Best New Who?

One of the most entertaining Grammy categories is always Best New Artist. That's because, in addition to the usual dash of Grammy irrelevancy, we also get some extra cluelessness and straight-up factual inaccuracy. Let's face it: "new" and "Grammys" don't really go hand in hand. The Old Guard is always well represented. How else can you explain Herbie Hancock receiving an album of the year nomination for his collection of Joni Mitchell covers? When the Academy does try to get with the times, we end up with something like Jethro Tull beating out Metallica for Best Metal Performance in 1989.

This year's Best New Artist field is pretty predictable. Feist and Amy Winehouse were givens, never mind the fact that their debut albums came out in 1999 and 2003, respectively. The nominations of R&B singer Ledisi and country teen queen Taylor Swift aren't too outrageous, either, at least by Grammy standards. Ledisi hasn't made much impact on the charts but she has a classic soul sound on a classic label (Verve), while Swift is just what the industry needs right now - a young star who could reel off a string of platinum albums. So we've got those four female singers and ... Paramore?

I'll be honest, I had no idea who or what Paramore was until yesterday's nominations came out. Another up-and-coming R&B star? A French rapper getting in on the whole misspelling trend? Turns out it's an emo-pop band led by a spunky young female named Hayley Williams. Evanescence without the gloom, or something like that. The band's sound is extremely polished and formulaic: the big riffs and soaring choruses always come in right on cue. It's nothing terribly offensive but it does raise this question: Out of the thousands of rock bands that could have been considered for a Best New Artist nomination, how the heck did the fogey-loving Academy decide on a band that appeals to the segment of the adolescent population that has MySpace set as its Internet start page? Perhaps the real award here should be given to the PR folks at record label Fueled By Ramen. After breaking Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco and now Paramore, it's clear that they know how to achieve results.

By David Malitz |  December 7, 2007; 1:30 PM ET Awards
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