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Grammys’ expanded awards meant to promote new talent led to noms for Taylor Swift, Kanye West: Report

A man in a suit speaks at a clear podium onstage.
Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. speaks onstage at the Grammy nominations press conference at CBS Studios on Nov. 20, 2019, in New York City.
(Bryan Bedder / Getty Images)

An expansion of the Grammy Awards nominations aimed at improving inclusion benefited established artists such as Taylor Swift and Kanye West, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

A decision to grow the award ceremony’s “Big Four” categories from eight to 10 nominees was made Monday, a day before the nods were announced, and led to nominations for artists including ABBA and Lil Nas X, according to the report. The new additions were revealed by comparing an early version of the final nominations list that had circulated several days before the official announcement made on Tuesday morning, a copy of which the New York Times said it obtained.

“I applaud our Board of Trustees, for having the agility and foresight to approve this expansion as a way to honor more music, more artists and more genres,” Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. said in a response posted online Thursday. “And yes, they did it quickly and decisively, and they did it without knowing who the additional nominees would be.”

This year’s nominees included the largest age spread in Grammys history, from Tony Bennett, 95, to Olivia Rodrigo, 18, in an example of the academy’s attempt to laud new stars as well as established talent.

The latest revelations could generate more backlash for the music industry’s most prominent trade group a year after it was fiercely criticized for snubbing the Weeknd — in a process that raised suspicions about backroom vote-rigging.

Mason denied that the Weeknd had been iced out of the awards because he had angered executives while negotiating a deal to appear at both the Grammys at the Super Bowl halftime show.

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The 64th Grammys are the first where the four major categories, such as record of the year and song of the year, feature 10 nominees each, up from eight for the last few years.

Jazz-R&B composer Jon Batiste, best known as the bandleader and music director for “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” earned the most Grammy nominations of any act this year, with 11. The pianist and singer earned nods for album and record of the year for his “We Are” album and its single “Freedom,” which will compete against releases from Rodrigo, Justin Bieber and Lil Nas X.

According to the New York Times, the two entries added to the ballot for album of the year were Swift’s “Evermore” and West’s “Donda.” They joined albums by Bennett and Lady Gaga, Rodrigo, Bieber, Doja Cat, H.E.R., Billie Eilish, Batiste and Lil Nas X.

With the expansion of 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 added, the New York Times said.

Taylor Swift and BTS each received just one Grammy nomination this year, while little-known Pakistani singer Arooj Aftab received two, including best new artist.

Mason said in an interview with the L.A. Times that more than 21,000 recordings had been submitted for consideration by the group’s approximately 11,000 voting members and that “we wanted to provide the opportunity for as many artists to be represented as possible.”

He added that this year’s nominations “have started to prove our hypothesis” that the academy — long known as a bastion of old-white-guy values — is successfully expanding and diversifying its membership.

The Recording Academy says this year’s nominees are the first in decades not shaped by secretive committees of unidentified insiders who historically oversaw — and sometimes amended — voters’ first-round choices. Following criticism of the group, it announced in April that it had eliminated its so-called nominations review committees and pledged to run a clean vote going forward.

The annual ceremony is set to take place Jan. 31 in downtown Los Angeles at Crypto.com Arena (formerly Staples Center).


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