Handicapping the Dance Music Grammys

Written by

Michaelangelo Matos

Mar 12, 2021

2 min read

A recent post by the writer Nelson George puts it best: “Grammy voting is its own weird universe.” That’s even truer of the dance music categories than the pop, rock, and Black music ones for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards, held this Sunday. (Here is the full list of nominees.)

So much of dance music’s lifeblood is generated during in-person events. A year without them makes assessing the state of dance music difficult enough for those who live for it—which the Grammys’ electorate, generally speaking, doesn’t. As is mostly the case, with this year’s pair of dance-music Grammy Awards, it’s best to stick to the names older voters may already know.  

In the case of Best Dance Recording, we can probably dismiss at least one nominee out of hand for that reason. Jayda G’s “Both of Us” is a lovely, deep piano-house track, exactly the sort of thing the older dance-voting bloc can get behind, but she hasn’t quite broken beyond the dance world. Though both Flume and his guest vocalist Toro y Moi have some name recognition, it’s hard to imagine “The Difference” mopping up votes on that alone. Disclosure is certainly familiar to Grammy voters, the zigzagging bounce of “My High” is grabby, and vocalists Aminé and Slowthai put the song across, but it’s not quite memorable enough to feel like the winner here.

The other two do. Kali Uchis’ sultry vocal turns Kaytranada’s “10%” from a slinky track into a delectable song. (The song’s video, depicting an intimate club scene, also anticipated Lovers Rock, Steve McQueen’s masterpiece about a Black house party in early-eighties London.) It seems like a no-brainer—but then there’s Diplo & SIDEPIECE’s “On My Mind” is an agreeable disco chugger with a nicely spaced-out breakdown, though it’s not as compelling as “10%.” But when has something like that ever stopped the Grammys?

Breakdown

Diplo & SIDEPIECE, “On My Mind” - 3-1

Disclosure feat. Aminé & Slowthai, “My High” - 7-1

Flume feat. Toro y Moi, “The Difference” - 9-1

Jayda G, “Both of Us” - 6-1

Kaytranada feat. Kalu Uchis, “10%” - 4-1

Many of those rules apply to the Best Dance/Electronic Album nominees—but not with the exact same results. Voters surely know Baauer, up for Planet’s Mad, even though his big moment, “Harlem Shake,” is almost a decade old now. Disclosure, though, are known as an albums act rather than a singles one, and that will undoubtedly sway the rubberneckers who ultimately decide these things. 

Breakdown

Arca, Kick 1 – 8-1

Baauer, Planet’s Mad – 4-1

Disclosure, Energy – 3-1

Kaytranada, Bubba – 7-1

Madeon, Good Faith – 10-1