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Imagine you’re at a car dealership and you ask the salesman to show you the best new models. You’re checking them out, giddy to see this year’s cream of the crop, and — surprise! — you realize he’s trying to sell you on a pre-owned car from 2008.

“What gives? That’s not new,” you say. “Buddy,” he says, putting a reassuring hand on your back, “you might know that, but lots of other people haven’t even heard of that model before. That’s new enough for us.” As reported by Dan Reilly for spinner.com

That, in essence, is the Grammys‘ stance on the Best New Artist award, an honor designed to catapult the winner to new heights of stardom.

There’s been some scrutiny over previous years’ selections — Evanescence over 50 CentMilli Vanilli over real singers, Starland Vocal Band over anything that makes sounds — but our biggest issue is how talented nominees like Bon IverEsperanza SpaldingShelby Lynne and Lauryn Hill can be called “new” when they’re precisely the opposite, a betrayal of the award’s reason for existing.

To clarify, here’s how the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences describes the category: “A new artist is defined as any performing artist who releases, during the eligibility year, the recording that first establishes the public identity of that artist as a performer.”

This is where things get murky. Bon Iver, the indie-rock band nominated this year, independently put out their debut, ‘For Emma, Forever Ago,’ in 2007. Though it wasn’t a runaway commercial success, it received great reviews from outlets like Pitchfork and the New York Times, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, had several of its songs placed in television shows and ended up on a slew of critic lists of best albums of the year and, later, the decade. That acclaim led to frontman Justin Vernon collaborating with Kanye West on ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,’ which in turn played some immeasurable part in Bon Iver’s self-titled second album debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard album charts.

Previous year’s nominees and winners have been worse than that not-quite-sensation.Esperanza Spalding, the 2011 victor who surprisingly beat out Florence and the MachineMumford and SonsDrake and Justin Bieber, was five years removed from her debut album — and was personally selected by President Obama to perform at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. But hey, nobody pays attention to that little event, especially not the Bieber fans who threatened to kill her.

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But here we are again, with Bon Iver taking the spot of a deserving new artist who could really benefit from all the buzz a nomination brings. Until then, all we can do is hope they finally get it right (and that the ceremony doesn’t top the four-hour mark).

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