Will Grammy Expansion of Top Categories Give Rock + Metal a Fair Shake?
Who has felt that rock and metal have been given a fair shake at the Grammy Awards in recent years? That would likely be a small showing of hands. While the criticism of the award show has grown, the Recording Academy have been taking steps of late to rectify the perception that many rock and metal fans have, and with the announcement that the major categories - Record, Song and Album of the Year and Best New Artist - will be expanded from five nominees to eight, there's the possibility of renewed recognition for the heavier genres.
Recording Academy president Neil Portnow tells Billboard that the changes in the top categories will take effect immediately to provide "more flexibility to our voters when having to make the often challenging decisions about representing excellence and the best in music for the year." Fans will notice the change at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards taking place in 2019.
"Throughout the year, we team up with music people across all genres and disciplines to consider revisions and subsequently make amendments to our rules and entry guidelines to ensure we're keeping up with our ever-changing industry and meeting the needs of music creators," said Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow in a statement. "This creates more opportunities for a wider-range of recognition in these important categories and gives more flexibility to our voters when having to make the often challenging decisions about representing excellence and the best in music for the year. We look forward to celebrating all of our nominees when they are announced later this year."
All other categories will remain capped at five nominees.
As we've seen in recent years, the rock acts have been largely squeezed out of the discussion for the major categories, while metal acts have continued to be limited primarily to their own field. The last resemblance of a rock act being nominated for Album of the Year came in 2013 when The Black Keys and Jack White were both up for the honor with their El Camino and Blunderbuss albums, and you have to go back a year prior to 2012 for a true bonafide rock act when Foo Fighters earned a nomination for Album of the Year with Wasting Light. Pop and rap have almost exclusively populated the category in recent years, with country acts Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton and alternative rock band Alabama Shakes being the lone exceptions earning a nod.
For Record of the Year, you have to go back to 2014 when Imagine Dragons earned a nod for their Active Rock hit "Radioactive" to find some rock representation and 2008 for Foo Fighters' "The Pretender" for a rock staple act getting a nomination. In Song of the Year, a songwriter's category, the last rock nominee of note was Hoobastank's "The Reason" in 2005. The biggest drought has come in the Best New Artist category, where you have to look back to 2002 when Linkin Park received a nomination.
As detailed in our interview with Grammy SVP of Awards Bill Friemuth earlier this year, there has been movement toward a better representation reflective of the fields of rock and metal in recent years. That really showed this year with metal fans mostly praising the selections in the frequently mocked metal field. That comes as a result of more specialized metal committees helping to hone the class of potential nominees.
“There’s been a gradual shift over the last several years [in the rock category].” said Freimuth in our chat. “The nomination review committee for rock is only three years old now. It was initiated after listening to the community, possibly after hearing the Tenacious D thing, but in general the feeling was the people voting in the rock field were voting on name recognition, popularity, legacy status, chart position, marketing budget which are all factors we don’t want our voters to consider. We want voting to be entirely on what they’re hearing on the record. They either like it or don’t.”
So with the addition of three more slots in the major categories, there is the potential for the Recording Academy to do the right thing and nominate deserving recordings and acts in fields other than pop and rap and give a broader representation of the best in music for that year. Rock and metal may or may not always be represented in those additional slots as other genres have also been lacking in representation, but the opportunity now appears to finally be there to seize the recognition for recordings that deserve to be saluted.
For the sake of discussion, which rock and metal artists of 2018 do you think should be nominated for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist? Head to the comment section with your suggestions.
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