The Recording Academy did a pretty good job this year, but it wouldn’t be the Grammys without a few head-scratchers
For decades, the Grammys often seemed to be operating in a whole different world than the one inhabited by most music fans. But that’s changing more and more each year, and this time around the Recording Academy got a lot of things right. Sure, there are a few weird decisions mixed in there. But if the Grammys didn’t give us stuff to complain about, it wouldn’t be the Grammys.
The Grammys Got SZA Right
At Rolling Stone, we don’t throw around the term “masterpiece” lightly — but SZA’s SOS is that kind of achievement. It was a blockbuster album that was sonically adventurous and deeply open. As we noted in the cover story of our recent Grammy Preview issue, “she went bigger and bolder with accounts of murder fantasies, the celebrity men in her iMessages, her self-hatred, and her ungratefulness. She bucked the R&B box she’s often placed in with rap songs, rock songs, and big pop ballads — but still sang the hell out of a Babyface track, just because she could.” With nine nominations, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year (for her hit “Kill Bill”), the voters did SZA right — so far. Now, let’s hope she takes home an armload of statues come February.
Olivia Rodrigo Becomes A Bona Fide Grammy Darling
We already know Olivia Rodrigo avoided a sophomore slump with her new album, Guts — and the Recording Academy just confirmed it. She received six nominations, which makes 13 so far for her blossoming career. She got nods in major categories like Album of the Year and Record and Song of the Year (for “Vampire”). Additionally, the singer scored a “Best Rock Song” nomination for Guts thrashing standout, “Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl.” From winning Best New Artist two years ago to going up against some of the biggest names in music in two of the Grammys most coveted categories in a genre category, it’s clear Rodrigo is going to have a huge presence on music’s biggest night for years to come. —M.G.
The Grammys Have Taylormania, Too
It’s getting impossible to describe just how big Taylor Swift is right now, but suffice it to say that few artists, ever, have had the kind of world-conquering extended moment she’s experiencing. Appropriately, she scored six nominations for the dreamy synthscapes of Midnights, including Album of the Year. —B.H.
Lana Del Rey Rings Up Her Second Album of the Year Nomination
In 2019, Lana Del Rey released her landmark album, Norman Fucking Rockwell!, and finally received recognition from the Recording Academy in the top categories with a Song of the Year nomination for the album’s track title and the coveted Album of the Year nomination. It felt past due for an artist who helped shape the pop landscape of the mid-2010s. But Del Rey was ironically beaten out by Billie Eilish, one of the many artists she’d influenced, and her brilliant album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Thankfully, the Grammys may be setting things right this year: Del Rey’s Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd received a well-deserved Album of the Year nomination. While the singer is up against Grammy favorites including Jon Batiste and Taylor Swift, at least the academy is giving her a fighting chance. —M.G.
Victoria Monét Steps Into Her Rightful Place In the Spotlight
After years of integral behind-the-scenes work as a producer and songwriter for hits like Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next and Chloe x Halle’s “Do It,” Victoria Monét is getting well-deserved shine as a solo artist. Her major-label debut, Jaguar II — a follow-up to her lush independent EP of the same name — was one of the best albums of the year and has earned her seven nominations, making her one of just a handful of the night’s leading contenders. Over more than a decade, she’s carefully crafted a stunning career of pop, R&B, and soul, but her recent accolades have come from learning to let go, she told Rolling Stone. “Music has really been a guiding factor for me,” she said. “When I get into the studio, that’s the time where I really don’t have much of a plan. I have my arms open and I exercise the art of allowing whatever [to happen].” —M.C.
The Beatles and the Stones Both Got Nominations. It’s 2023!
The Rolling Stones somehow didn’t win a single Grammy Awards until 1994, when they picked up Best Rock Album for Voodoo Lounge, even though it’s possibly the worst album they ever made. Their new song “Angry” is up for Best Rock Song this year. It’s better than just about every track on Voodoo Lounge, but it’ll be tough to beat new releases by Billie Eilish, the Foo Fighters, and boygenius. The Beatles, meanwhile, are up for Best New Video for their new animated “I’m Only Sleeping” video. They have seven Grammys to their name. The Stones have a mere three. For comparison’s sake, polka king Jimmy Sturr has 18. It would be very Grammys if they failed to recognize Exile on Main Street, Revolver, “Gimme Shelter,” and “Strawberry Fields Forever,” but handed out awards for “Angry” and an animated video even most Beatles fans didn’t know existed. —Andy Greene
Coco Jones Gets Her Due
Coco Jones’ hyper-melodic throwback ballad “ICU” is an instant R&B classic, as is the rest of her sophomore album, What I Didn’t Tell You, which draws on influences from Brandy to ’00s Beyoncé. So it’s deeply satisfying to see the former child star — who was getting Radio Disney play at age 14 — score Best New Artist, Best R&B Song, and Best R&B album noms. —B.H.
Janelle Monáe Gets an Album of the Year Nod
Our June cover star made one of this year’s most satisfyingly broad-minded albums in The Age of Pleasure, and it’s gratifying to see it rewarded with an Album of the Year nomination. “It was inspired by all of my friends, my community of folks who are from South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, the Caribbean, Atlanta, L.A., Chicago,” Monáe says of the album in Rolling Stone. “Seeing all of us together in our Blackness, in the love that we had in our eyes for each other. People from the continent fuck around with trap from Atlanta. You know what I’m saying? I love how the diaspora — we talk to each other.” —C.H.
Bernie Sanders Got a Nomination. Wait, What?
