Well, you can bet that oddsmakers are pondering some new scenarios now.
Just a week after Will Smith stunned the world by slapping Chris Rock onstage at the Oscars, the 64th Grammy Awards will take place Sunday night, likely drawing a bigger-than-normal television audience eager to see if something similarly unpredictable might go down at music’s most prestigious awards ceremony.
This year’s event, which was postponed from late January amid concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant, will be broadcast live on CBS from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, a COVID-inspired move from the Grammys’ usual home in Los Angeles that the Recording Academy is gamely presenting as a chance to “put on a world-class show.”
Trevor Noah of “The Daily Show” is set to host, while performances are expected by Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, BTS, Lil Nas X and Brandi Carlile, among others. (The academy hasn’t said how it plans to handle a planned appearance by Foo Fighters, whose drummer, Taylor Hawkins, died last week.)
Top nominees across the ceremony’s 86 categories include Jon Batiste, the R&B and jazz composer known to many as the bandleader on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” Eilish, Justin Bieber, Doja Cat, H.E.R. and 19-year-old sensation Rodrigo, who is up for the Grammys’ four biggest prizes of album, record and song of the year, along with best new artist.
Also in the mix among high-level nods, which this year managed to avoid a glaring omission à la the Weeknd’s mystifying shutout in 2021, are the duo of Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett as well as Kanye West, whose polarizing “Donda” is up for album of the year but who was reportedly barred from performing on the telecast because of recent threats he’s made on social media.
If those contenders feel especially old, thank that three-month pandemic delay, not to mention an eligibility window that closed Sept. 30, before the release of recent commercial juggernauts such as Adele’s “30″ and the Hot 100-topping “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” from Disney’s “Encanto” soundtrack.
To think through how all this might shake out — and to handicap the biggest races in a year that feels more wide-open than most — Times pop music critic Mikael Wood convened with Times music reporter Suzy Exposito and Julian Kimble, who writes about music and culture for the Ringer, GQ and the Undefeated.
Let’s start with Jon Batiste, who with a whopping 11 nods has more than any other artist this year. In some ways that sentence seems insane, but in other ways it makes perfect sense: Though he hardly sits at the center of pop music, Batiste is musically dexterous, politically progressive, morally uplifting — all proven Grammy values. (And it can’t hurt that he works as a musician on CBS.) What do you think it says about the Recording Academy that Batiste is Mr. Grammy this year?
Suzy Exposito: Batiste is the embodiment of prestige. He comes from a brass-band dynasty in New Orleans; he’s artistic director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem; he’s worked with everyone from Wynton Marsalis to Trent Reznor.
Julian Kimble: And he won an Oscar last year for doing the music in “Soul.”
Exposito: In other words, he’s been thoroughly vetted, which I think goes a long way for an institution that, Billie Eilish aside, has been historically reluctant to get behind new people.
Do we think Batiste might actually win record or album of the year? Record seems impossible, as he’s competing against artists with, you know, popular songs, and the album category includes higher-profile traditionalist bait in Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga’s “Love for Sale.”
Kimble: I can see “Love for Sale” winning. But that would underscore the fact that so often these awards aren’t about the best music but are about rewarding a story or making a statement.
A win for the 95-year-old Bennett, who has Alzheimer’s disease, would clearly be a de facto lifetime-achievement award — which, it’s worth pointing out, the Grammys already gave him when he took album of the year for his “MTV Unplugged” LP in 1995.
Exposito: It’s great to see jazz being embraced this prominently at the Grammys. And it’s inspiring that Bennett is still making music at his age and in spite of his condition. But this is an album of Cole Porter standards; it’s not original music. I feel like that might make artists wonder, “Where’s the reward in writing original music?”
Billie Eilish performing “No Time to Die” at the 94th Academy Awards on March 27.
(Myung Chun/Los Angeles Times)
Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish are both nominated for album of the year with solid but lower-wattage follow-ups to more impactful LPs that won that award. To me, that’s the academy making another statement — that each woman has made it firmly inside the Grammy club.
Kimble: And so they’re automatically in the conversation, regardless of the output. It’ll take a few years, maybe longer, for voters to update that.
Exposito: I think it’s strange that album of the year is the only nomination Taylor has this year.
Kimble: It’s like they got to the end and someone was like, “Wait, what about Taylor Swift?”
Let’s talk about Olivia Rodrigo. Can she sweep the big four prizes like Eilish did in 2020?
Kimble: I think she has best new artist sewn up. Song of the year I could see happening. But I don’t know if she can pull off album of the year; I think that’s the biggest obstacle.
Exposito: Being a Disney darling could work against her. Selena Gomez worked really hard to shed that reputation for herself, and only now in 2022, after releasing multiple albums, is she nominated for her first Grammy, in the Latin pop category.
Any serious threat to Rodrigo for best new artist?
