This week, the Grammy nominations came out. I remarked that the categories seemed expanded, because (going by my own memory) I didn’t remember a time when there were eight or nine artists or albums in the big categories. I assumed that I just missed the announcement that categories were being expanded and shrugged. As it turns out, it was a bit more complicated than that. Twenty-four hours before the nominations came out, the Recording Academy had a meeting in which they added a bunch of artists and albums into the categories. So half-assed. It’s also kind of funny because that meeting was the reason why Taylor Swift’s Evermore and Kanye West’s Donda were added to Album of the Year. Those albums would not have gotten in without that Recording Academy meeting on Monday:
The organization behind the Grammy Awards decided at a meeting on Monday — just 24 hours before this year’s nominees were announced — that the top categories should expand to 10 nominees from eight, a last-minute move that added stars like Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Abba and Lil Nas X to the existing slate of potential winners. When the nominations were revealed on a live webcast the next morning, Harvey Mason Jr., the chief executive of Recording Academy, hailed the surprise shift as a way “to make room for more music, more artists and more genres, and to embrace the spirit of inclusion.”
But among the added names were some of pop’s biggest stars and people who were already on the ballot elsewhere. For album of the year, the two contenders added to the ballot were Swift’s “Evermore” and West’s “Donda,” joining titles by Justin Bieber, Olivia Rodrigo, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Doja Cat, H.E.R., Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X and Jon Batiste.
The nod for “Evermore” was Swift’s sole nomination for her own music on Tuesday. (She is also nominated as a songwriter on Rodrigo’s “Sour.”) West’s nomination for “Donda” brought his career total to 75.
It was possible to discover which artists benefited from the expansion because their names were absent from an early version of the “final nominations list” that had been created several days before the announcement and included only eight names in those categories. That version had begun circulating outside the Recording Academy before the nominations were announced on Tuesday, and a copy of it was obtained by The New York Times.
The expansion in the top categories comes after the academy has trumpeted a new era of openness and transparency in its awards process. The 64th annual Grammys will be the first in more than 30 years without the use of anonymous nomination review committees, which were charged with whittling down voters’ choices to create the final ballot — a step that was intended to safeguard the awards’ integrity but was accused of allowing manipulation behind the scenes.
Mason defended the move to add more nominees as a sign of a newly nimble, responsive Recording Academy, and said that the added names brought new sounds, styles and faces to the top categories. “For us this is all positive movement,” he said. “This is us honoring more great artists, more great music, giving artists an opportunity to shine and showcase.”
Mason said that the artists added to the list were simply the ninth and tenth most voted by the academy’s members, and were determined by Deloitte, the academy’s longtime partner in collecting and tabulating votes.
The ninth and tenth most voted? That’s a huge slam for artists like Swift and West. Their peers didn’t think their albums were “the top eight” albums and Swift and West would not have gotten those nominations without a behind-the-scenes intervention. The Times also points out that in the Record of the Year category, Lil Nas X’s “Montero” and Abba’s “I Still Have Faith in You” were the last-minute additions. For Song of the Year, the last-minute editions were: Doja Cat’s “Kiss Me More” and “Right on Time” by Brandi Carlile. In an effort to be more inclusive and expansive, the Recording Academy is out here, handing out (insulting) participation trophies to some of the biggest stars in music. Which just begs the question, again, what is wrong with Recording Academy voters that they couldn’t get it “right” the first time?
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Swift’s IG.