Call it The Weeknd effect.
After the “Blinding Lights” singer was shockingly shut out of the Grammy nominations last year — leading the artist to vow that he would boycott the awards in the future — his presence was strongly felt when the 2022 contenders for music’s top prize were announced Tuesday. A surprise last-minute rule change — not announced until moments before the contenders were revealed — expanded the number of nominees in the Big 4 categories (Album, Record and Song of the Year, plus Best New Artist) from eight to 10.
This is no doubt to avoid having another glaring omission such as when The Weeknd came up empty after his blockbuster “After Hours” album had produced a string of hits. Ironically, The Weeknd nabbed three nominations after last year’s shutout. He’s up for his collaborations on Doja Cat’s “Planet Her” and Kanye West’s “Donda,” including the single “Hurricane.” Although it’s pretty safe to say that he won’t show up when the awards are held Jan. 31.
But the rule change has also made the major categories look like a wide open free-for-all emphasizing quantity over quality.
Take Album of the Year, for instance. It’s hard to argue with Lil Nas X’s “Montero,” Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever” and Justin Bieber’s “Justice (Triple Chucks Deluxe)” — especially after the Biebs didn’t score any major nods for last year’s “Changes.” Ditto for Olivia Rodrigo’s debut “Sour,” which was both a critical and commercial success.
And although Jon Batiste’s “We Are” is somewhat of a surprise as one of 11 nominations that have the “Late Show” bandleader leading the field, it’s the kind of outlier by an accomplished, well-respected musician that often times works its way in the mix. Likewise, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga’s “Love for Sale” LP is the sort of sentimental favorite that sometimes sneaks in when voters go more with their heart than their head.
But after winning Album of the Year this year for “folklore,” did Taylor Swift really need to be nominated again for its lesser sequel “evermore”? R&B songstress H.E.R., nominated for “Back of My Mind,” also feels like the kind of usual suspect who is just padding out the category. And in a more selective space, it’s doubtful that there would be room for Doja Cat’s “Planet Her (Deluxe)” or even West’s “Donda,” which surprisingly got a nod over Drake’s more successful “Certified Lover Boy.”
Similarly, the expanded Record of the Year field seems to allow for including more chart-driven choices (Doja Cat featuring SZA’s “Kiss Me More,” Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon’s “Peaches”) — making the Grammys look more like the fan-voted American Music Awards — as well as head-scratchers such as Bennett and Gaga’s “I Get a Kick Out of You” and Abba’s “I Still Have Faith in You.”
It diminishes the honor of being nominated when it’s not such an exclusive club anymore. To paraphrase Oprah, it’s almost like, “You get a nomination! And you get a nomination! And you get a nomination!”
Indeed, among the 10 Best New Artist nominees, there are probably only five — country star Jimmie Allen, Eilish’s producer-brother Finneas, Bieber collaborator the Kid Laroi, rapper Saweetie and Rodrigo — who most music fans would even know.
And thankfully for all the nominees, Adele — with her No. 1 single “Easy on Me” and new album “30” — didn’t make the September cutoff to be eligible this year.
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