The 2022 edition of the Grammy Awards will be bigger than ever, literally.
In a quest to expand its diversity and scope, the music world’s most prestigious, comprehensive and — at times — contentious annual awards show is expanding its four biggest categories. That could make the voting margins even closer for some of the top 2022 Grammy nominees announced Tuesday, including Jon Batiste, Justin Bieber, H.E.R., Doja Cat, Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo.
The Recording Academy, under whose auspices the Grammys are presented, announced to its 11,000-plus voting members Tuesday that it is increasing from eight to 10 the number of nominations for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist. The move comes only three years after the number of nominations in those categories rose from five to eight in 2018, after remaining unchanged since the inception of the Grammys in 1959.
“Almost 60,000 pieces of music are being produced and released each day and we want to be sure we are able to honor and shine a light on as many artists and good pieces of music as we can,” Harvey Mason Jr., the Los Angeles-based academy’s new CEO, told the San Diego Union-Tribune in a Monday afternoon phone interview.
“It was the right thing to do. And it was done to make sure we are representing the entire industry and taking into consideration the widest possible options of music to be considered.”
Top nominees reflect diversity
The academy’s quest for greater inclusivity is reflected by the six leading nominees for the 64th annual Grammy Awards. Four of the six are artists of color. Four are women. Canadian-born Bieber is the only white male among the six.
Louisiana-born multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” musical director Batiste leads the field with 11 nominations. His “We Are” is nominated for both Album of the Year and Best R&B Album, while his “Jazz Selections: Music From and Inspired by ‘Soul’” film soundtrack earned nominations for Best Instrumental Jazz Album and Best American Roots Performance. He is also vying in the Best Contemporary Classical Composition category with his piano-driven “Batista: Movement 11.”
Following Batiste, with eight nominations each, are Bieber, blues- and soul-steeped guitarist and singer H.E.R. (born Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson) and singer and rapper Doja Cat (born Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini).
Close behind, with seven nominations each, are Eilish — who was just 18 when she made Grammy history in 2020 by winning Album, Record and Song of the Year honors — and Disney TV star Rodrigo, who is 18 and whose chart-topping song of lost love, “driver’s license,” was one of this year’s biggest hits.
Rodrigo is nominated for Album, Record and Song of the Year, as well as for Best New Artist, a category that will see her compete against nine other performers. The other Best New Artist contenders include Pakistani-born Arooj Aftab and 28-year-old rapper Saweetie (born Diamonte Quiava Valentin Harper).
Rodrigo, Batiste, Doja Cat, Eilish and Bieber are all nominated for Album of the Year and Record of the Year honors, as is proudly gay rapper and pop culture provocateur Lil Nas X.
But the wins in both these high-profile categories could go to Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga for “Love for Sale,” their reverent salute to classic jazz songs. If so, the 95-year-old Bennett would become the oldest Grammy winner ever in a major category. (Piano stalwart Pinetop Perkins, now deceased, was 97 when he won the Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album in 2011.)
Bennett’s family disclosed in February that the fabled crooner and 18-time Grammy-recipient has Alzheimer’s disease. A win by him and Gaga would provide a sentimental and decidedly old-school tone to the awards show, which — in an effort to draw a younger viewing audience — has made a pointed turn toward honoring newer artists.
The winners of the most high-profile Grammy categories will be announced during a CBS telecast on Jan 31. It will be preceded earlier that day by the livestream-only Grammy Premier Event, at which a majority of the awards in 84 categories will be presented.
Batiste, 35, H.E.R., 24, and top K-pop group BTS were among the artists who announced the nominees Tuesday morning during a livestreamed event from the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. The museum is located barely a block from the Staples Center, which — under its pending new name, Crypto.com Arena — will host the Grammy Awards.
Nominees were also announced by Mason Jr., the academy’s new CEO, and Tammy Hurt, chair of the academy’s board of trustees. The eligibility period for nominations for the latest edition of the Grammys is Sept. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021. A total of 21,730 entries were submitted for consideration by the academy, whose voting members are all music-industry professionals.
The move to expand the number of nominees from eight to 10 in the top four Grammy categories follows several years of growing criticism of the academy from hip-hop artists, including Kanye West and Jay-Z, women artists, and artists of color about a lack of inclusion and transparency.
Similar complaints have been voiced about the makeup of the membership of the academy’s 11,000-plus voting members. And serious questions were raised about the nominating process itself, which relied on anonymous expert nomination review committees to determine which artists made the ballot in 61 of the 84 Grammy categories.
When top-selling pop star The Weeknd failed to garner any nominations for this year’s edition of the awards, he publicly criticized the academy.
“The Grammys remain corrupt,” The Weekend (born Abel Tesfaye) charged. “You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.” He subsequently said he would boycott the 2021 awards ceremony and future editions of the awards shows “because of the secret committees” and that he would no longer submit his recordings for nomination consideration.
On April 30, the Mason Jr.-led academy announced the elimination of those committees, which began in 1989. It was one of a number of sweeping changes made by Mason Jr., who was a driving force behind the academy extending over the past year invitations to 2,710 new members, 48% of whom are female and 55% of whom come from “traditionally underrepresented groups.” His goal is for the academy to have 2,500 women academy members by 2025.
“If you look at this new batch of nominations, you can’t help but be impressed by the the number of women nominees and artists of color, and by the increased diversity of genres being represented,” Mason Jr. told the Union-Tribune.
“One thing I’m really happy about is the academy is now able to pivot as the music industry moves so quickly. In the past, we have not been as fluid, or attentive or able to change.”
Curious decisions and omissions
For all of Mason’s work as a positive agent for change and improvement, the latest slate of Grammy nominations does not lack for curious decisions and omissions.
Drake, Chris Stapleton, Megan Thee Stallion, BTS and Kacey Musgraves were all snubbed in the Album of the Year category. Not so frequent Grammy critic Kanye West, whose decidedly ho-hum 2021 album, “Donda,” was nominated. Also conspicuously absent from the Album of the Year ballot this time are releases by Bad Bunny, Karol G or any other reggaeton and Latin trap artists.
Paul McCartney, meanwhile, saw his “McCartney III” relegated to a nomination for Best Rock Album, where he’ll compete against AC/DC, Black Pumas, the late Chris Cornell and Foo Fighters — the Dave Grohl-led band that McCartney this year inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Of course, no awards show, let alone one as broad and ambitious as the Grammys, will ever please everyone. And Mason Jr. is now hard at work preparing for the Jan. 31 telecast of the 64th annual Grammy Awards. It will be the first since this year’s historic, largely audience-free COVID-19 edition of the Grammys.
“We have a Plan and a Plan B for January,” Mason Jr. said. “And the Plan A, even as much as wed like to have an unrestricted audience, we have to acknowledge there will (still) be some form of COVID. So Plan A involves full vaccines.
“Protecting our artists, our audience and our (production) crew will affect the way we (plan for) our audience. But it won’t drastically cut our audience size.”
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