controversial subject, and in the past there’s been little or no clarification from inside the Academy about why things happened. That no longer seems to be the case, insiders say. New Academy chief Deborah Dugan and Board Chair Harvey Mason Jr. are aware that the new rules need to be modernized to reflect an era of streaming and mixtapes. While the freshly installed administration couldn’t change the rules midyear, most expect a serious reconsideration before the next go-round.

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