Beyoncé v. Adele: Grammys 2023 will be star-studded, fraught

Next year’s Grammy Awards nominations will likely include a number of historic firsts.

Bad Bunny’s blockbuster Un Verano Sin Ti is widely expected to become the first Spanish-language LP to win an Album of the Year award. Taylor Swift could become the first artist to be nominated for the award twice with the same album – in Swift’s case with her careful “Taylor’s Version” extension of ten-year-old “Red”. And should Kendrick Lamar start with “Mr. Moral & the Big Steppers,” the Compton native becomes the first rapper to contend for album of the year with four consecutive studio LPs.

But hanging over the 65th Grammys race – with the year-long eligibility window just closing last week and the start of round one voting getting closer to October 13 – is the prospect of an epic rematch between two veteran superstars: Beyoncé and Adele, both of whom are almost certain to win Album, Record and Song of the Year – Beyoncé with her dancefloor fantasy “Renaissance” and her Hot 100 topping lead single “Break My.” Soul” and Adele with her ballad-heavy “30” and it is #1 hit by a lead single “Easy on Me”.

If this showdown comes about as predicted in the nominations, which will be announced on November 15 – a dream scenario for a television show that, like all awards shows, struggles to attract viewers – the rivalry would accurately mirror the 59th Grammys in 2017, as the A-list divas competed in the same major categories. Remember what happened back then: After Adele’s “Hello” won the record and song awards over Beyoncé’s “Formation,” the English singer capped her win with an Album of the Year win for “25” — then used her tearful acceptance speech to announce that she couldn’t legitimately take the trophy because she knew her victory was at the expense of Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.”

“You are our light,” she told Beyoncé, who called her the “artist of my life.”

Adele wasn’t the only one to question the Grammy voters’ decision. Artists, commentators and music industry insiders interpreted Beyoncé’s loss — which followed the defeat of her 2013 self-titled album by Beck’s “Morning Phase” — as a sure sign that Recording Academy was out of touch with a pop world largely dominated by Black was fueled creativity.

So you can bet the academy is already nervous about a repeat performance at next year’s ceremony, which will be held Feb. 5 at the Crypto.com Arena, the Grammys’ longtime home in Los Angeles, after a pandemic-related move to Las Vegas for the year 2022 is scheduled to take place show. Another loss for Beyoncé, music’s most intellectually ambitious superstar, would risk cementing the perception that the Grammys just don’t get it, like artists like Drake, The Weeknd and Frank Ocean — all of whom have at various points declined to submit projects for rewards in return — have argued publicly.

“It’s sort of it’s now or never,” said a well-connected industry veteran of the academy’s chance to show it properly values ​​the work of black artists. “You have to do it right.”

For its part, the academy insists on taking steps to diversify its membership, which has historically been seen as a stronghold of older white men. Nearly 2,000 new members joined the organization this year, 44% of whom come “from traditionally underrepresented communities,” according to the Academy. “And almost 50% are under 40,” added Recording Academy executive director Harvey Mason Jr., who took over in 2020 after Deborah Dugan was ousted after the former chair made a series of explosive allegations related to vote-rigging and discrimination had and sexual misconduct.

“I find numbers like that exciting, and it’s not just because we’re trying to meet someone’s expectations,” Mason told the Times. “But we find that a more diverse membership – a young, relevant, more gender-balanced membership – will produce outcomes that better reflect excellence in music.”

An executive in a tuxedo at the Grammy Awards.

“More diverse membership—a young, relevant, more gender-balanced membership—will produce outcomes that better reflect the excellence of music,” said Harvey Mason Jr., Recording Academy CEO.

(Jay L Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Last year, in a move it described as part of its commitment to transparency, the academy abolished its so-called nomination review committees — small groups of music business insiders who oversaw and sometimes changed the Grammys vote after voters cast their first Selection. (Many concluded that it was a committee that kept The Weeknd from getting even a single nod for its hit album After Hours in 2021.)

“I think it’s too early to say if this transparency is real,” said a prominent major label exec, who, like others in this story, asked for anonymity to speak freely about the Grammys. Another executive said the abolition of the committees was “a great first step” in restoring trust in the institution. “It might take a few years to prove itself,” this person added, “but I’m willing to be patient.”

Aside from questions about the voting process, the academy has long favored certain types of music over others, meaning Adele definitely has a shot at beating Beyoncé again for reasons unrelated to any behind-the-scenes conspiracy. “30” upholds many established Grammy values ​​— it’s hand-acted, conventionally structured, rooted in personal storytelling — while “Renaissance” takes a more kaleidoscopic approach to a broader narrative of black and queer history. The latter is also a full immersion in dance music, a genre the Grammys have been reluctant to embrace.

