In a reflection of the current state of pop, in which hip-hop and urban music are the dominating forces, artists such as Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino and Bruno Mars are among the top nominees the 60th Grammy Awards, to be held Jan. 28 from Madison Square Garden in New York.
Ten years ago at the 50th Grammy Awards, Kanye West was the only hip-hop artist in the race for album of the year, pitted against English indie-rock chanteuse Amy Winehouse, perennially nominated rock band the Foo Fighters, country singer-songwriter Vince Gill and jazz veteran Herbie Hancock; Hancock won.
The 60th Grammy Awards will be a very different scene.
After treading cautiously through the realm of hip-hop urban music for nearly four decades, the academy has embraced the genre wholeheartedly.
For the first time in that six-decade history, there was not a white male among the album-of-the-year nominees (Lorde is the sole female), while the record and song-of-the-year nominations included the first Spanish-language song — “Despacito” by Puerto Rican musicians Fonsi and Daddy Yankee — to be recognized in four marquee categories.
The Grammys have the strongest contender for a non-English-language winner for song of the year (and record of the year) since Dwight D. Eisenhower was president.
That song, of course, is “Despacito,” the consensus pick for “song of the summer” 2017. The tune — performed by Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi and rapper Daddy Yankee, with a remix guest-verse boost from Justin Bieber — spent 34 weeks on the Hot 100 and tied for the longest stint atop that chart ever at 16 weeks.
“I believe that we are in a global world right now, and it’s amazing that the U.S. opened its doors, its ears and its heart for a song mainly in Spanish,” said Erika Ender, the Panamanian songwriter who wrote “Despacito” with Fonsi, Yankee, Bieber, Jason "Poo Bear" Boyd and Marty James Garton.
In the internet’s excitement early Tuesday over the remarkable lack of white men among the Grammy nominees for album of the year — and to be clear, this is definitely very exciting! — a bit of untruth began circulating online that said this was the first time this has happened since 1999.
That’s the year Lauryn Hill won album of the year for her landmark solo debut, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” beating out similarly excellent records by Madonna, Shania Twain, Sheryl Crow and Garbage.
Certainly that was a great year for women, including Garbage’s singer, Shirley Manson.
Much of the focus on this year’s Grammy Award nominations is on the strong showing for hip-hop and urban music, and by artists of color and women who have received most of the top nominations over long-standing Recording Academy favorites.
Country and bluegrass musician Alison Krauss squarely registers in the latter category, yet she wasn’t overlooked this year for her recent album “Windy City.” It earned her two nominations: country solo performance for the track “Losing You,” and American roots performance for “I Never Cared For You.”
Significantly for longtime Grammy Awards watchers, it creates the possibility that she can break the tie she’s been in for years with esteemed producer, songwriter and musician Quincy Jones.
Nominated in the alternative music album category, the National’s “Sleep Well Beast” has earned praise for a looser but still intricate sound and lead singer Matt Berninger’s downcast lyrics, which touch on politics as well as his usual chronicles of domestic uncertainty.
Citing the band’s need to “open a new chapter,” guitarist and “Sleep Well Beast” producer Aaron Dessner spoke to The Times this fall about the new album, which he said was colored by each member’s side projects, including his work with bandmate and twin brother Bryce curating last year’s compilation “Day of the Dead.”
A 59-track venture through the Grateful Dead catalog that included performances by Wilco, Moses Sumney and Vijay Iyer (to name a few), the set connected the band with the Dead’s Bob Weir, who in turn recorded with members of the National for his 2016 album, “Blue Mountain.” The collaboration left an impression going into “Sleep Well Beast.”
Shane McAnally had forgotten that the nominations for the 60th Grammy awards would be announced Tuesday morning. So when a friend called to congratulate him, he had to ask “What for?”
The Texas native netted two nominations in the category of country song for tunes that both hit No. 1 this year. The first, Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road”— co-written with Hunt, Josh Osborne and Zach Crowell — broke the record for the longest streak at No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart.
The second, Midland’s “Drinkin’ Problem”— co-written by McAnally, Osborne and band members Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy and Mark Wystrach — proved to be a breakthrough for the trio.
Nonbelievers may guffaw, but perhaps Avenged Sevenfold wasn’t fated to possess a Grammy until the Huntington Beach band issued its seventh album — therefore avenging past oversights.
The hard-rock quintet, which was birthed in 1999, has been grinding riffs and gathering fans through albums including “Sounding the Seventh Trumpet,” “City of Evil,” “Nightmare” and “Hail to the King.” But only with its 2016 album “The Stage” did the band draw the attention of Recording Academy voters.
Maybe it was the album’s conceptual underpinnings, which address current-day issues involving progress, religion, technology and the very question of life itself. Or maybe it’s an acknowledgement that Avenged Sevenfold, nearly two decades into its career, is just hitting its stride.
For all the strides the Grammys made in completing a long-overdue embrace of hip-hop in its 2018 nominees, there remained a glaring and all-too-depressing omission: the visionary group A Tribe Called Quest.
Released a year ago this month, “We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service” was an immediate critical favorite as Tribe emerged from a roughly 15-year hiatus and sounded as vital as ever despite the loss of influential co-founder Phife Dawg, who died in 2016 before the album was completed. The group’s performances to celebrate the release, which included a bittersweet tribute to Phife in a November appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” a farewell tour as well as a triumphant set at the 2017 Grammys with Busta Rhymes and Anderson .Paak, seemed to set the stage for a well-deserved awards-night victory lap for the group’s final statement.
Sadly, it was not to be. Hampered, perhaps, by that late 2016 release date, it was shut out in the Grammy nominations even as genre-mates Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar led the way in the major categories. Even more disappointing, “We Got It From Here” marked the group’s final shot to win a Grammy award after losing out in 1997, 1999 and 2012 (for the documentary “Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest”).
As the Nashville axiom goes, there are two kinds of music, country and western — and both of them were shut out of the major Grammy categories this year.
Eclipsed by rap, R&B and contemporary pop artists including Bruno Mars, Kendrick Lamar, Sza and Jay-Z, acclaimed country artists Chris Stapleton, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town and others had to settle for genre nominations.
Though country musicians have been skipped over in the major awards in years past, it’s rare that the whole genre is shut out. That’s especially true considering that the new artist Grammy usually features one Nashville-centric artist (Maren Morris, Sam Hunt, Brandy Clarke, Kacey Musgraves).
Old music doesn’t get much play during Grammy season for obvious reasons. Excepting the centuries-old composers whose work is represented in the classical categories — nothing personal, Gustav Mahler — the annual honors don’t have much time for the thriving world of reissued and undiscovered music.
So we find it worthy to now celebrate the five resurrected recordings that leaped across borders and decades to earn attention in the here and now.
Issued by noted archival company the Numero Group, “Bobo Yeye: Belle Epoque in Upper Volta” gathers 1970s music from the landlocked central African country now known as Burkina Faso.