6 takeaways from 2022 Grammy nominations
Each year, Grammy nominations serve as a barometer of how the traditional music industry perceives itself. This year it looks like the Recording Academy has recognized its own image in jazz Everyman Jon Batiste, who leads the nominations with 11. Although Batiste is extremely talented, concerned with social justice, and by all accounts a great guy, he’s also largely harmless, making music for kids’ movies when he’s not doing the soundtrack for a CBS show from once awesome satirical. He is followed by Justin Bieber, Doja Cat and HER, each with eight nods, then Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo, who have seven each.
Of course, how the Grammys assess the self-perception of the mainstream music world depends on the methodology they use each year. The most striking change for the 2022 awards is that the Academy has extended the number of nominees to 10 in each of the four major categories (Album of the year, Disc of the year, Song of the year and Best new artist), against eight last year and five not later than 2018. But the secrecy nominating committees targeted by the Weeknd last year have also seen their role reduced. Another rule change widened the pool songwriters and producers who can be recognized in the Album of the Year category. And keep in mind the eligibility window for this year, September 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021, which means Adele isn’t just going to sweep this thing away.
Here’s our breakdown of this year’s Schemers, Cringey, and Grammys-gonna-Grammy nominations. The awards show will air on January 31, 2022 on (but of course) CBS.
The four major categories are a confusing reminder
As any creator of annual end-of-year lists knows, the longer the list, the more room for error. Pick just one album of the year and no one can tell which great records you completely skipped, but try to rank 100 and the potential for embarrassing blind spots only multiplies. The Grammys may be running into a version of this problem as they continue to grow their picklists for the top four categories, as this year’s Big Four picks make last year’s music seem to both duller and more scattered than it looked in real time.
The year’s album ends with a mush of industry-friendly polished traditionalism (Batiste’s WE ARE, collaboration Tony Bennett-Lady Gaga Love for sale), next-gen pop (Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, Olivia Rodrigo, Doja Cat), relatively minor works by longtime stars (Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Kanye West) and recent Grammy sweetheart HER (probably thanks to her new generation traditionalism?). Sure, a few big albums fell outside the eligibility window (Lana Del Rey, War on Drugs), but was 2021 really so uninspiring, even focusing only on one-size-fits-all releases? Grammy? Jazmine Sullivan, whose brilliant Tales of Heaux did not go beyond R&B categories, could be different.
Despite a few surprises (more on these later), the other flagship categories are an equally bland buffet. The record of the year list includes ubiquitous hits from Bieber, Rodrigo and Silk Sonic, as well as the return of ABBA. The two Brandi Carlile songs contested in Song of the Year seem destined to cancel each other out, but the split of votes between Ed Sheeran and, again, HER seems impossible to predict. The absurdity of the Best New Artist category is taken to its limits when a eight-time Grammy winner is in the running, and (name a new artist of your choice) is not. All in all, the Big Four almost seem like the Grammys are raising their hands and letting the voters take care of their problem. —Marc Hogan
You like to see it
Apparently, despite its Byzantine nomination process, the Grammys are sometimes right, or most of the time. Arooj Aftab Vulture prince is hands down one of the best albums of the year, so it was quite shocking that his finest composition, “MohabbatWas recognized in the Best Global Performance category, even though she has lived in the United States since 2005. But her nomination for Best New Artist is rightfully shocking, a welcome surprise in a category that regularly produces decidedly less deserving puzzles. And the unexpected nod from Japanese Breakfast’s best new artist sounds like a well-deserved career award for Michelle Zauner’s project, recognition for making three of the most exciting indie rock albums of the past five years. She was also nominated in the Best Alternative Music Album category, where four of the five nominees are women, in itself recognition of the incredible guitar music made by women. That is, until you get to rock and metal categories … —Matthew Ismael Ruiz
The rock is dead, once again
The Grammys’ typically moribund rock categories came to life last year, perhaps thanks in large part to the abundance of women. The contenders for Best Rock Performance were all female or female-led groups, with Fiona Apple ultimately defeating Big Thief, Phoebe Bridgers, HAIM, Brittany Howard, and Grace Potter. Howard also won, for best rock song. And while The Strokes are now distinguished gentlemen, their Grammy for Best Rock Album last year was their very first Recording Academy trophy, which was both a fun move and an example you shouldn’t take. these statuettes too seriously. Even though Bridgers ended up going home empty-handed, her four nominations in rock, alternative and best new artist were a sign of hope for a slightly less Jurassic awards show.