A large committee of voters came together to create a commendable list of deserving nominees. What a strange sentence to write in 2017.
The Recording Academy voters released their list of nominees for Grammy awards Tuesday and the result was close to a best-case scenario. Unlike most years, there were few egregious snubs and most nominees for the highest of honors are worthy of selection.
The Grammys, for the most part, got it right this year.
The top awards are as ethnically diverse as they have ever been. Nominees for the General Record of the Year include Childish Gambino’s “Redbone,” Jay-Z’s “The Story of O.J.,” “HUMBLE.” by Kendrick Lamar, “24k Magic” by Bruno Mars and the “Despacito” remix performed by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber.
That list includes exactly one white primarily white artist, and Bieber’s role in the song is a footnote compared to the other performances around him. These records were massive commercial and critical successes, and thankfully the distinct lack of white people in great music did not hold the Academy back from making most of the right choices.
The absence of women in the category is flat-out problematic, but we can really only expect baby steps from an institution that included Twenty One Pilots’ “Stressed Out” among their nominees for best record in last year’s awards.
Women, however, are well represented with a majority of nominees in the New Artist of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance categories. Perennial powerhouses Beyoncé and Adele did not release music within the time period of consideration, but their presences were definitely felt at last year’s awards with the two of them combining for seven wins and 14 nominations.
The further down the list of nominees you scroll, the more apparent the push for diversity is.
The Album of the Year category, often considered the most important award of the night, will feature zero white male nominees for the first time in 19 years. Gambino, Jay-Z, Lamar, Mars and Lorde were chosen as nominees for the award while Ed Sheeran was left out to some surprise.
The focus on people of color is a great response to an issue the Grammy Academy has been facing for years now. Beyoncé and Lamar were snubbed in each of the past three years for the Album of the Year, and 2017’s winner, Adele, even went as far as to say that Beyoncé’s album Lemonade was a far more deserving work in her acceptance speech.
People of color have been making some of the best music available for years now. This year’s list of nominees suggests the Academy is ready to recognize that in a meaningful way.
Adele’s sentiments onstage echoed the general public’s appreciation and desire for great music made by people of color. The Grammys are finally taking notice of what the people are listening to, and awarding the artists behind that art for their efforts.
Hip-Hop and R&B are the music of the moment, and the Academy is right to recognize and award them as such.
It isn’t as if the voters decided to push for diversity ahead of musical accomplishment either.
Gambino’s “Awaken, My Love!” masterfully featured just about every facet of R&B music in an intoxicating crone. Lorde took her time after her 2014 breakout, but this year’s “Melodrama” capitalized on her cult following with an energized album that combined an awakened synth-pop touch with her uniquely personal and cutting vocals. And of course, Lamar’s “DAMN.” is a masterpiece that will probably serve as one of the best examples of incensed political commentary in hip hop along with his 2015 release of “To Pimp a Butterfly”.
The Grammy voters pulled off a remarkable feat. They accomplished their task of nominating the best of the year’s music, and the results are a diverse and accurate collage of what good music looks like right now.
When the awards are finally handed out on Jan. 28, every single nomination will be picked apart by critics and every artist and creation will be scrutinized. Post Malone and Sheeran’s snubs will be especially jeered. Some nominations will be attacked and branded as terrible wrongs by internet trolls and enraged fan bases, but that won’t change the truth.
This year, the Grammys accomplished the impossible and — for the most part — got it right.
Jonah Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jonahpbaker