Grammy nods for women, peo­ple of color show Acad­emy lis­ten­ing


From Frank Si­na­tra in the 1960s to Paul Si­mon in the 1970 stoU 2 int he1980s,90s and early 2000s, one set of mu­si­cians has long had rea­son to feel se­cure in its priv­i­leged po­si­tion at the Grammy Awards.

Well, roll over, white guys, and tell Beethoven the news.

For the first time in the cer­e­mony’s six-decade his­tory, a woman and peo­ple of color have squeezed the Record­ing Acad­emy’s go-to de­mo­graphic from among the prin­ci­pal artists in con­tention for al­bum of the year, the flag­ship cat­e­gory in nom­i­na­tions an­nounced Tues­day for the 60th an­nual Grammys.

Jay-Z’s “4:44,” Ken­drick La­mar’ s“Damn ,” Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic,” Lorde’s “Melo­drama” and Child­ish Ga mb in o’ s“Awaken, My Love!” will com­pete for the mu­sic in­dus­try’s most pres­ti­gious prize on Jan. 28 in New York — a re­mark­able shift from just a few years ago, when white rock­ers in­clud­ing Jack White and the Black Keys held down four of the cat­e­gory’s five slots in 2013.

That’s not the only award whose nom­i­na­tions re­flect the change. For record of the year, sin­gles by Jay-Z, La­mar, Mars and Gam­bino are up against“De spa ci to ,” the chart-top­ping hit by Puerto Rico’s Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yan­kee. Nom­i­nees for song of the year in­clude tunes by Logic and Ju­lia Michaels.

And best new artist? That cov­eted tro­phy will go to ei­ther a woman (Michaels, Sza or Alessia Cara) or an African Amer­i­can man (Khalid or Lil Uzi Vert).

It’s about time.

You can look at th­ese nods as a de­ter­mined ef­fort to re­pair the Grammys’ rep­u­ta­tion, which in re­cent years has been badly dam­aged by case af­ter case of im­por­tant black artists be­ing over­looked in fa­vor of less- sig­nif­i­cant white acts.

Think of Bey­once los­ing al­bum of the year to Beck. Or La­mar los­ing best rap al­bum to Mack­le­more & Ryan Lewis.

Or Bey­once los­ing al­bum of the year — again — to Adele, who in her ac­cep­tance speech at this year’s cer­e­mony ba­si­cally tried to cor­rect the acad­emy, say­ing she couldn’t take the award from the singer re­spon­si­ble for “Lemon­ade.”

In­deed, the per­cep­tion that the Grammys don’t prop­erly value work by peo­ple of color led Frank Ocean last year to with­hold his ac­claimed “Blonde” al­bum from con­sid­er­a­tion.

The in­sti­tu­tion, he told the New York Times ,“just doesn’t seem to be rep­re­sent­ing very well for peo­ple who come from where I come from.”

Yet it’s not right to view the new nom­i­na­tions as a kind of po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion( though some gui­tar-tot­ing con­spir­acy the­o­rists un­doubt­edly will).

Rather, they con­sti­tute an en­cour­ag­ing sign that acade- my mem­bers are ac­tu­ally pay­ing at­ten­tion to the cul­ture, rec­og­niz­ing the mu­sic that had the most to say in a year roiled by ex­am­i­na­tions of how race and gen­der play out in art and me­dia and govern­ment.

More to the point, they did so without gum­ming up the ma­jor cat­e­gories with the usual white-guy stuff— mu­sic by John Mayer, for in­stance, or Foo Fight­ers — that might not mat­ter hugely but that pro­vides a re­as­sur­ing con­nec­tion to the old way of do­ing things.

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