In fact, the main categories of the ceremony are evolving into something of a broader battle between white singer-songwriter traditionalists and more experimental colourists. Alongside Adele and Swift’s LPs, album of the year nominees could include Harry Styles’ “Harry’s House” and alternative-country troubadour Zach Bryan’s “American Heartbreak”; alongside Beyoncés, Lamars and Bad Bunnys, they could include Steve Lacy’s psych-soul “Gemini Rights” and Spanish avant-pop researcher Rosalía’s “Motomami”. (The Weeknd, who had vowed to boycott the Grammys after the “After Hours” row, did not submit its follow-up, “Dawn FM.” A spokesperson for Drake did not respond to a question about whether he had submitted his latest “Honestly, Nevermind.”)

Also in the mix: the chart-topping soundtrack for Disney’s Encanto, which became the first animated film soundtrack to be nominated for Album of the Year since 1993’s Beauty and the Beast; “Wasteland,” an indie-label success story by artistic R&B singer Brent Faiyaz; and enduring projects by proven Grammy favorites Lizzo, Silk Sonic and Brandi Carlile.

A veteran insider laughed at “Encanto’s” hopes of actually winning the album award — something only four soundtracks in Grammys history have achieved — noting, “I would imagine that’s what someone would be voting for, not to.” having to choose between Beyoncé and Adele.”

On Record of the Year, which honors performers and producers, “Easy on Me” is likely to be accompanied by Styles’ “As It Was” on one side, while “Break My Soul” is likely to share space with the dazed on the other will be Future, Drake and Tems’ “Wait for U” and Lacy’s “Bad Habit,” which just hit #1 on the Hot 100, as voters cast their ballots. Lizzo made her name with her disco-funk single “About Damn Time,” as did Post Malone and Doja Cat with her effervescent “I Like You (A Happier Song).” Also “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”, the hit from “Encanto”, has a good chance.

Morgan Wallen, the hugely popular country star who was stripped of 2022 Grammys nominations after being caught drunk using the N-word on video, is credited with the widely streamed “You Proof,” though the Country Music Assn. recently nominated him for Nashville’s top honor, Entertainer of the Year, at the CMA Awards in November. “It’s just Nashville doing what they have to do to get him on their TV show,” said one country industry veteran. “I don’t know if the Grammys are ready to open up about that.”

Song of the Year, which goes to Songwriters, will, as always, have some overlap with the record category, although Bryan will come up with the more rooty “Something in the Orange” here. Could Swift be nominated for her 10-minute version of “Red’s” All Too Well? The song, which featured lyrics not heard in the original, was a cultural sensation when it was released late last year, and Swift is garnering Oscar enthusiasm with the short film she directed for its music video. But when asked, the Academy declined to tell The Times whether the mix of new and old material in “All Too Well” makes it eligible for Song or Record of the Year.

A celebrity signs autographs and greets fans.

Taylor Swift greets fans at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

(Wesley Lapointe/Los Angeles Times)

Several insiders agreed that Bryan is the best new artist – and that he could win the award in February. His likely competitors include fellow singer-songwriters Lauren Spencer-Smith, whose “Fingers Crossed” was a Top 40 radio hit, and Joji, whose piano ballad “Glimpse of Us” dominated Spotify; the hilarious English indie rock duo Wet Leg; rapper Latto; R&B singer Muni Long; and breakthrough Brazilian pop star Anitta.

Each of those categories — known as the Big Four of the Grammys — expanded for the first time from eight to 10 nominees at the 64th awards ceremony last April, where Jon Batiste’s “We Are” was named album of the year, with Olivia Rodrigo becoming the Best New Artist and Silk Sonic’s “Leave the Door Open” was named both Record and Song of the Year. Some in the industry have complained that handing out so many nods dilutes the prestige of the nomination, a criticism Mason dismissed. “Having more great music from even more great people to celebrate is a win,” said the academy boss. “I see no disadvantage in that.”

Mason acknowledged that, as many have complained, the voting experience is too cumbersome, especially for Academy members who do everything over their phones. “It’s not going as smoothly as I’d like,” he said, adding that they’ve been working on “big changes” to the academy’s digital voting platform. Still, Mason insisted that voting “is not meant to be a process that you complete in a few minutes. We value and value people’s art. That will take a while.”

As for the Grammys show itself, Mason said that while he enjoyed the one-off show in Vegas — “great wedding vibes,” he said — he’s looking forward to following the ceremony for a television show that’s in its third year of sponsorship Bringing Back LA in a row from TV producer Ben Winston’s Fulwell 73 production company. Trevor Noah hosted in 2021 and 2022. The academy has not yet said who will host in February.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/music/story/2022-10-06/beyonce-adele-harry-styles-bad-bunny-grammys Beyoncé v. Adele: Grammys 2023 will be star-studded, fraught

Sarah Ridley

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