How An Unexpected, Historical Grammy Nomination Changed Japanese Producer starRo’s Life Forever

Shaleen Ladha.

On the morning of December 6, 2016, Shinya Mizoguchi — who makes electronic music as starRo — woke up, rolled over, and saw a Twitter notification on his phone. Julie Pilat, head of music curation at Beats1 Radio, had tagged him in a tweet that read: “Congrats to @starRo75 on your Grammy Nom!!”. Attached was an image listing the names of the artists nominated for Best Remixed Recording. There was just one problem; starRo was spelt incorrectly, so Mizoguchi assumed it was hoax. It was not a hoax. He had been nominated for his remix of The Silver Lake Chorus’ version of “Heavy Star Movin’” in a category that he admits he didn’t even know existed, until he was nominated for it.

Among the list of nominees, starRo’s misspelled name (it was missing the little ‘r’) didn’t particularly stand out. The list included Chicago producer and five-time Grammy-nominee Ryan Raddon, aka Kaskade, German producer Timo Maas, who also received a nomination for the award back in 2004, and RAC’s André Allen Anjos, who eventually won for his remix of Bob Moses’ “Tearing Me Up.” It was the second year in a row Anjos had been nominated.

But while starRo’s name was not the most recognizable, his nomination was hugely symbolic. It made him the first ever Japanese-born electronic producer to be nominated for a Grammy, which Mizoguchi says in Japan “is almost equivalent to being nominated for a Nobel Prize.” He qualified the statement by referring to the Recording Academy as “the biggest authority in music.”

Within days, his manager was fielding interview requests from Japan and other parts of Asia. Television channels wanted him to appear on their talk shows, Dr Dre’s people called, and brands wanted to align themselves with his radiant, future-R&B. starRo was quickly becoming a star. When the Grammy Awards eventually rolled around in February, one of the largest Japanese television networks sent a crew to Los Angeles to shadow him for a week. They accompanied him to events at Facebook and Apple Music, filmed him driving around Los Angeles and at his home in Long Beach, and shot footage at his mid-week Grammy party at Los Angeles’ Regent Theater.

On Grammy day, they rode in his limousine to the awards and shot footage of him walking across the red carpet. The footage was edited into an eight-minute documentary-style feature and screened on News Zero, one of Japan’s most popular late-night news shows. When he returned to Japan this summer, he says, “People would stop me on the street and say, ‘Hey, I saw you on TV!’” It is perhaps the most exposure the Best Remixed Recording award has ever received. It’s hard to imagine an American or European artist gaining as much attention for an equivalent Grammy nomination.

The Best Remixed Recording category was first introduced to the Grammys in 1998, during a relatively settled period for the Recording Academy. Throughout the 1980s categories were frequently purged and renamed, but in the late ’90s and early ’00s the few additions were primarily in the electronic and hip-hop genres. Awards for Best Dance Recording, Best Rap Song and Best Dance/Electronic Album were all introduced.

But unlike those awards, which are presented to the artist who fronts the project, the award for Best Remixed Recording directly rewards the producer behind the music. Mizoguchi says, “The remix category is one of very few categories where music producers get the direct spotlight. Usually when you get nominated for a Grammy as a producer you are behind the scenes. But the remix category genuinely focuses on the track itself, and that really means a lot to me, and other producers like me.”