The 2018 Grammy Awards were announced yesterday and they are drawing headlines for being much more diverse. For the first time ever, no white male artist was nominated for Album of the Year. The hit song “Despacito” became the first Spanish-language song to be nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. All artists nominated in the Record of the Year category is a person of color. The reason for this diverse group may be a result of a switch to digital voting. There are around 13,000 people who vote for Grammy Awards, made up of musicians, artists, engineers, songwriters, producers and more. So many of these people are touring constantly that their ability to vote by mail was hindered. The results of an improved website interface and digital voting may be a slate of nominees who are much more relevant than in the past. This is a marked improvement, since hip-hop dominates music, but a hip-hop artist hasn’t won Album of the Year in 13 years (Outkast). Similarly, black women are true powerhouses in music, yet a black woman hasn’t won since 1999 (Lauryn Hill), and this in an era dominated by artists like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, and Solange.
2. Pop is Dead-ish
Pop music will never be truly dead, but 2017 was a dismal year. Ed Sheeran was shut out of all categories except the single-genre competition (Best Pop Vocal Album and Pop Solo Performance). Katy Perry’s disappointing album failed to earn any nominations. Despite producing for Lorde, Swift, Pink and Fifth Harmony, super producer Jack Antonoff was not nominated in the producer category.
3. Album of the Year is Lit
For only the second time, four of the nominees for the biggest award are men of color. The nominees are Kendrick Lamar for DAMN, Bruno Mars for 24k Magic, Jay-Z for 4:44, and Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love. The fifth nominee is Lorde, for Melodrama. This is a tough race to handicap, since the two favorites, Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar, could split the vote. That could open the door for Lorde, as singer-songwriters are always popular with the voters.
4. Jay-Z Might Catch His Wife
The Grammy voters remain high on Jay-Z. He has already won 21 Grammys and was nominated eight times this year. He has the chance to tie his wife, Beyonce, if he wins just one of his nominated categories. Jay-Z’s success is not surprising, since his 4:44 album is in many ways the counterpoint to Beyonce’s memorable Lemonade.
5. Snub Life
It’s common to talk about who did not get nominated in terms of snubs. But really, the biggest names who were not nominated this year had weaker albums. Miley Cyrus’ new act fell flat. Katy Perry’s album was not stellar. Ed Sheeran’s album was the same as all of his other albums. While Lady Gaga earned two nominations in the pop categories, her album was also on the weaker side.
Arguments can certainly be made that Antonoff deserved a nomination, and that A Tribe Called Quest’s sixth and final album should have been recognized. Overall, however, the Grammy voters got this year mostly right.