The first annual Electronic Music Awards (EMAF) announced its 2016 nominees yesterday. In seven categories, Calvin Harris, Diplo, DJ Snake and Galantis led the way with two nominations apiece and … wait! Where are you going? I haven't even mentioned who's up for Radio Show of the Year yet!
In case anyone was wondering whether the world really needs an EDM-centric awards show, the answer, based on yesterday's response to the EMAF nominations, is clearly “no.” The Internet greeted the news with a collective shrug. Despite relentless promotion from the @EMAFawards Twitter account, the #EMAFawards hashtag barely registered. Dutiful coverage in the dance music press went virtually unacknowledged. A Mixmag post announcing the nominees got zero comments and a whopping nine retweets; Dancing Astronaut inspired six commenters, although two of them were spam and another spoke for all of us when he said, “lol what a fucking joke.”
EMAF (the “F” stands for “Foundation,” although at this point it may as well stand for “Fucked”) is the brainchild of Paul Oakenfold, and I'm sure his intentions in putting together the awards were noble. Whether you love Oakie or hate him, you can't deny that he's been one of dance music's most vocal and visible advocates for nearly 30 years, and he's always tried, whether as a DJ, label boss or nightclub owner, to pitch a big tent under which dance music's many tribes and factions can come together.
But that very big-tent mentality may be why the Electronic Music Awards look dead on arrival. It's all fine and dandy to have a few broad categories like Single of the Year, Album of the Year and even DJ of the Year. But why not Best Techno Record, or Best Dubstep DJ? Without more genre-specific categories, EMAF just looks like a me-too imitation of the Grammys' electronic music categories, with a few more industry-specific awards (for radio show, club and festival) tacked on in what seems like a rather obvious ploy to drum up some free publicity from heavy hitters like Insomniac, Fabric and BBC Radio 1 (we nominated three of your shows, BBC Radio … please mention us on the air?).
The Electronic Music Awards no doubt also suffer a bit from launching less than a week after the first Grammy Awards since … well, ever, to include some worthy nominees in its two electronic music categories, Best Dance Recording and Best Dance/Electronic Album. Yes, Diplo and Skrillex's entertaining but rather artless Jack Ü project won both, but they were up against a field that, for once, actually represented a pretty good cross-section of quality electronic and dance music: Flying Lotus, Caribou, Disclosure, Galantis, Jamie xx, The Chemical Brothers and Above & Beyond. Compare that list with the nominees in EMAF's comparable Single of the Year and Album of the Year categories: Disclosure, Galantis, Jamie xx, Calvin Harris, The Chainsmokers, Kygo, Major Lazer and Alina Baraz & Galimatias. Is one group any more cutting-edge than the other? Not really.
To be fair, some of the EMAF nominations are interesting and unexpected. Nominating DJ Snake for Best New Artist more than two years after “Turn Down for What” may be incredibly clueless, but including Jauz and Bob Moses in the category is proof that whoever is on Oakenfold's nominating committee is at least savvier than the shills at DJ Mag. And it was a nice surprise to see L.A.'s own Sound among the nominees for Best Club of the Year, alongside much bigger and more well-established international brands like Fabric and Amnesia.
But ultimately, this is an awards show that no one really needed – especially here in America, where dance music's fan base remains, despite its massive size, doggedly uninterested in any attempts to shift their culture into the mainstream. They didn't go see that stupid-looking Zac Efron EDM movie and they probably won't tune in to the Electronic Music Awards when they air on Fox on April 23. And frankly, as a dance music fan myself, this makes me happy. Nothing turns any music scene into populist mush faster than giving it an awards show. Serious country music fans hate the CMAs and serious hip-hop fans hate the BET Awards. Why should dance music be any different?
Anyway, even though no one cares, here are the nominees for the first Electronic Music Awards.
Single of the Year
Calvin Harris & Disciples – How Deep is Your Love
The Chainsmokers – Roses (feat. ROZES)
Galantis – Runaway (U & I)
Kygo – Stole the Show (feat. Parson James)
Major Lazer & DJ Snake – Lean On (feat. MØ)
Album of the Year
Alina Baraz & Galimatias – Urban Flora
Calvin Harris – Motion
Disclosure – Caracal
Galantis – Pharmacy
Jamie xx – In Colour
Radio Show of the Year
BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix
BPM with Geronimo – Sirius XM
Danny Howard – BBC Radio 1’s Dance Anthems
Diplo and Friends – BBC Radio 1Xtra
Jason Bentley – Morning Becomes Eclectic – KCRW
Festival of the Year
Creamfields – Daresbury, England
Electric Daisy Carnival – Las Vegas
Sonar – Barcelona, Spain
The BPM Festival – Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Ultra Music Festival – Miami
DJ of the Year
Best New Artist
Best Club of the Year