LOS ANGELES — Wisconsin-bred band Bon Iver, the indie folk project founded by singer-songwriter Justin Vernon, was named best new artist at the 54th Grammy Awards, besting crowd favorite Nicki Minaj as well as a diverse set of performers from electronica, rap and country music.
Vernon first gained attention for his 2007 debut, “For Emma, Forever Ago,” recorded in isolation in rural Wisconsin and filled with soaring vocal harmonies. Between his debut and his self-titled second album released last year, Vernon collaborated with Kanye West, a move that introduced his name to a much wider audience. The Chicago hip-hop artist uses Vernon’s voice on the first track of “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” and closes the album with a song based on Bon Iver’s “Woods.”
Bon Iver’s second record, with each song based on a real or imaginary place, opened up his sound to soft-rock influences, as well as synths, horns and other instrumentation that veered away from his folk roots. It was also nominated, and won, for best alternative music album, counting as one of Vernon’s four Grammy nods this year.
This year’s crop for best new artist is heavier on hip-hop than it has been in the last few years, and was also notable for the inclusion of up-and-coming dance titan Skrillex. Past notable winners of the best new artist award in the last decade include Amy Winehouse, Adele, Carrie Underwood and John Legend.