Featuring all of the incredibly diverse Record, Song and Album of the Year hopefuls.
Special note: This program is broken into two parts, both in HQ audio, and the free streaming/free download option follow this transcript chronologically, once at the halfway point and once at the end.
Normally at this time every year, I hear about the National Academy Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) picks that their voting body wishes to bestow their Grammy Awards to annually and yawn. Occasionally, there will be one or two standouts that will invariably lose to a mainstream, major-label artist. This isn't to say that these artists don't have any merit. I will argue easily that Aretha Franklin deserved every single one of those 18 competitive trophies for her work. (And, she is still the only artist with enough class to have given one away to someone she thought was more deserving.) But alas, the winner is typically someone who will just make you shake your head and believe that NARAS is completely out of touch.
The video for Childish Gambino's "This Is America". The single debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, with 68 percent of its streaming total coming from YouTube, and not traditional radio. It tackles the dual topics of gun violence and racism in the United States, subjects that Grammy voters typically shied away from. Hiro Murai, director.
Then just this last Sunday, I was simply knocked out by the contenders. Finally, the voting body, given choices typically by record companies and the members themselves, decided to pay attention to what is really going on in the state of music and media. Now, I am not saying this year is perfect, but this year is incredibly telling in who was nominated. A couple of years ago, Adele had the biggest-selling album of the year, and guess what, she also got the Album of the Year award, with the artist herself stating Beyonce, her competitor in the category, was the better choice. Beyonce not winning was due to the content and stance of her album, many music critics openly stated, which was pro-woman and pro-Black, and just reinforced the notion that the academy was completely out of touch.
But 2018 was a year in the U.S. like no other, or at least since 1968. Racial tensions are at their highest in 50 years, with many people of color finding themselves on the wrong end of the law and the short side of the stick, in spite of what many whites call a "post-racial" society. Women and members of the LGBTQi community are finding that the long and hard fought for gains they had achieved are slowly being eroded away. Corporations are raking in money while people can't afford their rent. Immigrants are being scapegoated for every conceivable problem and people proudly calling themselves Nazis are roaming the streets and bringing guns to public protests, with the President, who was supported by the KKK during his election two years ago, doing nothing to stop this domestic terror.
On the industry side of things, physical album sales are way down. Digital download sales are way down. But streaming of music, much like listening to radio with you being able to better control a good part of the content, commands over 60 percent of how pre-recorded audio is consumed by the public. Streaming has been a better reflection on what people really want to hear and connect to, and often, it has been a 180 degree turn from what most of NARAS believes to be the best of the year. However, this year, it seems that more than a few of the nominating members decided to pay attention.
Hip Hop, the dominant force in popular music of the moment, is present in all of the major categories in a very big way. In the past, many of the members of the voting membership simply could not or would not get behind this genre, just in the same way Rock and Roll was once treated, which has alluded to the mindset that some members are secretly racist, which may be a criticism with some real merit. Additionally, women are also represented in practically every single category, and in these three, they represent about 50 percent of the nominees. H.E.R., who had been producing low-key EP's for the small market segment of Black women who loved quiet storm R&B for several years, with a public profile almost non-existent to match, is now in the running for Album of the Year. She was also exposed on Spotify, not traditional radio. Best part yet: she even plays the electric guitar, and well, among other instruments.
LGBTQi members have been met with indifference at the Grammys by and large in the past, so I don't expect many of my community's artists to ever catch a break. And then out and married lesbian Americana and Folk singer Brandi Carlile, only nominated once before in a non-mainstream category, is nominated for six awards this year, three of them in major categories. Overall, artists in these three categories alone are Black, White, Filipino and Hispanic, with several of mixed ethnicity. Even though some of the nominees in these three categories are not even from the United States, this group of hopefuls is far from the white, heteronormative, conservative, safe for radio, toxic masculinity nationalists disguised as patriots that some award shows trot out.
Many of the selections for Song, Album and Record of the year (now expanded to eight entries from five) deal with subjects previously not touched by the academy, such as racism and violence, with lyrics that would would easily rile censors and are typically verboten on public radio airwaves, which illustrates one of the reasons the less restrictive streaming format is so popular.
Who will win won't be known until February 10th, 2019. The voting membership may just be paying these artists lip service in order to curb the truly disappointing 24 percent drop in ratings of its broadcast award program last year from the year prior. And yes, I could argue all day that there were numerous other artists who should have been nominated, like Macy Gray for what is probably the best R&B album I have heard in years or Ibibio Sound Machine for making a dance record in two different languages that is Afro-Futuristic and retro simultaneously. But for now, I am taking this hour to just stand back and be awestruck on what I hope is an amazing new outlook on recognizing talent that NARAS has adopted.
FIRST PART: Record of the Year Nominees
(Track title in bold red. Award goes to the performing artist and producers, mixers and engineers. Nominations in the other two categories in blue.)
