What to expect at the 64th annual Grammy Awards

As the year closes, one of the music industry’s greatest traditions returns again. With the 64th Grammy Awards planned for Jan. 31, nominations were released on Nov. 23 for yearly public viewing. With this year featuring an increase in nominations, there’s plenty to break down.

Record/Song Of The Year

Separating “Record Of The Year” and “Song Of The Year” continues to feel increasingly forced. Of the ten nominations, seven are repeats, and they are the likeliest contenders.

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Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License,” Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever,” Silk Sonic’s “Leave The Door Open,” Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and Doja Cat’s “Kiss Me More” seem most likely to win. The Recording Academy’s decision that Brandi Carlisle warranted not one, but two “Song of the Year” nods, is wild.

While I prefer the Sonic and Eilish tracks, Rodrigo and Nas X are the safer bet as they are newer artists who generated more attention around the tracks. Eilish would three-peat in the “Record Of The Year” category, having won in 2020 with “Bad Guy” and in 2021 with “Everything I Wanted.”

Album Of The Year

The attempt to get viewers back after last year’s drop is painfully apparent.

The Grammys didn’t bother to hide that Taylor Swift and Kanye West are only here to generate controversy. New York Times reported they were the last selections, expanding the category from eight nominees to ten.

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Jon Batiste, H.E.R and the Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett albums are Grammy favorites here to act as filler. Batiste wins as the total nominations leader and the apparent desire to push him onto the world.

The favorites to win should be Nas X’s “Montero,” Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever,” Doja Cat’s “Planet Her” and Rodrigo’s “Sour.” Justin Bieber’s nomination for “Justice” is laughable at best, but that album is so bad that it’s not worth focusing on. “Sour” powers ahead as newer artists tend to win, but Rodrigo would have to beat Grammy darlings Nas X and Eilish.

Best New Artist

The “Best New Artist” category is a lawless wasteland as usual, and this year’s batch of nominees are worse than normal. Ignoring the committee’s treatment of indie artists, the inclusion of Eilish’s brother and producer Finneas is absurd.

Finneas is an eight time Grammy winner, including an award for “Producer of The Year ” which made him the leading winner of the 62nd Grammys. Why pretend Finneas is a “new artist” when Olivia Rodrigo is going to win anyway?

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Pop Vocal Album/Performances

As in past years, the pop winners will likely shape the larger categories. “Best Pop Vocal Album” and “Best Pop Solo Performance” feature Rodrigo, Eilish and Doja Cat as contenders for both awards with Bieber and Ariana Grande filling out the nominees.

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Doja Cat could also win “Best Pop Duo Performance” for “Kiss Me More” alongside SZA, with only BTS’s sole nomination “Butter” as real competition.

Though the other pop categories are well done, what the Recording Academy means with the category “traditional pop” is unclear. One can only guess why they’ve included Christmas albums and Willie Nelson.

Rock/Alternative

If rock isn’t dead, these nominations might finish the job. Most of the nominees (RIP Chris Cornell) are past fifty and the end of their artistic prime. Black Pumas are the newest band here, but their album isn’t. It’s the same one that was nominated last year, and nominated the year before that, just with a bad live version.

Kings of Leon and Weezer makeup some of the other bland nominees, and these choices would make any viewer wonder if the Recording Academy even likes listening to new music. There isn’t a single female nominee, nor is there any artist that suggests an understanding of current rock. Successful, modern bands like Idles, Iceage or Turnstile deserved their flowers.

The alternative rock category is thankfully excellent. Halsey, St. Vincent, Japanese Breakfast, Arlo Parks and Fleet Foxes all dropped great albums, and an argument could be made for any to win.

Rap

In the same fashion as rock, this is a poor showing from the rap category. With the exception of Tyler, the Creator for “Best Rap Album,” the categories are evenly matched due to blandness.

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The Nas X and Doja Cat tracks nominated weren’t even the Grammy’s favorite songs from the pair, yet one of them will likely win “Best Melodic Rap Performance.” Kanye sure won’t. Baby Keem winning the remaining awards would be fun if only to force his cousin and co-star Kendrick Lamar back onstage.

Overall Selections

Pop’s quality is rising, and there’s nothing wrong with rewarding some of the genre’s biggest sellers — but at this point, the Recording Academy needs some separation.

The big four awards are only competed for by traditional, pop artists. Leaving out artists who don’t do numbers makes sense, but there’s no excuse for genres like rap, R&B and K-Pop to be excluded when they’re the ones keeping the lights on.

Coming off last year’s snub of The Weeknd, the Grammy’s have taken baby steps to start learning from their mistake.

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Kacey Musgraves’ relegation to country only categories, after 2019’s “Album of The Year” winning “Golden Hour” is a surprise. Similarly, the snubbing of Miley Cyrus’ “Plastic Hearts” from any nominations, completely missed an opportunity to diversify the rock category from it’s sad, old state. Lorde and Clairo deserved nominations, and Tyler, the Creator, Halsey and BTS, as well as K-pop in general, deserved more recognition.

At best, nothing was as controversial as last year.

Featured image “Bruno Mars wears Benjamin Eyewear ‘Nicole’ to the 2012 Grammy Awards” by The Guise Archives is licensed under CC BY 2.0