New Age, closely related to Ambient, is a style of music that apexed in the early '90s - an era during which "Sail Away" siren Enya took home the highly coveted Grammy on four separate occasions. The Needle Drop's Anthony Fantano recently stated that listening to New Age music is like "looking at a painting," which warrants the question: who the fuck looks at a painting for an hour and twenty minutes?
Every album nominated in this category begins with a very long-winded instrumental swell that features some sort of bell ringing and atmospheric washes cascading in the background. The exception to this is R. Carlos Nakai and Will Clipman's Awakening the Fire, which begins with the pan flute, tribal drumming and a shaker. There's pan flute all over this album. Fuck yeah. Sometimes people subscribe to clichés with such a ham-handed obviousness that we don't even need to make a joke. See you in the spirit world, young wolf cub.
Peter Kater's Illumination tracklist is as follows: Blessing, Patience, Clarity and Healing. So more or less this album follows the same trajectory of content as featured in your uncle's book of poetry that he wrote when he was in rehab for a painkiller addiction. Kater has been nominated nine times in the past ten years but has never won a Grammy. Most would consider this an indication that he should switch to a more esoteric style of music, but as there are none, he's definitely the underdog's choice for the win. Dark horse!
Japanese New Age legend Kitaro's album Final Call sounds like what you hear when you eject yourself from a spaceship. We're gonna go ahead and clarify that that is a compliment. Laura Sullivan's Love's River is an album of piano songs that sound like they are the musical accompaniment to your little cousin's fifth grade ballet recital. Nothing particularly offensive but we don't even know how this classifies as 'New Age.' And ballet is boring so this isn't going to win.
Last but never least is weirdo pop/ambient overlord, Brian Eno. This album sounds like the tones that wash over you when, after a lifetime of good deeds and pleasant thoughts, you die and are lifted slowly towards heaven - very, very slowly (did I mention slowly?)
THE VERDICT: Brian Eno gets Stereotude's nod for the win here. Name recognition alone will push him over the edge. The stodgy 'ol Grammy voting squad is too busy making sure that they know the difference between Drake and Kendrick Lamar to even care about New Age. Even if any of the voters are intrepid enough to listen to any of these albums, they'll be asleep by the second track, by which point they'll still have to revert to name recognition.