May 9, 2021

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Grammys reform process for selecting major award nominees

Grammy Awards
Image Credit: AP

The Grammy Awards altered their tune and voted to remove the anonymous nomination review panels – groups that identified major award contenders for the coveted musical.

The Recording Academy released this announcement after the Board of Trustees met and approved the change.

“It has been a year of unprecedented transformative change for the Recording Academy, and I am very proud to be able to continue our journey of growth with these latest updates to the awards process,” said Harvey Mason Jr., the Academy’s interim president and CEO, said in a statement.

“This is a new academy, a work-driven academy that has doubled down on a commitment to catering to the needs of the music community. While change and progress are the main drivers of our business, one thing will always remain – the Grammy Award is the only recognition in peer-driven and peer-voted for music.” “We are honored to work alongside the music community throughout the year to improve and protect the integrity of the awards process.”

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Image Credit: AP

The big change comes months after The Weeknd bombed the Grammys and called them “corrupt” after it didn’t receive any nominations for the 2021 show despite having the biggest single of the year with Blinding Lights. Candidates will now be based solely on votes cast by the academy’s 11,000 members voting, and the academy said that “more than 90 percent of its members will undergo a rehab process by the end of this year, ensuring that the voting body is actively involved in composing the music.”

For the first four Grammys Awards – Album, Song, and Record of the Year, along with Best New Artist – the nomination review panel of at least 20 music professionals in the past years selected the top eight nominees from those who voted in the top 20.

The majority of Grammy categories over the age of 80 were voted on by Nomination Review Committees, which were intended to protect the integrity of a particular species and act as additional checks and balances. While nominees for some categories such as Best Lyric Album and Best Pop Solo Performance were based solely on voices, a number of genre categories had nomination review committees. Those areas included rap, rock, R&B, country, dance / electronic music, American and Latin roots, jazz, and gospel / Christian music. The nomination review committees for these groups consisted of 13 to 17 voting members who chose five candidates from the top 15 members.

But questions have been looming for years about the nomination process, with music industry operators demanding more transparency as the selection of finalists takes place behind closed doors. Others have claimed that Nominating Committee members are promoting projects they have worked on or projects that they prefer based on personal relationships.

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Lizzo at the 2020 Grammys
Image Credit: AP

Last year, the Academy announced that musicians invited to participate in the Nomination Review Committee will have to agree to the terms of the Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form and disclose whether they would benefit from nominating an artist in this category, be it financial or family relationships. Or creative.

This seemed to be a response to former Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan, who was fired just months later and days before the 2020 Grammy Awards. Dogan had said the award presentation was fraudulent and confused with a conflict of interest.

Doubts about the Grammys voting process reached even higher levels when The Weeknd – who topped the charts with Blinding Lights and Heartless, released a hugely successful album with the song After Hours and even performed in the Super Bowl – ignored this year’s show, held last month. The Grammys contrasted with most of the other music award shows, with The Weeknd being a leading candidate (it received 16 Billboard Music nominations on Thursday), and pledging to boycott the show.


Beyoncé at the 55th Grammy Awards
Image Credit: Reuters

Change has been the focus of conversation at the Grammys for years. The organization was criticized for diversity in its first awards, which rarely goes to rap and contemporary R&B stars, including heavyweights like Beyoncé, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, Drake, Jay-Z, Mariah Carey and John Legend. While these works have won in the rap and R&B categories, when it comes to major awards such as album, song, and record of the year, the winners tend to be in the pop, rock, jazz, or country genres. The organization has also been targeted because there are no winners in the first categories.

While there is some negativity associated with Nomination Review Panels, some members have preferred it so that they can protect whoever is allowed to be a part of a particular genre. For example, the Grammys rap industry added a nomination review panel three years after Macklemore & Ryan Lewis won three Grammys in 2014 over Kendrick Lamar, a decision that has been heavily criticized by the music community, the public, and even Macklemore himself.

Other changes announced include limiting the number of genre classes in which voters can vote, which has been reduced from 15 to 10. “These ten categories should not be in more than three (types) areas,” the Academy said. All voters can vote for the first four prizes.

The Academy also presented two new awards, bringing its total to 86: Best International Music Performance and Best Urbano Music Album.

The 64th Annual Grammy Awards Gala will be broadcast live on January 31, 2022. Nominees will be announced later this year, and eligible songs and albums must be released between September 1, 2020, and September 30, 2021.