NEAR TRUTHS: CHAMBER MUSIC

The conversation among bizniks at the City of Hope gala, at lunch meetings, on calls and Zooms, has been focused on the pending Grammy noms. Will the Academy do the right thing and recognize the acts who’ve truly engaged and moved audiences, or will it once again push comparatively obscure pet projects to the foreground? Will we see an accurate reflection of the pop-cultural landscape and music marketplace in the noms or a study in self-serving puts? We’ll know soon enough.

The fact is this: Bad Bunny, Beyoncé, Harry Styles, Kendrick Lamar and Adele are the most important artists of the year. If they’re not included in the top-tier nominations, it will once again diminish the credibility of the Grammys as an institution. Not to say that huge sales are a sine qua non for award recognition or synonymous with artist worth, but the massive commercial impact of these artists is undeniable and shouldn’t be dismissed. In U.S. numbers alone, Bunny has amassed 2.9m ATD, while Adele has 2.6m, Harry 1.9m, Kendrick 1.1m and Beyoncé 949k.

The powers that be would also be well advised to properly recognize Zach Bryan (742k), who’s redefining country music and reconnecting it, with grit and feeling, to its “& western” roots. He’s an absolute must for a Best New Artist nod. Another breakout of 2022, Steve Lacy, was disqualified from BNA consideration due to a technicality, but his endlessly inventive, genre-blurring work—reminiscent of brilliant predecessors like Prince and Beck—has connected hugely with audiences and certainly deserves major recognition.

Taylor Swift, who is likely to loom large at the subsequent Grammys thanks to the monster Midnights, certainly deserves to be acknowledged as a top songwriter. She’s one of the era’s most vital artists, as she continues to prove both creatively and commercially. Her newly announced stadium tour will be a wonder to behold.

All of the above is moot if Grammy decides to go rogue again, of course.

Harvey Mason Jr., who took the reins of Grammyland in early 2020 after newly installed Academy chief Deborah Dugan’s abrupt ouster and was eventually appointed CEO, promised a more transparent and equitable process; while he's made good on his pledge to make the Academy membership more diverse, policing the horse-trading and other shenanigans around noms and awards has been another matter. Much was made of the end of the Secret Committees (the existence of which had hitherto been denied), but The Secret Chamber—where noms and, some say, wins, are “finalized” by a cabal of insiders—appears to have picked up the mantle of meddling.

With 10 nominees in each of the Big Four categories, there is certainly room for a mix of established and emerging acts, and we shouldn’t downplay the importance of spotlighting exceptional talent that hasn’t yet achieved big commercial success. But we recall what's happened to top artists like The Weeknd and wonder—will insider deals and logrolling cause other “locks” to be snubbed?

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