At Last Minute, Kanye West, Taylor Swift Added as Top Grammy Nominees

The organization behind the Grammy Awards decided in a meeting on Monday, just 24 hours before this year’s nominees were announced, that the top categories should be expanded to 10 nominees out of eight, a last-minute move that added stars like Kanye. West, Taylor Swift, Abba and Lil Nas X to the existing list of potential winners.

When the nominations were revealed on a live broadcast the next morning, Harvey Mason Jr., the executive director of the Recording Academy, praised the surprise change as a way to “make room for more music, more artists and more genres, and embrace the spirit of inclusion. “

But among the names added are some of the biggest pop stars and people 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 from Justin Bieber, Olivia Rodrigo, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Doja Cat, HER, Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X and Jon Batiste.

The nod to “Evermore” was Swift’s only nomination for her own music on Tuesday. (She is also nominated as a songwriter in 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 earlier version of the “final nomination 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 Tuesday, and The New York Times obtained a copy.

The expansion into the senior ranks comes after the academy has heralded a new era of openness and transparency in its awards process. The 64 annual Grammys will be the first in more than 30 years without the use of anonymous nomination review committees, which were tasked with narrowing down voters’ options for creating the final ballot, a step that was intended to safeguard the integrity of the awards, but that he was accused of allowing manipulation behind the scenes.

Mason defended the move to add more nominees as a sign of a newly nimble and responsive Recording Academy, saying the added names brought new sounds, styles and faces to the main categories. “For us all this is a positive movement,” he said. “We are honoring more great artists, more great music, giving artists the opportunity to shine and show themselves.”

Mason said the artists added to the list were simply the ninth and tenth most voted by academy members, and were determined by Deloitte, the academy’s longtime partner in vote gathering and tabulation.

In the record of the year category, Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” and Abba’s “I Still Have Faith in You” were joined by tracks by Rodrigo, Bieber, Bennett and Gaga, Batiste, Doja Cat. , Eilish, Silk. Sonic and Brandi Carlile. This was Abba’s first Grammy nomination.

For song of the year, which recognizes songwriters, the change brought “Kiss Me More” by Doja Cat, which features SZA, and “Right on Time” by Carlile, who was already on the chart for another song, “A Beautiful Noise, ”Featuring Alicia Keys Best New Artist added rapper Baby Keem and Pakistani-American songwriter and vocalist Arooj Aftab.

Representatives for each of the added artists declined to comment.

As recently as the 2018 Grammys, there were only five slots in the top field. In an interview Wednesday, Mason said expansion had been considered for years, but this year’s change was inspired by his visit last week to the Latin Grammys, in which up to 12 artists competed in some of the major categories. . He said he and his team acted quickly to propose and implement the change.

“It perfectly aligns everything we’ve been trying to do in the last year in the middle,” Mason said, “which is honoring excellence in music, serving our music community, and doing it in a thoughtful but proactive way. “

Valeisha Butterfield Jones, co-chair of the academy, added: “While it may seem rushed, it was actually a thoughtful and well-intentioned process that was also data-driven,” pointing to internal figures that showed an increase in voting from its members.

The revelation that the nomination lists were expanded on the eve of their publication, unbeknownst to voters until the full vote was announced, is the latest twist in the recent tumultuous history of the Grammys, with the latest head of the academy fired after accusing the institution’s leadership of rampant conflict. interest and cover-up of allegations of sexual harassment and rape.

The move to end nomination review committees for the 2022 Grammys came after years of complaints from artists, especially black musicians in rap and R&B, who said they had been relegated to genre categories but ultimately they were not recognized in the four general field awards.

Before the most recent Grammy ceremony, pop star The Weeknd, who received no nominations for his best-selling album, “After Hours,” said he would boycott the awards in the future and called the Grammys “corrupt.”

The academy said that without the committees this year, the artists who appeared on the final ballot were the ones who got the most votes from their music industry peers, and that the expansion to 10 nominees out of eight in the top four categories did without knowing which. artists would benefit.

The winners will be determined by the votes of the 11,000 members of the Recording Academy, who must qualify as active musicians. The ceremony will take place on January 31 in Los Angeles.

Mason also said that the addition of Swift and West, superstars in their own right, whose rivalry is a perennial media spectacle, was solely a matter of the votes they received and that they were not selected for their appeal on the Grammy television show.

“A thousand percent no,” Mason said. “That was not a consideration.”

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