- I LIKE IT Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin
Invincible, JWhiteDidIt, Craig Kallman & Tainy, producers; Leslie Brathwaite & Evan LaRay, engineers/mixers; Colin Leonard, mastering engineer.
Also: Album of the Year (INVASION OF PRIVACY).
- ROCKSTAR Post Malone Featuring 21 Savage
Louis Bell & Tank God, producers; Louis Bell & Manny Marroquin, engineers/mixers; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer.
Also: Album of the Year (BEERBONGS AND BENTLEYS).
- THE JOKE Brandi Carlile
Dave Cobb & Shooter Jennings, producers; Tom Elmhirst & Eddie Spear, engineers/mixers; Pete Lyman, mastering engineer.
Also: Album of the Year (BY THE WAY, I FORGIVE YOU) and Song of the Year.
- THIS IS AMERICA Childish Gambino
Donald Glover & Ludwig Goransson, producers; Derek "MixedByAli" Ali & Riley Mackin, engineers/mixers; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer.
Also: Song of the Year.
- SHALLOW Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper
Lady Gaga & Benjamin Rice, producers; Brandon Bost & Tom Elmhirst, engineers/mixers; Randy Merrill, mastering engineer.
Also: Song of the Year.
- GOD'S PLAN Drake
Boi-1Da, Cardo & Young Exclusive, producers; Noel Cadastre, Noel "Gadget" Campbell & Noah Shebib, engineers/mixers; Chris Athens, mastering engineer.
Also: Album of the Year (SCORPION) and Song of the Year.
- THE MIDDLE Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey
Grey, Monsters & Strangerz & Zedd, producers; Grey, Tom Norris, Ryan Shanahan & Zedd, engineers/mixers; Mike Marsh, mastering engineer.
Also: Song of the Year.
- ALL THE STARS Kendrick Lamar & SZA
Al Shux & Sounwave, producers; Sam Ricci & Matt Schaeffer, engineers/mixers; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer.
Also: Album of the Year (BLACK PANTHER: THE ALBUM, MUSIC FROM AND INSPIRED BY) and Song of the Year.
SECOND PART: Song of the Year Nominees
(Track title in bold red. Artist name is bold. Award goes to the songwriters. These tracks are not nominated in the other two categories.)
- BOO'D UP Ella Mai
Larrance Dopson, Joelle James, Ella Mai & Dijon McFarlane.
- IN MY BLOOD Shawn Mendes
Teddy Geiger, Scott Harris, Shawn Mendes & Geoffrey Warburton.
THIRD PART: Album of the Year Nominees
(Track name in bold red. Album title in blue. Artist/Featured name is bold. Award goes to the 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. These tracks are not nominated in the other two categories.)
- PINK DIRTY COMPUTER Janelle Monáe (featuring Grimes on this track)
Chuck Lightning & Janelle Monáe Robinson & Nate "Rocket" Wonder, producers; Mick Guzauski, Janelle Monáe Robinson & Nate "Rocket" Wonder, engineers/mixers; Nathaniel Irvin III, Charles Joseph II, Taylor Parks & Janelle Monáe Robinson, songwriters; Dave Kutch, mastering engineer. Janelle Robinson, Claire Boucher, Taylor Parks, Nathanial Irvin III, Charles Joseph II, Wynne Bennett, Steven Tyler, Glen Ballard and Richard Goodman, songwriters for this track.
- SPACE COWBOY GOLDEN HOUR Kacey Musgraves
Ian Fitchuk, Kacey Musgraves & Daniel Tashian, producers; Craig Alvin & Shawn Everett, engineers/mixers; Ian Fitchuk, Kacey Musgraves & Daniel Tashian, songwriters; Greg Calbi & Steve Fallone, mastering engineers. Kacey Musgraves, Luke Laird and Shane McAnally, songwriters for this track.
- FOCUS H.E.R. H.E.R.
Darhyl "Hey DJ" Camper Jr, David 'Swagg R'Celious' Harris, H.E.R., Walter Jones & Jeff Robinson, producers; Miki Tsutsumi, engineer/mixer; Darhyl Camper Jr & H.E.R., songwriters; Dave Kutch, mastering engineer. H.E.R. (Gabriella Wilson) and Darhyl "Hey DJ" Camper Jr., songwriters for this track.
FINALE: Other Album of the Year Nominees
(Track name in bold red. Album title in blue. Artist/Featured name is bold. Award goes to the 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. This track is not nominated in in the other two categories.)
- BLOODY WATERS BLACK PANTHER: THE ALBUM, MUSIC FROM AND INSPIRED BY Ab-Soul, Anderson Paak and James Blake
Sounwave and Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, producers; Sam Ricci & Matt Schaeffer, engineers/mixers; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer. Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, Mark Spears, Robin Braun, Herbert Stevens IV and James Litherland, songwriters for this track.
Love to you all.
Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner
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