Bernie Sanders came up short when he ran for president in 2016 and 2020, and his dream of single-payer health care remains as far off as ever, but at least he has a decent chance of winning his first Grammy this year. He’s up for Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording for the audio version of his book It’s OK to Be Angry About Capitalism. The competition is pretty stiff since he’s up against Michelle Obama, Meryl Streep, William Shatner, and Rick Rubin, but we have a feeling this just might be Bernie’s year. If not, he’ll have reason to be angrier than ever, since he was denied a Grammy back in 2018 in the same category. —Andy Greene
Burna Boy’s Rap Nomination Signals African Artists’ Mainstream Moves
Though Burna Boy is (and should be) considered an Afrobeats artist, he has often described his music as Afrofusion, a term meant to signify the disparate elements he unites across his strong body of work. The Nigerian star has always been a formidable rapper, and after five nominations and one win in the Grammy’s global categories, this year, he earned his first nod outside of the categories that silo artists from non-Western countries. His Brandy-sampling radio smash “Sittin’ on Top of the World,” featuring 21 Savage, is nominated for Best Melodic Rap Performance, a sign of African artists’ further integration into the American music landscape. —M.C.
We Now Have Further Proof That Ice Spice is Rap’s Rookie of the Year
Ice Spice has been hip-hop’s biggest new star 2023, and the Grammy committee acknowledged the Bronx rhymer’s ascendance with two nominations: Best New Artist and Best Rap Song, for the swaggering “Barbie World” alongside Nicki Minaj. It’s great to see the committee get it right when it comes to rewarding the charismatic artist who’s already vaulted to stardom. —Andre Gee
Summer Walker — One of R&B’s Biggest Stars — Gets Her First Solo Grammy Nod
Summer Walker is clearly a force in her field. After gaining ground — and a Drake feature — with her single “Girls Need Love” as a rising artist in 2018, her debut album, Over It, went on to earn the biggest streaming week for an R&B album by a woman ever at the time, besting Beyoncé’s Lemonade. It’s follow-up, Still Over It, topped the Billboard 200 when it was released, too, besting yet another Beyoncé record. Summer’s wide appeal as a raw, soulful, modern emblem of R&B is well overdue for some Grammy love. Her excellent EP Clear 2: Soft Life has finally garnered Walker her first solo Grammy nod (her only other is for her appearance on Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers). —M.C.
Neutral Milk Hotel Earn First-Ever Grammy Nomination (Seriously)
You can win a Grammy for a lot of things. There are 94 categories out there, and while most of them have to do with the craft of writing songs and making recordings, there’s also the more far-flung categories in Field 9: “Package, Notes, & Historical,” honoring excellency in liner notes, historic recordings, packaging, and box sets. It’s here, this year, that one of the most revered indie artists of all time managed to earn their first-ever Grammy nomination. Neutral Milk Hotel are up for Best Boxed Set or Special Limited Edition Package for The Collected Works of Neutral Milk Hotel. Obviously, Neutral Milk Hotel absolutely do not need a Grammy to further solidify their unshakable legend status. But 25 years after their classic album In the Airplane Over the Sea, it’s somehow still cool as hell to see them get a look . —Jon Blistein
Jelly Roll Gets A Well-Deserved Look For Best New Artist
Just a few years ago, Jelly Roll was playing gritty clubs in Nashville as a rapper and selling mixtapes out of his car. Now he’s a country singer headlining arenas, duetting with Lainey Wilson, and even starring in skits on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Today, the face-tattooed dude born Jason DeFord also became the most unlikely of Best New Artist nominees. On the strength of his album Whitsitt Chapel and crossover hits like “Need a Favor” and “Save Me,” the charismatic Jelly clearly made an impression on voters, who perhaps see him as the ultimate underdog. But after being crowned the CMA Awards’ New Artist of the Year earlier this week, a Grammy win may not be so far-fetched. —J.H.
Indie Faves Alvvays Score Surprise Nomination
For all the indie nerds out there, the Alternative (and sometimes Rock) categories always offer up the tantalizing prospect that some just-under-the-radar artist might break through to one of music’s most mainstream institutions. Big Thief and Japanese Breakfast have earned this honor in recent years; and Wet Leg even beat out Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Björk, and Arcade fire for Best Alternative Music Album last year. With totemic artists like boygenius, Arctic Monkeys, Lana Del Rey, Paramore, and Gorillaz in the mix for 2024, there admittedly wasn’t a whole lot of room for surprises, but there was at least one: Endlessly lovable Canadian outfit Alvvays notched a Best Alternative Music Performance nod for their fantastic indie-rock tune, “Belinda Says,” one of the best songs on Alvvays’ excellent 2022 LP, Blue Rev. “Belinda Says” is a seismic blast of indie-pop centered around an interpolation of a classic Eighties solo hit from Belinda Carlisle (“Belinda says that heaven is a place on earth, well, so is hell”). It’s so irresistible, even Carlisle expressed her approval, tweeting earlier this year, “This is awesome and I’m so flattered.” — J.B.
William Shatner Might Finally Get His Grammy
William Shatner wasn’t nominated for a Grammy in 1968 when he dropped his acid-freakout cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” They denied him in the years that followed when he released albums that tackled country, the blues, Christmas music, and even progressive rock. The only time prior to this year the academy even nominated him for a Grammy was in 1976, for his narration of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation: The Psychohistorians. He was beaten out for the Best Spoken Word Recording award by the supergroup of Henry Fonda, Helen Hayes, James Earl Jones, and Orson Welles for their work on Great American Documents. He might finally get some Grammy justice this year since the narrated version of his book Boldly Go: Reflections On a Life of Awe and Wonder is up for Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording. We would rather have seen him collect the trophy for “Mr. Tambourine Man,” but this would be a nice consolation prize. —Andy Greene