Putting it mildly, 2018 was not a great year for Recording Academy President and Chief Executive Neil Portnow.
After 15 years of steady stewardship of the organization with little in the way of controversy under his watch, Portnow ignited a firestorm of criticism on the heels of a comment after this year’s Grammys that it was time for women to “step up” if they wished to be better represented in the annual gala.
Portnow’s quick mea culpa did little to quell the outrage among many who argued vociferously that if it was time for anything, it was time for Portnow to step down. Several weeks later he announced that that was precisely what he would do — after his current contract expires in July.
For the first time in more than 15 years, the Backstreet Boys are nominated for a Grammy.
That’s right, the bestselling boy band in history (not counting the Beatles) is up for pop duo/group performance for “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” — the first release from the group’s upcoming album, “DNA,” its first in six years.
And considering the category also includes Christina Aguilera’s “Fall in Line” featuring Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake’s “Say Something” featuring Chris Stapleton and Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You” featuring Cardi B, it’s a race that conjures up some serious nostalgia for the days of "Total Request Live," MTV's groundbreaking video countdown show that once upon a time was required after-school viewing.
In terms of sheer breadth and impact, there’s likely never been a better year for movie music at the Grammys than the upcoming 2019 awards.
Two films, “A Star Is Born” and “Black Panther,” have soundtracks or singles contending in several top categories. A third, “The Greatest Showman,” got a pair of nods (it was the first million-selling album in the U.S. in 2018, and currently clocks 51 weeks on the Billboard album charts).
The three are very different films — a big-tent, big-message Marvel franchise movie with a Kendrick Lamar-driven soundtrack; a classic Hollywood tale updated for contemporary crowds, which revitalized Lady Gaga’s pop career and gave Bradley Cooper one of his own; and a traditional musical-spectacle from a nimble movie star and a lauded songwriting team.
Most years the spoken word category ranks pretty low in the races to watch.
In recent years the biggest drama has been whether Stephen Colbert would ruin the chances of Pete Seeger earning one last Grammy. (Yes, in 2014.) Might Val Kilmer pull off an upset over Betty White and Tina Fey? Nope, Betty White won the 2012 trophy.
This year, however, a different sort of drama may be the focus: A book by author and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson earned a nomination. In recent weeks, Tyson has been defending himself against multiple allegations of sexual harassment, and assault. As read by actor Courtney B. Vance, Tyson’s book with Avis Lang, “Accessory to War,” is on the slate. Tyson has denied the allegations.
The televised Grammy Awards ceremony has been known in recent years for its musical mash-ups — onstage performances among unlikely collaborators designed to blur genres and offer evidence of music’s universality.
The results have been surprising, occasionally delightful and just as often baffling.
The rock categories at the Grammys have, for more than a decade, largely been a subsidy program for Dave Grohl and his ’90s-post-alt contemporaries.
But nothing gets Grammy rock voters hotter than a popular new band that nods back to older bands (see recent wins from the War On Drugs and Cage the Elephant), and this year has a major contender in Greta Van Fleet.
The young Michigan quartet had perhaps the strongest Grammy showing of any guitar-based rock group this year. With nominations in all the major rock categories (performance, song and album) and an additional nod for best new artist, it’s clear that they are the Grammy consensus pick for 2018’s breakthrough rock act.
The nominations are officially out for the 61st Grammy Awards. But with 84 categories — including eight nominees in each of the top four categories — it’s a lot to digest.
Thankfully, Times music reporters Gerrick Kennedy and Randy Lewis are here to offer their instant takes on the major takeaways from the 2019 nominations. How far can “A Star Is Born” breakout tune “Shallow” go? Just why isn’t Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” up for album of the year? And will this finally be Kendrick Lamar’s year?
Watch video below for analysis on all that and more.
Los Angeles Times music critics Gerrick D. Kennedy and Randy Lewis react to the 2019 Grammy nominations.