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Five big questions for next week's Grammy nominations reveal

Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

When nominations for the 62nd Grammy Awards are announced Nov. 20, observers will have the first sign of how the music industry's premier awards show is adapting to a new era. In August, Deborah Dugan began her term as the Recording Academy's first female president and chief executive, having taken over for Neil Portnow, who was roundly criticized in 2018 when he said that women should "step up" if they wanted to be recognized at the Grammys.

The most recent ceremony, in February, suggested that change was already underway, with impressive showings by the likes of Kacey Musgraves, Dua Lipa and Cardi B. But since then the primacy of digital streaming and concerns about inclusion have only deepened the perceived need for the Grammys to evolve. Here are five questions to keep in mind ahead of next Wednesday's announcement, which will set the stage for the main event scheduled for Jan. 26 at Staples Center.

1. Will Billie Eilish and Lizzo go four-for-four?

Nobody is wondering whether Billie Eilish and Lizzo will be nominated for Grammys; what's unsure is just how many each of them will have a crack at.

Undeniably two of the biggest acts in pop music this year, the singers are expected by industry insiders to score nods for all four of the Grammys' most coveted prizes: album, record and song of the year, along with best new artist. (Record of the year is presented to performers and producers; song of the year goes to songwriters.)

In the 17-year-old Eilish's case, the nominations would recognize her smash debut, "When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" -- a whispery, hip-hop-attuned set that hasn't left Billboard's top 10 since its release in March -- and her hit single "Bad Guy," which has been streamed more than 1.6 billion times on Spotify and YouTube. For Lizzo, 31, the Recording Academy is poised to honor the brash R&B star's gold-certified "Cuz I Love You" album as well as "Truth Hurts," her Hot 100-topping anthem about taking a DNA test and discovering that she's "100% that bitch."

 

Being nominated in each of the four major categories isn't unprecedented. Sam Smith did it most recently in 2015; others before Smith include the late Amy Winehouse, Mariah Carey, Tracy Chapman and Cyndi Lauper. (In what might have been yacht rock's high-water mark, Christopher Cross actually won all four Grammys in 1981 thanks to his smooth "Sailing.") If Eilish and Lizzo pull it off, though, it will be the first time two acts have gone four-for-four in the same year.

"It's a really good story," said Lenny Beer, longtime editor in chief of the music industry trade journal Hits, who added that the elevation of two "unique and magical" artists would demonstrate both the academy's attentiveness to new music and its good-faith effort to expand diversity in the all-genre categories.

2. Will there be love for "Lover"?

At the last Grammy Awards, Taylor Swift -- an established academy favorite with 10 trophies to her name -- failed to earn a nomination for album of the year with "Reputation," her uncharacteristically bleak meditation on the costs of modern celebrity.

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