New Grammy rules set off more grumbling

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Some disappointed musicians are speaking up again about the elimination of 31 award categories.

Grousing about the Grammy nominations is a time-honored practice in the music industry, but those who felt overlooked, snubbed or robbed this year had new ammunition to bolster their complaints: a change in the rules that eliminated 31 award categories, assuring far fewer nominees than in recent years.


“Damn, this really hurts,” wrote R&B singer Miguel in a series of tweets Thursday after he failed to get a nomination despite getting some of the best critical notices of the year for his album “All I Want Is You.” “I don’t think I’m God’s gift to music, but I know the album or at least [the single] ‘Sure Thing’ should have been nominated.”

Nominations in the R&B categories, which were cut from eight to four by the new rules, seemed to favor tradition over Top 40. Despite major releases from Beyoncé, herself a longtime Grammy darling, Jill Scott, Ne-Yo, Jazmine Sullivan and Keri Hilson, nods went to quieter releases from Kelly Price, Ledisi and El DeBarge. There were complaints that the new rules left little or no distinction between contemporary and traditional R&B.

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“If your music does fall in different genres and categories, it does slim the chances of being able to be nominated once or multiple times,” said Melanie Fiona, who scored two nods for her duet with Cee Lo Green, “Fool for You.” “I know I don’t do it for the accolades, but it’s nice to be recognized. Some people wont be recognized because they don’t fit perfectly in a category.”

Veteran talent manager and former record executive Jim Guerinot, whose clients include Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, noted that Reznor won the Oscar for his score for the movie “The Social Network” but didn’t make the Grammy nomination list.

“Today it was opening my paper and seeing that the guy who won the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for best score didn’t even get nominated.… I don’t know what they’ve done to improve the process” with this year’s changes, Guerinot said. “The Grammys have led with their chin for 30 years, and they’re not going to stop now. It’s what they do.”


The country music community was affected by the merging of what long had been separate categories for male and female vocal performance, as well as the elimination of a category for one-time collaborations between artists.

“In a way I think the consolidation is a good thing because there are so many categories,” said Larry Fitzgerald, president of Fitzgerald-Hartley Management in Nashville, which represents Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, LeAnn Rimes, Colbie Caillat and Randy Houser, among others. “But I think it’s kind of weird: It puts people in a category that probably shouldn’t be in a category together. I understand what they’re doing, but only time will tell how it shakes out.”

Roots music categories also were pared back, which figures to have a major effect on acts that typically never were highlighted on the Grammy telecast or made headlines with their nominations.
“In some of these smaller categories, that’s the artists’ lifeblood,” said Holly Gleason, a publicist for numerous country and Americana acts.

A Grammy nomination or win, she said, can have a proportionally greater effect for the winner of traditional folk or polka album than for the overall album or record of the year honoree. “It makes a difference in how they get paid at festivals, whether they get the opportunity to get on public radio shows. A Grammy is life-changing for them,” Gleason said.

Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said Thursday that the rule changes, announced last April amid controversy, were necessary because the number of awards had ballooned unreasonably, but suggested they would be reexamined again.

“The honest answer is, it’s still too early to tell or give any thorough analysis,” he said. “We get the nominations moments before the show. We haven’t had enough time to do an analysis. As we do annually, we have our committee meetings where we will review our categories, obviously with a special eye and ear toward how this all played out.”


“I think the most disappointing thing for me,” Guerinot added, “is that this year I actually [cared]. We always look [at nominations and awards] and go, ‘What are they doing?’ And when it happens one more time, you think, ‘Yeah, it’s the same thing.’ It’s not that there aren’t an abundance of artists who are deserving to win. But you have to wonder what the process is. You really do.”

But Scott Borchetta, president of Big Machine Records, the label for Taylor Swift, who scored three nominations Wednesday night, but none in the major categories, offered another view.

“Sometimes we get too caught up in it,” he said. “It’s an award show. Yes, it’s wonderful to be acknowledged. But if you’re working just to get a Grammy Award, I suggest that you have to clean your glasses.

“Do this art because you love it. If you really love it, it’s not work.”


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-- Randy Lewis & Gerrick D. Kennedy