FEATURE: A Genre and Gender Revolution? The Grammys 2019: Steps Forward, Omissions and a Category-Spanning Playlist




A Genre and Gender Revolution?


IN THIS PHOTO: Rap artist Cardi B has been nominated for five Grammys, including Album of the Year for Invasion of Privacy/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

The Grammys 2019: Steps Forward, Omissions and a Category-Spanning Playlist


IN years past...

many have accused the Grammys of lacking diversity and being too focused on Pop/the mainstream. It has taken a long time for there to be the parity and balance many have called for but, for next year, it seems like we may nearer than ever. The nominations are out and it is a big year for artists like Cardi B, Kendrick Lamar and Drake. Last year saw very few women nominated in big categories and many accused the decision makers of sexism. The full nominations are out and it is a lot more impressive and balanced. Hip-Hop has played a big role in this year’s nominations but artists from Country, such as Kacey Musgraves, are also nominated. It is a big step forward and, to me, 2019 is going to be a much more relevant and equal year than this one – where many questioned the validity and worth of the Grammys. The BBC have noticed one of the problems regarding the Grammys: the sheer weight of categories! It is almost like the Academy Awards when it comes to covering all bases and not leaving anyone out:

The Grammys aren't exactly known for their brevity; and this year's list of nominees runs to 84 categories across a rainforest-destroying 55 pages.

Matters haven't been helped by the decision to expand the marquee categories - album of the year, record of the year, song of the year and best new artist - to eight nominees, instead of the traditional five...


IN THIS IMAGE: The cover of The Carters’ album, EVERYTHING IS LOVE (which was expected to feature heavily but missed out on the top categories)/IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

Although there have been some leaps in terms of the genres highlighted and giving women more of a voice, some have noticed the absence of Beyoncé and Jay-Z on the nominations. Jay-Z was denied this year – many thought his album, 4:44, should have scoped big prizes – and, alongside Beyoncé, he created The Carters. The album, EVERYTHING IS LOVE, received great reviews and there is no real reason why they have been omitted:

“...This year, though, it got worse: The couple's joint album Everything Is Love failed to secure a nomination in any of the big four categories.

Maybe Jay-Z's attack on the Recording Academy made voters uncomfortable ("please inform the Grammys that the 0-for-8 situation is unacceptable," he says, in slightly more colourful language, on the single Apes***).

The record still gets a couple nods in the urban and video categories - but that raises the question of whether the couple, who've historically been a front-row fixture at the ceremony, will see fit to boycott the event?

The biggest change, despite some notable slips, is the gender balance – whilst not as equal as we’d hope, it has improved and there are a lot more women being recognised. The Guardian reacted to the nominations:

After controversy about the Grammys’ failure to recognise women’s achievements at the 2018 ceremony, female artists dominate key categories in the nominations for the 2019 awards. Country stars Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves, rapper Cardi B, pop futurist Janelle Monáe and Lady Gaga could all take home major awards at the 61st Grammy award ceremony in Los Angeles next February...

IN THIS PHOTO: Kendrick Lamar (who leads the Grammy nominations with eight nods)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

Elsewhere, Kendrick Lamar and Drake dominate proceedings, with eight and seven nominations respectively. Along with Childish Gambino, AKA Donald Glover, they could rectify the other dispute that emerged from this year’s awards – namely the Recording Academy nominating but not awarding major hip-hop artists.

Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said in a statement that “reflection, re-evaluation and implementation” drove recent changes to the Grammys’ processes and nominations”.

The awards are less mainstream and obvious than last year – when Bruno Mars walked away with heaps of gongs – and it is nice to see artists such as Kacey Musgraves being given a nod! One of the biggest talking points relates to the lack of Pop artists making the cut. The Guardian had some thoughts:

Many of pop’s biggest acts will be disappointed. Taylor Swift, who received seven Grammy nominations for her previous album, 1989, received just one for Reputation, and in best pop album, a minor category. The Carters, AKA Beyoncé and Jay-Z, as well as Ariana Grande and Travis Scott, were also left out of major categories, receiving nods in genre categories. Kanye West received one nomination as producer of the year…


IN THIS PHOTO: Dua Lipa is one of few British artists who received Grammy nominations (two)/PHOTO CREDIT: @DUALIPA

It is a mediocre year for British acts. R&B newcomer Ella Mai has found greater success in the US than her home country, and received two nominations for her breakout single, Boo’d Up. Dua Lipa and Jorja Smith are nominated for best new artist. Seal is nominated for best traditional pop vocal album, and Arctic Monkeys for best rock performance and best alternative music album. Jon Hopkins and SOPHIE were recognised in best dance/electronic album. Recent sales suggest the UK’s ability to produce global pop superstars has dwindled”.

It is a shame there is not more British talent among the nominees but the fact Pop, for now, has relinquished its dominance and grip is a good thing. It is all very well nominating artists like Kendrick Lamar but, like this year, will he be left empty-handed and cause many to ask whether Hip-Hop is getting the credit it deserves! I am hopeful, when the winners are announced on 10th February in Los Angeles. Before I put the playlist out, the BBC article points out some interesting facts and firsts:

Guns N' Roses could win their first ever Grammy for the deluxe edition of 1987's Appetite for Destruction - an album which didn't receive a single nomination the year it was released.

Post Malone was barred from competing in the rap field because his album doesn't contain enough rapping. He was also ruled out of the best new artist category for being too popular!

Kanye West - one of hip-hop's most innovative and respected producers - receives his first ever nomination in the producer of the year category for the sequence of five albums he worked on this year - including Pusha T's Daytona, Teyana Taylor's KTSE and his own record, Ye.

Drake is back! After withholding his More Life mixtape from consideration last year, he's all over the 2019 nominations list with his attention-sapping double album Scorpion.

Dua Lipa and Jorja Smith are the first British stars to be nominated for Best New Artist since James Bay in 2016”.

Although many will grumble at the lack of Pop in the nominations; it is good to see some positive changes and steps forward. Let’s hope, come 10th February, we will see more women and Hip-Hop/Rap artists...


 IN THIS PHOTO: Kacey Musgraves (who has received four Grammy nominations and has helped raise the profile of women in Country music)/PHOTO CREDIT: Eric Ray Davidson for GQ

WALK away with some gold.