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ASK THE GRAMMY WHISPERER

We took your questions—well, we imagined your questions—and put them to the Grammy Whisperer. Here are his responses.

I noticed that no women were nominated for Record of the Year this year. That hadn't happened in a long time, right?
I'd say 35 years counts as a long time. This is the first time that women have been completely shut out of Record of the Year since 1982. (By that I mean there weren't even any female featured artists or female group members among the nominees.) It's only the fifth time in Grammy history that no women have appeared in the Record of the Year finals.

Why do you think there wasn't much controversy about that?
People were more focused on Album of the Year, where three African American artists (Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino) were nominated.

Was that a record?
No. African American artists have had three or more Album of the Year nominations five times. Once, four of the five nominated albums were by black artists. That was 2004, when Ray Charles' Genius Loves Company beat Alicia Keys' The Diary of Alicia Keys, Usher's Confessions, Kanye West's The College Dropout and Green Day's American Idiot. African American artists had three Album of the Year nominations in 1984, 1987 and 1990—all before the inception of the Nominations Review Committee, by the way.

Jay-Z has more nominations than anyone else this year. So is 4:44 the album to beat for Album of the Year?
It has a real shot, but the nominations leader isn't the automatic front-runner for Album of the Year. Last year, Beyoncé was the nominations leader, but she still lost to Adele. Two years ago, Kendrick Lamar was the noms leader, but he lost to Taylor Swift. But Jay-Z has already made Grammy history this year. He's the first rapper to receive four Record of the Year nominations. He was previously nominated as a featured artist on Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love" and Rihanna's "Umbrella" and as a co-lead artist with Alicia Keys on "Empire State of Mind." This year, he's nominated on his own for the first time with "The Story of O.J."

You and your factoids. Do you have any nuggets about Bruno Mars?
He's the first artist to amass five Record of the Year noms in the 2010s. What's more, he and Beyoncé are the only artists to receive five Record of the Year noms since 2000.

"Despacito" by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee (featuring Justin Bieber) is this year's only work to be nominated for both Record and Song of the Year. When was the last time there was so little overlap between those two categories?
It had been 12 years. In 2005, Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" was the only title that was nominated for both Record and Song of the Year.

Did it win either one?
No. But I think "Despacito" just may win both.

Why do you think there was so little overlap in those two categories this year?
The committee was trying to share the wealth.

Is "Despacito" the first three-way collaboration to be nominated for Record of the Year?
No. There had been a few. There had even been a four-way collabo (Dionne & Friends' "That's What Friends Are For") and a collaboration of dozens of artists (USA for Africa's "We Are the World.")

How surprised were you that Ed Sheeran was passed over in the top three categories this year?
I was shocked. I thought he was a leading contender in all three categories. I know Grammy sensibilities—to a large extent, I share them—and I would be willing to bet that rank-and-file voters had him in the top five in all three of those categories.

Is there anything that can be done going forward to give the will of the voters more protection?
I think the Grammys should adopt a rule that the Nominations Review Committee must keep the top three vote-getters in each category they review. Right now, the committee can select anything from among the top 20 vote-getters. They can toss out the entire top five that the voters came up with. Under my proposal, the committee would have to accept those entries that the voters put at or near the top of their ballots. Their only option would be to replace No. 4 and No. 5—entries that just barely made the top five anyway.

That's an interesting approach.
It's a compromise between going back to direct popular vote (which the Grammys had prior to 1995) and maintaining the status quo, where the choices of rank-and-voters can be overturned by a secret, hand-picked committee of Grammy insiders.

Do you think your idea will go anywhere?
Who knows? But I think they should always explore various options to make the awards structure better and fairer.

Who benefited from the Grammys' new rule that songwriters who contributed significantly to an album are eligible for an Album of the Year nom?
Surprisingly, just one person wound up with a nom because of that rule who wasn't already nominated—James Fauntleroy, who wrote for Bruno Mars' 24K Magic. The other songwriters who were cited among the Album of the Year nominees were nominated in that category anyway as artists and/or producers. They are Jay-Z and No I.D. for Jay-Z's album; Kendrick Lamar, DJ Dahi, Sounwave and Anthony Tiffith for Lamar's album; Jack Antonoff and Lorde for Lorde's album; and Christopher Brody Brown, Philip Lawrence and Mars for Mars' album.

Who lost out because of the Grammys' new rule that featured artists are eligible for Album of the Year noms only if they contribute significantly to an album—not just one or two tracks, as in the past?
Beyoncé
, Frank Ocean, Damian Marley and Gloria Carter for Jay-Z's album; U2, Rihanna and Zacari for Lamar's album.

Gloria Carter? Jay-Z's mother? So this rule change cost Jay-Z's mom a Grammy nomination?
Yes. That's a shame. I doubt the Awards and Nominations committee saw that coming when they made the rule change.

Will Post Malone get another shot at Best New Artist next year?
He just may. The Grammys gave Alessia Cara another shot this year, after she had a top five hit two years ago with "Here," so they can probably find a way to let Post Malone in, despite his success this year. He wasn't nominated in any categories this year, which preserves his eligibility for Best New Artist next year. But Cardi B and Logic are out for future Best New Artist consideration. They each had two noms this year. So are Kaleo and Midland. They each had one nom this year.

Will country make a comeback in the Album of the Year category next year?
Probably. The Grammys haven't shut out country in this marquee category two years running since 2011-12.

Will Taylor Swift win Album of the Year again next year?
It's way too early to speculate.

Oh come on, that never stopped you before.
That's true. And the album has been well received. Let me just say this: If she does win, she would become the first woman to win three times (just as she was the first woman to win twice as a lead artist). The only other artists who are three-time winners are Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon.

Well, now you've got me wondering: Would Taylor become the youngest artist to win Album of the Year three times?
No. Swift will be 29 at the time of the Grammys in 2019. Wonder was just 26 when he won for the third time with Songs in the Key of Life.

You felt bad about Ed Sheeran being snubbed this year, didn't you?
Yeah. I don't like to see artists get screwed. There's no way you can tell me "Shape of You" didn't deserve a Record of the Year nomination. It was not only one of the year's biggest hits, but was a convincing stylistic shift for an artist who made his name with ballads.

Could they give him a make-up next year by putting "Perfect" up for Record of the Year?
Sure. The remix has Beyoncé on it and they love Beyoncé. That would be her sixth Record of the Year nomination—more than any woman in history.

Wait, couldn't Taylor be nominated in that category next year too?
Yes, but that would be her fifth Record of the Year nom. Beyoncé already has five noms in that category. She and Barbra Streisand are currently tied for the lead among women with five each.

You really are nerdy, aren't you?
Oh yeah.

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