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GRAMMY WTF: COUNTRY

High on the list of new Grammy outrages is the slate of noms for Country Album, which (assuming we can agree that Little Big Town is female-fronted) is all-female for the first time ever this year. Women have undoubtedly been responsible for a number of great country records of late, and this may feel in some respects like an adjusting of the scales. But it also creates a new imbalance, with big records by Luke Combs and other major stars neglected. In fact, Combs and fellow country stars (and streaming biggies) Morgan Wallen and Kane Brown were completely shut out, just like The Weeknd, further evidence of the rot at the heart of the process. What’s more, apart from newcomer Ingrid Andress, no country artists appear in the Big 4. The Nashville chapter’s moves over the last few years have drawn some of the loudest charges of cronyism.

That cronyism has been noted in other genres as well, as a small group of well-known Nashville players conspires to fix the game using some old-school block-booking techniques—with the full knowledge of the awards chairman. It’s not illegal if you know how to bend the rules with a wink and a nod and the guardians conveniently pretend not to notice. The Nashville chapter is widely described as its own autocratic entity, ignoring all warnings about its behavior. It’s just another example of the go-fuck-yourself rule that is the only truly binding Grammy bylaw.

The genres in which these players run amok are essentially meaningless to the membership of the Secret Screening Committees that oversee pop, R&B and rap, except for a token in one of the Big 4 each year. Two such tokens stick out like sore thumbs in the latest round of noms, as other participants are said to have hired consultants from within this group to help fix the game. No one actually believes the Big 4’s Secret Screening Committees could be this out of touch; rather, it seems, everyone looks the other way now.

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