4 biggest lessons learned from the shocking Grammys

The 2023 Grammys were full of chaotic wins and energetic performances. The winners this year ranged from expected sweepers to head-scratching underdogs. But we learn a little more about the Grammys and their tendencies every year, despite how weird they might feel sometimes. Here are the four biggest takeaways from this year’s show.

Number of nominations doesn’t equal strength
It’s common to assume that an artist’s strength might be reflected in the total number of nominations they got. However, many winners proved this wrong. For example, Robert Glasper’s “Black Radio III” got two nominations but was able to beat the six-time nominated “Good Morning Gorgeous” by Mary J. Blige for Best R&B Album. Similarly, “Til You Can’t” by Cody Johnson won Best Country Song despite being snubbed everywhere else.

Others who proved this wrong were Sam Smith and Kim Petras (Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Unholy”) and Muni Long (Best R&B Performance for “Hrs and Hrs”), who beat artists with more nominations, including some in the general field. Perhaps there’s a difference in the number of voters participating in the final round compared to the first round. Or perhaps voters change their opinions a lot from the time the nominations are being voted on to the time the final round of voting happens, probably impacted by promotion and campaigning.

Pop voters keep up with the times
This marked yet another year when pop voters seemed to have minds of their own. Sam Smith and Kim Petras’s “Unholy” managed to beat a general field-nominated song (ABBA‘s “Don’t Shut Me Down”), which rarely happened years ago. “Unholy” is also special due to it being by two trans artists, as well as being a TikTok-driven hit.

Meanwhile, many assumed Adele would sweep all her categories as usual, but pop voters were able to spread the wealth and go with Harry Styles’s “Harry’s House” for Best Pop Vocal Album — one of the most successful albums of the year and one that’s sonically diverse and not just ballad-based. Wins like these continue the trend of a younger-leaning pop field, previously evidenced by wins for songs like Lizzo‘s “Truth Hurts” and Olivia Rodrigo‘s “Drivers License.”

The power of TikTok
This year’s Grammys proved that voters are very much aware of what’s trending on TikTok. Lizzo’s “About Damn Time,” which got popular thanks to the power of a viral dance, won Record of the Year against heavy hitters like Adele and Harry Styles. The aforementioned “Unholy” also had popularity that stemmed from the app. But perhaps the clearest example is Samara Joy, the soulful jazz vocalist who went viral on the app due to her amazing renditions of classic songs. With all that in mind, plus nominations for TikTok smashes like Gayle‘s “abcdefu” and Steve Lacy‘s “Bad Habit,” it’s not a huge stretch to say voters have been on the app lately.

Watch out for the underdogs
One of the wildest wins this year was Bonnie Raitt for Song of the Year. One thing became very obvious: genre underdogs should not be underestimated. With lineups of 10 nominees in the general field, we need to get more used to the idea of pop artists splitting the vote if there isn’t a clear consensus on who should win. This year, with everyone from Adele to Lizzo to Harry Styles likely getting a piece of the pop vote, it makes sense how an underdog like Raitt, who’s beloved in the American roots field, managed to receive enough votes to win. It also makes sense for someone like Best New Artist winner Samara Joy, who likely rode the concentrated support from her jazz peers to a victory. When in doubt, perhaps consider which underdog could ride enough genre passion to a big win.

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