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It Took A Worldwide Pandemic To Get the Recording Academy To Rethink How To Produce the Grammy Awards

“The pandemic somehow made the Grammys watchable.” – Josh Terry, Music Reporter based in Chicago. Well, I guess it took a worldwide pandemic for The Recording Academy to switch things up and rewrite their formulaic take on how to successfully produce an Awards Show.

What usually feels stuffy, awkward, and hours of pandering, somehow felt relatable, stripped down, and actually quite enjoyable. Instead of hosts talking too much and making too many dad jokes, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah was able to manage the duties with ease, humor, and brevity.

The three plus-hour event took place in “an undisclosed location” in Los Angeles, with an open-air award giving area that looks like the equivalent of a luncheon charity event (I just watched an episode of Real Housewives of New Jersey with this sort of thing, so I guess it’s on my mind). The majority of the event focused on performances, and while each year’s award show does in fact center around on the artists performing their respected nominated songs, this year’s vibe felt incredibly different. The show opened with a slew of performances in a round-table format, with Harry Styles up first (he later wins Best Solo Pop Performance for “Watermelon Sugar”). Soon after, we see indie-rock darlings HAIM perform “The Steps,” a track off their incredible album Women In Music Pt. III – nominated for Album of The Year. Following was Billie Eilish, performing “Everything I Wanted” with her brother Finneas, which went on to win Record of The Year, (a shocking turn of events that can’t be too surprising to the most dedicated music fans who understand The Recording Academy’s voter pool). But to lose to “Savage” AND “Black Parade?” Really?

Most of the awards of the evenings went “as scheduled,” as in going to the artists that seem the most likely to win. But a big surprise to myself is Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia only being recognized in one category, Best Pop Album, considering how big her 2020 AND 2021 was (“Don’t Start Now” was released in November 2019 and was able to carry momentum into the album release in March 2020). A near perfect record, I do think she would have walked away with Album of The Year if Taylor hadn’t done what she did with folklore and evermore. She was up against stiff competition, however, losing to Harry Styles in the performance round, song of the year, AND record of the year as well.

It’s hard not to notice the slew of music that The Grammys failed to recognize this year (The Weeknd is an obvious one: but I’m still a little sad about Phoebe Bridgers and Punisher, Rina Sawayama for Best New Artist? Chloe x Halle for Album of the Year? HAIM not being nominated in Best Alternative Album?)

Regardless of what could have beens, let’s get to the music of the evening. It’s easy to look back on past Grammys and point out the more, well, lackluster performances, or even the ones that were flat out bad. Though there were some better ones in the pack this year, it’s not as easy to criticize. With artists like HAIM, DaBaby, and Silk City (the new collaboration between Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars), it felt like a refreshing take on what we’re used to seeing and hearing, considering how poor the audio quality tends to be at these events. Speaking of audio, or lack thereof, it wasn’t all that great seeing Dua Lipa, one of the leading nominees of the night, clearly lip-sync her way through an otherwise decent performance. I digress.

While it’ll take another year or so to see if the reimagined formula will stick for next year’s Grammys, it is nice to see that this year’s was palatable and even in most moments, enjoyable. To see some of the biggest artists of the year ‘slumming it’ in masks and social distancing made it a little bit more realistic and relatable.

Other highlights of the even that don’t include singing:

  • Dev Hynes performing with Harry Styles
  • H.E.R. winning Song of the Year for “I Can’t Breathe”
  • Beyoncé and Jay-Z showing up, cause let’s be real, do they ever? And do they ever need to?
  • Taylor Swift’s folklorian entourage, including Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner, Jonathan Low and Laura Sisk
  • Cardi B. doing the robot post-WAP performance
  • Beyoncé realizing that she is tied for the most Grammy nominations ever.

Check out the list of winners of the major awards below. The noms in blue are the winners.

RECORD OF THE YEAR

Award to the Artist and to the Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s) and/or Mixer(s) and mastering engineer(s), if other than the artist.

