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Where would we be without music? We probably wouldn’t even have a civilization today if it weren’t for the power of music. And look at how far we’ve come since Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville invented the phonautograph in 1857. No wonder we still talk about de Martinville and his magic box to this day.
Okay, Thomas Edison stole de Martinville’s thunder, if not his patent, when he came up with the phonograph 20 years later. It’s the same phonograph (aka the gramophone) that you’ll see handed out in miniature form when the 66th Annual Grammy Awards take place this February 4 at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
This year’s Grammy Award nominees were announced on November 10, giving online sportsbooks ample time to post their Grammy odds. SZA led everyone with nine nominations, but this appears to be the Year of Taylor Swift, who was a chalky favorite across all the major categories earlier this month – all except for Best New Artist, of course.
With that in mind, let’s put this year’s list of nominees aside for a moment and take a broader look at the major Grammy categories, focusing on each of the “Big Four” awards.
✨ View the full 66th GRAMMY Awards nominees list!— Recording Academy / GRAMMYs (@RecordingAcad) November 10, 2023
🎶 Stay tuned for more details on Music’s Biggest Night, happening live on @CBS from @cryptocomarena on Feb. 4, 2024: https://t.co/6QbNuXFCb8 #GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/W7hT9c5xML
Album Of The Year
This is “The Big Award,” the one that Swift has already won three times; if she wins again, she’ll beat Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon for the most ever. The number of yearly nominees keeps going up and down; they’re back down to eight for 2024, after climbing as high as 10.
The number of people credited as Album of the Year winners is also changing. At first, it was just the artist whose name was called, then the producer was added in 1966, then the recording engineer/mixer in 1999. As of 2024, all the following personnel are included:
- Featured artist
- Songwriter (if new material)
- Mastering engineer
- Recording engineer/mixer (on at least 20% of the album’s running time)
This is all part of the Recording Academy’s attempt to make as many people happy as possible. They’ve made a concerted effort in recent years to expand their membership and make it more inclusive, so you’re likely to see that effort play out in the voting – although Harry’s House (Harry Styles et al.) still took home the 2023 Album of the Year.
Still like that old-time rock and roll? Don’t expect to hear your favorite’s name called out when the envelope gets opened. Pop music is where it’s at these days, and it’s the preferred genre by far when it comes to the latest wave of Academy members. Mind you, the line between pop and other styles of music like R&B and country is exceedingly thin these days – Swift basically does all three. But the last plausible rock Album of the Year was Beck’s Morning Phase in 2015.
Record Of The Year
If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between an album and a record, we’ve got you covered: An album is a collection of multiple recordings. People started calling vinyl albums “records,” but Record of the Year is for a single track, and since 2013, the award has been handed out to the artist, producer, recording engineer, mastering engineer, and mixing engineer.
That rule change allowed Tom Coyne (2015 through 2018) to rack up four straight Grammys as a mastering engineer. It also lets an artist win multiple Record of the Year awards for songs from the same album, like when U2 won for “Beautiful Day” in 2001 and “Walk On” in 2002, both songs from their 2000 album All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
Song Of The Year
Okay, if Record of the Year is for a single song, what about Song of the Year? That’s also for a song, but the award goes to the songwriter. They’ll be the same person/band in many cases, like the four members of U2 winning in 2001 for “Beautiful Day.”
It’s a lot harder out there for a singer/songwriter these days. But the Grammys are supposed to be about excellence, not sales figures, and this is one major category where the Academy still seems willing to go “old-school” with their votes, like when the great Bonnie Raitt won in 2023 for “Just Like That.”
Best New Artist
This used to be the Wild Card of the bunch. It’s no longer the kiss of death for anyone to win Best New Artist; instead of one-hit wonders, the industry reliably churns out the Next Big Thing these days – and it’s almost always a young woman, like Dua Lipa in 2019, Billie Eilish in 2020, Megan Thee Stallion in 2021, and Olivio Rodrigo in 2022.
There’s still room for surprises, though. We can only assume big things are ahead for the 2023 winner, Samara Joy, even if she comes from the world of jazz rather than pop. But yes, New York rapper Ice Spice does look nice for 2024. Bet accordingly, and may the disc be with you.