Major Grammys shakeup: Academy ditches secretive nomination review committees for 2022 awards

The 2021 Grammys sparked controversy with their nominations and snubs — par for the course for the institution, whose own former CEO Deborah Dugan alleged vote-rigging and conflicts of interests in the nominations process. But on Friday, April 30, the recording academy announced a big shakeup: all nomination review committees are gone, which has the potential to solve one of the Grammys’ biggest transparency problems.

Under the previous system, academy members at large would vote, but final nomination decisions in many categories, including the top four general field categories, were made by committees made up of 15 to 20 anonymous members. On one hand, those small panels have probably leveled the playing field for deserving acts with lower public profiles: surprise Album of the Year contenders like Brandi Carlile (“By the Way, I Forgive You”) and Jacob Collier (“Djesse Vol. 3”) probably owe their nominations to the committees.

On the other hand, their secrecy created a huge legitimacy problem for the Grammys; those committees put a disproportionate amount of power in the hands of just a dozen or so academy members whose identities, affiliations, and biases are unknown. So when they omit someone unexpectedly — like The Weeknd, who vowed to boycott the Grammys after his complete shutout from the 2021 nominations — it makes suspicions of corruption even stronger.

The nominations in “general and genre fields will now be determined by a majority, peer-to-peer vote of voting members … With this change, the results of Grammy nominations and winners are placed back in the hands of the entire voting membership body, giving further validation to the peer-recognized process.”

This will also be a major test of the academy’s demographics, which the organization has made an effort to expand somewhat. Without committees making the final calls, will Black artists and underappreciated genres like hip-hop be locked out in favor of the more adult-contemporary music that voters have tended to prefer (e.g. Taylor Swift‘s “1989” over Kendrick Lamar‘s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” Adele’s “25” over Beyonce‘s “Lemonade”)?

To try to prevent bloc voting and ensure that members only vote in categories where they have the most expertise, they may only vote in 10 genre categories (down from 15), and those 10 categories “must be within no more than three fields.” All members can vote for the top categories: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist.

In addition, the Grammys announced the addition of two new categories: Best Global Music Performance and Best Música Urbana Album — alas, still no Best Pop Song category despite most other prominent genres having their own songwriting awards.

The academy’s Chief Industry Officer Ruby Marchand said in a statement, “The latest changes to the Grammy Awards process are prime examples of the Recording Academy’s commitment to authentically represent all music creators and ensure our practices are in lock-step with the ever-changing musical environment. As we continue to build a more active and vibrant membership community, we are confident in the expertise of our voting members to recognize excellence in music each year.”

Chief Awards Officer Bill Freimuth added, “As an Academy, we have reaffirmed our commitment to continue to meet the needs of music creators everywhere, and this year’s changes are a timely and positive step forward in the evolution of our voting process. We rely on the music community to help us to continue to evolve, and we’re grateful for their collaboration and leadership.”

But the proof will be in the pudding. Whether this appeases artists like The Weeknd, Halsey, Drake, and many more who have become disillusions with the awards may largely depend on what the next slate of nominees looks like without the committees running interference.

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