What A SuperM Grammy Nomination Would Mean For K-Pop

By: Davonna Gilpin
Thumbnail courtesy of SM Entertainment

The June issue of Billboard magazine, published on June 13, features an article detailing potential contenders for the 2021 Grammys “Big Four”. The Big Four, named for being the most prestigious awards of the ceremony include Album of the Year, Record of The Year, Artist of The Year, and Best New Artist. 

The article listed SuperM as ‘within reach” for a Best New Artist nomination under the Recording Academy’s new rules. In a statement the Recording Academy says it will now “rely on the expertise of the Core and Genre Screening Committees to make the determination as to whether or not an artist had attained prominence in a prior year.” Which means any artist who has had a release in the eligible time frame and had a “breakthrough in the musical landscape” can be considered for the award.

The mention of SuperM and a Grammy nomination in the same sentence sent the SuperM fandom into a frenzy across social media with the topic trending worldwide on Twitter for hours. It shocked many of their fans especially considering the group is rarely active and released only one 7-song EP in October of 2019. The self-titled release came at the start of the 2021 Grammy eligibility period and went on to reach the top spot on Billboards Top 200 and sell well over 300,000 units in the United States alone.  

So now the real questions are: can SuperM really snag a Grammy nomination, or even better, a win? How will they catch the Recording Academy’s attention against their big-name counterparts?

Here’s how artists and their bodies of work get nominated:

Submit: Record labels/distribution companies/management firms have to register with the Recording Academy each year during a predetermined period. Once their registration is confirmed they can then submit their artists through an Online Entry Process (OEP) in two different rounds. The only way a song/album/artist can be nominated is if it is submitted. 

Campaign: Once the entry is confirmed for eligibility “submissions are then sorted by genre-based sorting committees” that will ensure all recordings are listed into their proper categories. Which then make up the first ballots for Recording Academy members to vote on. 

As a way to appeal to voters, artists will campaign through different methods to gain their interest. This can be done through significant media pushes where artists will be promoted on magazine covers, television shows, and online content very suddenly. Other ways include putting “for your consideration” ads on billboards and in music publications such Billboard and Rolling Stone and sometimes even communicating with known academy members directly by sending them concert tickets and gifts.

Votes: After reviewing submissions, the Recording Academy members will vote for categories that pertain to their expertise to “ensure the quality of voting” as stated by the Academy itself. They may vote in up to 15 categories plus the Big Four. Once all ballots have been submitted, they will be passed along to a third-party accounting firm to be tabulated. The top 5-8 bodies of work in each category will then become the nominees.

SuperM’s formation certainly garnered a lot of attention within the music industry. It was the first time a US record label collaborated with a South Korean label to form a group and all eyes were on them to see how they would do. With a top player like Capitol Records involved, they pulled off an extravagant debut roll out for the group that lasted the span of a week. Along with being the first Korean act to have their debut album top the Billboard album charts, they also held a sold-out tour across the States, playing in legendary venues like Madison Square Garden.  

If SuperM does manage to win over the hearts and ears of the Recording Academy members and guarantee a nomination, it would have astronomical effects for them and the K-pop genre as a whole. No Korean artist has been nominated for a Grammy in the ceremony’s 62 years of existence, not even Psy who arguably had the biggest song of 2012. The closest the genre has gotten is the nomination that branding company HuskyFox received for “Best Recording Package” for BTS’ 2018 album Love Yourself: Tear.

Many have pointed out the lack of Asian representation in major categories at the Grammys, saying that awarding multiracial artists of Asian descent like H.E.R and Anderson Paak is a step forward but not enough. Even BTS who was hailed by critics as one of the biggest and most visible artists of 2019, was notably snubbed for 2020 nominations.

Right before the 2020 ceremony, the Recording Academy was rocked by allegations of corruption, harassment, discrimination, and bribery. Such discoveries led President Deborah Dugan to blow the whistle on just how deep the misconduct went before she was ousted from her position. Since then, the Academy has vowed to implement actions to “transform” itself to guarantee equality and fairness. 

There is a long way to go for the Recording Academy to reflect the diversity and evolution in the current music industry. K-pop has become an unmovable force in all areas, from pulling album sale numbers that haven’t been seen since the early 00s to fandoms continuously breaking streaming records, the sub-genre should be included in Grammy conversations. SuperM receiving a nomination for Best New Artist will show that the Academy members have decided to break down the walls and take a step in the right direction towards inclusivity. 

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