updated 08/25/2015 AT 8:16 PM ET
•originally published 01/23/2014 AT 9:00 AM ET
Few categories at this weekend’s Grammy Awards are as simultaneously coveted and mocked as that of “Best New Artist,” an honor that’s gone both to such best-selling acts as Adele and The Beatles and such curious outliers as Milli Vanilli and The Starland Vocal Band. Every few years, the Grammy goes to a performer all but unknown to the majority of Americans (See: Esperanza Spalding, or – though not a “Best New Artist” pick – 2011 “Album of the Year.)
So, if you’re planning to watch the Grammys this Sunday with any of your … not-quite-hip relatives, here’s a guide for introducing them to 2014’s “Best New Artist” hopefuls:
“Yes, that’s a man singing. Yes, his voice is supposed to sound like that. Yes, the bass is very deep.” Avoid discussions of Blake’s music as “post-dubstep” or “dubstep” or anything other than “electronic,” really. Focus on his nonthreatening appearance and his English-ness.
Focus on good kid, m.A.A.d city’s “portrait of the artist as a young man (in Compton)” narrative ambitiousness, and the fact that Lamar includes messages from his mom and dad on the album. Do not mention that he has a song called “B—, Don’t Kill My Vibe.” If all else fails, describe him as a “hip-hopper” and leave it be.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
We’d suggest emphasizing Macklemore’s frugality as a selling point. Alternately, you could show them the above video, which features the rapper partying with a bunch of older women. “See, Nana? He respects his elders.”
Tied with James Blake for most nonthreatening nominee. Musgraves’s “Follow Your Arrow,” while ostensibly the most wishy-washy “everything’s okay” anthem to lifestyle permissiveness ever written, is actually quite daring and potentially feather-ruffling, given country music’s history of disliking things that aren’t tractors, dirt roads, whiskey, girls in cut-offs and heartbreak. So, just say she’s like Tammy Wynette crossed with Willie Nelson.
Sheeran is the closest thing this category has to a real-life teddy bear and thus requires no explanation. He wrote a nice human-interest song about a drug addict that – despite its sad, sad, sadness – is the most sonically unthreatening song since “Kumbaya.” Sheeran will be your grandparents’ favorite, and they will be upset if he doesn’t win.
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