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GRAMMY CHEW: FIRST THOUGHTS ON THE NOMS

This year’s nominations took care of most of the biggest acts, significantly rewarding Beyoncé (9), Kendrick Lamar (8), Adele (7), Future and Harry Styles (6 each). Bey, Kendrick, Harry, Adele and Lizzo got the Big 3: Album, Record and Song.

Bad Bunny was recognized in Album, Steve Lacy in Record and Song, Taylor Swift in Song and Doja Cat in Record.

We can’t really argue with any of that. This is mostly what we were hoping for, particularly in the crucial Album category.

Several veteran acts were given what read as career-achievement noms in the top categories, notably ABBA, Mary J. Blige and Bonnie Raitt, great artists all—but none of whom made a serious impact on either the marketplace or the culture with the records in question.

The most profound snub at the top of the list was Zach Bryan, whose omission from Best New Artist is an absolute absurdity. Bryan did make the Country Solo Performance short list for “Something in the Orange,” though he’ll be a long shot in that category as a non-Nashville artist—and being nominated means he’s now excluded from BNA in 2024 because of Grammy’s byzantine, ever-changing rules.

It's hard not to conclude that Bryan was excluded from the category because he would’ve won. Several of the acts who did get noms in that category are, to say the least, below the radar. This is not to say they aren’t madly gifted and interesting (and holy shit, DOMI & JD Beck can play). But if Best New Artist means anything, it has to mean an artist who really arrived and connected with audiences on all levels. If Bryan doesn’t meet that definition, nobody does.

We’re also rather amazed that Encanto, a cultural phenomenon and marketplace giant powered by inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda songs, was relegated to the Soundtrack and Visual Media categories, rather than the Big 3.

The highly touted Songwriter of the Year category seemed oddly narrow in this, its debut year, though at least the five nominees worked with superstar acts.

And would it have killed the Academy to find a place for indie marvel Brent Faiyaz? Dude made a huge splash this year and disrupted the world of R&B.

There’s a lot more to say (and we’ll have freestanding reflections on some of the big genre categories soon), but for now let’s leave it at this: Grammy rightly acknowledged most of the major acts who dominated the field in the Big 3 and kinda whiffed BNA. The nominees, as usual, are a mix of no-brainers, head-scratchers and what certainly looks like somebody’s agenda.

Over the coming weeks, per our custom, we’ll start talking favorites in the key categories.

And once again we’ll say this, and don’t ever forget it: Grammy does what Grammy wants.

Grammy Chew graphic by the late, great Van Arno

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