  • Black Parade, Beyoncé
  • everything I wanted, Billie Eilish
  • Colors, Black Puma
  • ROCKSTAR, Da Baby & Roddy Rich
  • Say So, Doja Cat
  • Don’t Start Now, Dua Lipa
  • Savage, Megan Thee Stallion & Beyoncé
  • Circles, Post Malone

Our team’s prediction: Savage, Megan Thee Stallion & Beyoncé

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Award to Artist(s) and to Featured Artist(s), Songwriter(s) of new material, Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s), Mixer(s) and Mastering Engineer(s) credited with at least 33% playing time of the album, if other than Artist.

  • Black Pumas Deluxe, Black Pumas
  • Everyday Life, Coldplay
  • Future Nostalgia, Dua Lipa 
  • Djesse Vol. 3, Jacob Collier
  • CHILOMBO, Jhene Aiko
  • Women In Music Pt. III HAIM
  • Hollywood’s Bleeding, Post Malone
  • folklore, Taylor Swift

Our team’s prediction: folklore, Taylor Swift

SONG OF THE YEAR

A Songwriter(s) Award. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.

  • Black Parade, Beyoncé
  • everything I wanted, Billie Eilish
  • Don’t Start Now, Dua Lipa
  • I Can’t Breathe, H.E.R.
  • If the World Was Ending, Julia Michaels & JP Saxe
  • Circles, Post Malone
  • The Box, Roddy Ricch
  • cardigan, Taylor Swift

Our team’s prediction: Don’t Start Now, Dua Lipa

BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM

For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new vocal pop recordings.

  • Future Nostalgia, Dua Lipa
  • Fine Line, Harry Styles
  • Changes, Justin Bieber 
  • Chromatica, Lady Gaga
  • folklore, Taylor Swift

Our team’s prediction: folklore, Taylor Swift

BEST NEW ARTIST

An artist will be considered for Best New Artist if their eligibility year release/s achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and notably impacted the musical landscape.

  • CHIKA
  • Doja Cat
  • DS Smoke
  • Ingrid Andress
  • Kaytranada 
  • Megan Thee Stallion
  • Noah Cyrus
  • Phoebe Bridgers

Our team’s prediction: Megan Thee Stallion

BEST POP SOLO PERFORMANCE

For new vocal or instrumental pop recordings. Singles or Tracks only.

  • everything i wanted, Billie Eilish 
  • Say So, Doja Cat
  • Don’t Start Now, Dua Lipa
  • Watermelon Sugar, Harry Styles
  • Yummy, Justin Bieber
  • cardigan, Taylor Swift

Our team’s prediction: Watermelon Sugar, Harry Styles

BEST POP DUO/GROUP PERFORMANCE

For new vocal or instrumental duo/group or collaborative pop recordings. Singles or Tracks only.

  • Dynamite, BTS
  • UN DIA (ONE DAY), J. Balvin, San Benito, Dua Lipa, Tainy
  • Intentions, Justin Bieber & Quavo
  • Rain On Me, Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande
  • exile, Taylor Swift & Bon Iver

Our team’s prediction: Rain On Me, Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande

BEST ROCK PERFORMANCE

For new vocal or instrumental solo, duo/group or collaborative rock recordings.

  • Not, Big Thief
  • Stay High, Brittany Howard
  • Shameika, Fiona Apple
  • Daylight, Grace Potter
  • Kyoto, Phoebe Bridgers

Our team’s prediction: Kyoto, Phoebe Bridgers

BEST ROCK SONG

A Songwriter(s) Award. Includes Rock, Hard Rock and Metal songs. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.

  • Not, Adrienne Lenker (Big Thief) 
  • Stay High, Brittany Howard
  • Shameika, Fiona Apple
  • Lost In Yesterday, Kevin Parker (Tame Impala)
  • Kyoto, Phoebe Bridgers

Our team’s prediction: Shameika, Fiona Apple

BEST ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM

Vocal or Instrumental.

  • Hyperspace, Beck
  • Jaime, Brittany Howard
  • Fetch The Bolt Cutters, Fiona Apple
  • Punisher, Phoebe Bridgers
  • The Slow Rush, Tame Impala

Our team’s guess: Fetch The Bolt Cutters, Fiona Apple

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