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TWO GRAMMY NERDS DISH ABOUT THE NOMINATIONS

As you surely know by now, the 61st annual Grammy nominations were announced on Friday. For your favorite Grammy nerds, that's like Super Bowl Sunday and Oscar night rolled into one. Lenny and Paul couldn’t wait to compare notes on who was blessed and who was passed over. They'll be having these nerd sessions until the envelopes are opened on 2/10—and no doubt beyond.

Paul: How do you think the expansion from five to eight nominees in the "Big Four" categories worked out?

Lenny: It reminded me of what happened when the motion picture academy went from five to up to 10 Best Picture nominees. Everybody thought that would give them a chance to get more blockbusters in there and improve their ratings. Instead what they did was put in more indie films. In this case, we see that blockbuster artists, if you will, like Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello and Taylor Swift, weren't helped at all by the expansion. Instead, they gave those slots to lesser-known artists—H.E.R., Janelle Monaé, Brandi Carlile.

Paul: It's women, artists of color, artists who could use the boost. Whereas Taylor won't be one iota more famous whether she has another Album of the Year nom or doesn’t.

Lenny: Right, but it hurts them. She's ratings. And by not nominating the "Perfect" duet, they didn't get an Ed Sheeran/Beyoncé moment. And we’ll see what happens with Ariana.

Paul: What artists or managers do you think have the most valid reasons to be disappointed?

Lenny: Well, let me back up a minute. As I talk to people, everybody thinks the nominations are good, but that they still missed some obvious things. No one is saying that people are undeserving. But people are saying certain artists were unfairly treated.

Paul: The two artists who I was most surprised not to see in the "Big Three" categories are Ariana and Camila. They each got two noms, but were passed over in the big categories.

Lenny: I agree 100%.

Paul: It is not in keeping with traditional Grammy practice, which is to reward quality artists who are at that moment in their careers when they blossom and move up to the next level. The Grammys have historically kind of reinforced that moment. But now they have other agendas and other priorities, which is to show more diversity.

Lenny: And that's a laudable goal, but at the same time they don't seem to have given much consideration to proportion. Brandi Carlile is a talented artist, but did she need to be nominated in all three of the top categories? They could have given her one or two and still had room for other artists who they left out completely.

Paul: It really was feast or famine for artists this year. Three artists—Brandi, Drake and Kendrick Lamar—are nominated in each of the Big Three categories. And seven more—Cardi B, Childish Gambino, Lady Gaga, Post Malone, SZA, Zedd/Grey—are nominated for two of the three. That's great for those artists, but many other worthy artists were left out of the marquee categories completely. Like Travis Scott, who couldn't be hotter right now, and who got just two noms.

Lenny: But at least Travis was allowed in the club for the first time—the first time for one of his own records, anyway. I think that means that he can be a major player going forward much more easily.

Paul: I think what happened with Travis and Marshmello too is that they really crossed over in a big way just in the last month or two. First-round voting ended 10/31. If it had ended even 11/30, they both might have done better.

Lenny: The Best New Artist category is all over the place.

Paul: I was surprised that Juice WRLD, Ella Mai, Troye Sivan and Marshmello weren't nominated there. They're all talented artists who really made an impact. The committee went another way, but I'm not sure their way is an improvement on what rank-and-file voters probably wanted. It's just different.

Lenny: At least Ella got a Song of the Year nom.

Paul: Who most surprised you by getting into the New Artist category?

Lenny: Jorja [Smith], Margo [Price] and Chloe [x Halle]. Did Chloe really “come to prominence,” which the Grammys have always said is their standard in this category, this year?

Paul: I think they perfectly personify what the Grammys want to put out there. They're young, talented women of color. We're all for diversity and inclusion—who isn't? But I think the main reason Brandi is up for each of the Big Three awards and John Prine isn't up for any of them is she's a 37-year-old woman and he's a 72-year-old man. She has youth on her side and she's the right gender for this moment. For him, they're saying you're great…

Lenny: But you stay in Americana.

Paul: That's just what it is. We all understand the cultural moment we're in, but I hope we live to see the day when we won't be obsessed with demographics like this. On another topic, two artists who won Album of the Year last time out—Beck and Taylor Swift—were denied noms in that category with their follow-ups. Did either of those surprise you?

Lenny: I wasn't surprised by Beck. I didn't think he made a significant impact this year. I think he got his Lifetime Achievement Award when he won Album of the Year four years ago. I am surprised that they went from five to eight nominees in Album of the Year and didn't put Taylor in.

Paul: You once told me "Now that there are eight slots, snubs really are snubs." Before, if something didn't make it, you could say, "Well it may have come in sixth." Now, it could be no better than ninth place. That's pretty far back in the pack.

Lenny: I'll just come right out and say it. Camila, Ariana and Taylor, in my opinion, got royally screwed.

Paul: I would say especially Ariana and Camila, because they're artists coming into their moment. Taylor released an album that wasn't quite as big or quite as good as her previous album (1989), though it was still very successful.

The [Album of the Year] award should take both quality and success into account. The nominees should have to have achieved both, not just one or the other.

Lenny: Janelle didn't even get nominated in a sub-genre. Her only nom besides Album of the Year was for Best Music Video. Don't get me wrong: She's a great talent, but this wasn't her year. It was her year in movies and TV, but not in music. Her album just didn't make that big of an impact. We're talking about Album of the Year. The award should take both quality and success into account. The nominees should have to have achieved both, not just one or the other.

Paul: So are you saying they overdid it on the diversity and inclusion front? They look at it through that prism on every choice. You need to keep it in mind, but maybe not quite so obsessively.

Lenny: Yes, you're saying it better than I am.

Paul: I think we're both saying the same thing.

Lenny: And there's no country in here again.

Paul: Well, Kacey.

Lenny: Kacey isn't considered country by the country mainstream. She didn't have a single that went higher than about #30 on any country radio chart. I think of her as more Americana, almost. Kane Brown was also overlooked. He's huge. That would have given them some diversity, too. There's no Chris Stapleton, no Carrie Underwood in the Big Four categories. The only real country artist here is Luke Combs. Maren Morris is nominated for Record, but with a pop record.

Paul: I don't think they're worried about that like they are about diversity and inclusion. That's their emphasis.

Lenny: Yes, that was their #1 priority, except they screwed three major artists in the pursuit of it. At least they let Shawn [Mendes] into the club. They always ignore him.

Paul: You said last time that your view of the secret committee will depend on "whether they use their superpowers for good or evil." Which way did they go this year?

Lenny: I wouldn’t say evil, but they used their superpowers for their own purposes.

Paul: To pursue their own agendas.

Lenny: Correct. I don't think we got a combination of things. I think we got a lot of the same thing over and over again. I have been talking to a lot of people and hearing a lot of opinions. The consensus is everybody thinks they did OK and hoped that they had done better.

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