The Grammys hate rap.
Sure, artists like Kanye West and Jay-Z win trophies by the fistful, but they’re almost always limited to the rap categories. In the general field, the Grammys go for adult-contemporary acts. Hell, even the behind-the-times Oscars have awarded Best Song to rap tunes twice. Compare that to the zero which have won Record of the Year at the Grammys.
While rap stars Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis both earned seven nominations apiece this year — including Album of the Year and Best New Artist — if one of them can overcome Grammy’s bias, it’ll probably be Macklemore and Lewis.
Not only did the duo reap a rare Song of the Year nomination — with a few exceptions, rap is persona non grata in the top songwriting race — they were also the biggest new hitmakers of the year, selling millions of copies of their first three singles and certified platinum for their debut album “The Heist.”
More importantly, they’re a kinder and gentler rap act, more hip-pop than hip-hop, so they might appeal to the musically conservative kinds of voters who picked Steely Dan over Eminem for Album of the Year in 2000. They may sing rap songs, but they’re grandpa-friendly.
That could be especially advantageous in the Album race, which lacks an obvious frontrunner after the surprise snub of Justin Timberlake in the general field, and the other nominees are a question mark. Will they go back to Taylor Swift so soon after her 2009 win or develop a taste for techno with Daft Punk? Sara Bareilles‘s nomination is probably her reward, and I suspect Lamar is way too threatening for the Grammy geezers, so Macklemore and Lewis might have a path to victory by default, making “The Heist” the third rap album to win that race, following Lauryn Hill‘s “Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” and Outkast‘s “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.”
New Artist might be a bigger challenge. Grammy voters bend over backwards to avoid rap there — Evanescence over 50 Cent (2003) Maroon 5 over Kanye (2004), Esperanza Spalding over Drake (2010), Bon Iver over Nicki Minaj (2011), Fun. over Frank Ocean (2012) — and up against them and Lamar is the thing Grammy voters love the most in the category: a solo female singer: Kacey Musgraves, who has strong critical support and just got a big hug from the country music industry in the form of the Best New Artist prize at the CMAs. Classy British songwriter Ed Sheeran might also be a comfortable alternative for voters who want to stay away from rap at all costs.
Song of the Year would be the most revolutionary. Even songs with just a little bit of rap end up losing that race — Estelle‘s “American Boy,” Rihanna‘s “Umbrella” — so Macklemore and Lewis’s “Same Love” would be a brave new world for Grammy voters. The song has a timely social message on its side: it’s about gay rights, which may hit a sweet spot for liberal music industry folks, like the Dixie Chicks did when they won for “Not Ready to Make Nice” after backlash surrounding their anti-George W. Bush comments.
Will Macklemore and Lewis win their general field nominations? Am I wrong and it’s Kendrick Lamar who has the better shot at bucking the trend? Or will they both lose like so many rap artists before them? Make your Album of the Year predictions below: