Did The Grammys Finally Get It Right…Or Is It Just Stockholm Syndrome?

The Grammy 2022 nominations were announced about a week ago. So now that the dust has settled, I thought this would be the best time to ready my pitchfork and torch to take a look at the artists, albums and songs the committee has decided on and…be pretty much okay with it?

Just to preface my argument here, I’m going to mostly look at the General, Pop and Rap categories since those are the ones that I care about am more familiar with. Plus, the bitter truth here is that these are the main ones that the Recording Academy themselves really care about anyway too (sorry, Rock fans).

So, let’s jump right into the big ones.

Big Names For The Big Categories

Album Of The Year sees the Academy exhibiting its usual academy-isms: relatively low-profile industry favourites (Jon Baptise, H.E.R), a legacy nomination (Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga), industry titans (Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Kanye West), and some of the most commercially notable records of 2021 (Olivia Rodrigo, Doja Cat, Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X).

The most surprising part of these nominations is that there is little to be surprised about. Every artist on here feels deserving of their nominations or, at least, like they belong there given the Grammy’s contentious track record. Like, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Justin Bieber’s latest but I can’t deny its commercial dominance and its fairly great bop-to-flop ratio.

Are there albums that are more deserving? Sure, but the Grammys also double as a promotional avenue for the world’s biggest artists and in that regard, Bieber’s nomination makes sense despite being the weakest of the bunch. Speaking of weak, Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever feels like a shoo-in too given how much love the Academy has showered her with over the past 2 years.

However, Billie’s inclusion feels more in line with the Grammy’s recent pivot towards new artists since her sweep in 2019. Olivia Rodrigo and Lil Nas X both scored 7 and 5 noms respectively, which is incredibly impressive off just their debut albums. To an extent, Doja Cat’s meteoric rise since Hot Pink kind of places her in the same category as well, given how short of a period it’s been since she’s reached mainstream consciousness.

2022 Grammy Awards: ABBA get nominated for "Record of the Year"

These 4 artists are found throughout the rest of the General Field too. Each of them dominated the charts or public spotlight at some point in 2021, their success pretty much guaranteed them the nominations. I mean, Record Of The Year alone has 5 Hot 100 #1s. If that doesn’t hint at how the Academy somewhat gauges their nomination criteria, I don’t know what does.

It says nothing about who will walk away with the grand prize, but it does give us an insight into the potential future of the ceremony. Tapping into younger acts in a bid to appeal to younger audiences, it’s hard to tell what’s a legitimate nomination is or simply a marketing tactic.

Still, I’d say that they’ve done a decent job at encompassing the biggest talents in music today without coming off as desperate.

Safe Bets Are The Best Bets

The general categories have always felt like they’re dictated by commercial and critical reception. The genre awards, on the other hand, seem to be swayed more by an artist’s existing prestige.

I love me some Cardi B but come on, “Up”? It’s one of the weakest songs in her discography, let alone one that’s deserving of a nomination alongside J Cole’s “M Y . L I F E” or Baby Keem’s “Family Ties” for Best Rap Performance. The same goes for Drake, because no one in their right mind would pick “Way 2 Sexy” over “Champagne Poetry” but it’s the biggest hit off the record so it’s natural that the label pushed it for a nom.

Still, ignoring the music (crazy, I know), the artists nominated make sense. The biggest releases of the year vying for the prize during music’s biggest night – just how the Grammy’s have always worked. Just that in this case, barring underground releases, each nominee has also received positive critical reception (except for Drake, but he’s pretty much impenetrable).

As a long-term patron of pop culture, the 2022 Grammy nominations feel incredibly validating. Aside from me being a fan of a majority of nominees, the public reception of most albums and songs are generally quite positive. None of them made me go “Yeah, this is here cause they bought their way in”.

After years of being disappointed over and over and over, it feels like the Grammys finally got it right…at least if you’re whittling music in 2021 down to the top 10 spots of every Billboard’s chart.

It’s impossible to please everyone and they don’t need to. Underground and indie artists deserve all the exposure they can get but the Grammys have proven time and time again that they aren’t the organisation to take up that mantle. Instead, doubling down on the biggest hitters in music feels like a suitable course for the Academy.

Will it make the Grammys look more like an over-glorified marketing avenue? Of course. But hey, I guess reclaiming relevancy is a much more pressing matter at the moment.


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