Exposito: Finneas, just because he has the bonus of his association with Billie from being her brother. I actually don’t understand why Finneas is eligible for best new artist, since he won those Grammys with her. Their act is under her name, but he’s part of the music.
Justin Bieber and Doja Cat are up for big awards — including album, record and song of the year — but I’d be surprised if they win. They’re reliable hitmakers, but neither followed a traditional path to success.
Kimble: Doja came up on the internet, which might be a detriment in the eyes of the academy, even though I think “Planet Her” is the most complete album in that category. She’s giving you so much in terms of genre and style and what she can do. She’s obviously talented, but I don’t think voters take her seriously.
Exposito: Yet to not have Doja Cat involved in the Grammys would be such a testament to their irrelevance. I think the same about Lil Nas X, who also was born on the internet — birthed from a seashell in an ocean of Barbs.
Any ceremony that purports to reflect the year in pop has to feature Doja and Nas.
Kimble: Artists are realizing they’re more valuable to the Grammys — to their credibility — than the Grammys are to them. These artists built their massive followings without that endorsement, and I don’t think their audiences care about it.
Lil Nas X is nominated for 5 Grammy Awards, including record, song and album.
I do think Lil Nas X has some Grammy thirst, based on the stuff he’s willing to do and the places he’s willing to show up. Where does Kanye fit into this? Does he care or not care about the Grammys?
Kimble: Kanye cares. His whole thing has always been, “This is irrelevant and doesn’t matter” — but then why have you been going off for almost 20 years about how you’ve not been properly rewarded?
Exposito: Kanye has really reveled in the spectacle of calling that out. He gets to show up to the big awards show like a Disney villain; he drops in out of a cloud of smoke and he’s like, “Lemme tell you what I think about this even though nobody asked.”
The Grammys are a good foil for Kanye.
Kimble: Someone with a persecution complex needs an opponent — they need to be oppressed by something. And he is oppressed in ways. It’s a complicated situation this year: The academy has done all this contorting to broaden the categories to include him, and now they’re telling him he can’t perform. Granted, it’s based on his own behavior. But what happens if he shows up and wins? They’ve put the battery in his back to act up even more. And it validates the argument in some people’s eyes that the Grammys don’t respect hip-hop and don’t respect Black artists. Basically, the whole thing blew up in their face, and for what? The music ain’t even that good. If you wanted a rap album in album of the year, Tyler, the Creator’s album is better.
Tyler’s LP is nominated in the rap album category, which doesn’t feel quite as off the mark this year as it has in the past. He’s up against Kanye, J. Cole and last year’s winner, Nas. Drake was in there too, until he requested his nomination be withdrawn, presumably as a protest against the Grammys’ fraught handling of hip-hop.
Kimble: Nas with the late-career surge because they didn’t give him his Grammys 25 years ago. These nominations are fine. Tyler’s gonna win, and he should.
Exposito: When Tyler won rap album in 2020 with “Igor,” he gave a speech where he said that being nominated in the rap categories but not in the main ones — and with an album that ventured well beyond rap — was a holdover from the segregation era. It’s where they silo Black men. This is why Drake withdrew. As much as Drake is a rapper, he’s a pop star, and he was arguing, “Why can’t I be in a mainstream category?”
Ratings have been down in recent years for the Grammys, as they have been for nearly all awards shows that don’t have one movie star slapping another. Which artists could actually draw viewers if they were to perform Sunday?
Kimble: Beyoncé. You just find a way: “What can we do for you, ma’am?” Kendrick Lamar’s not nominated, but I think he’d bring people out just because it’s been so long. A Cardi B performance could do it — look at what happened last year when she and Megan Thee Stallion did “WAP.” That was a moment people remember.
Exposito: I hope Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow are ready to give the “WAP” performance of the year. “Industry Baby,” if they do it right, might get as much fanfare and hate mail as “WAP” did last year.
Perhaps the biggest music story of 2022 so far has been “Encanto,” whose cast just sang at the Oscars. The Grammys haven’t announced an “Encanto” performance yet. If none happens, is that a lost opportunity?
Exposito: I think it’s a lost opportunity every time the Grammys ignores Latino contributions. Last year, Bad Bunny had generated so much talk that for the first time ever — in over 60 years! — they broadcast a Latin category on the main telecast. We’ll see what happens this year.
Any thoughts on which social and political issues performers and presenters might speak out about?
Kimble: We could get something good — or something not well thought out at all — regarding Ukraine and Russia. Or maybe something about gas prices?
Exposito: Oh, you know artists don’t drive themselves.
Kimble: “Please, think of our drivers.”
Exposito: It would be stupid if no one addressed the wave of anti-LGBTQ bills happening in this country. I’d like to think that Lil Nas X has something up his sleeve, but he shouldn’t be the only one speaking on that. The chipping-away at Roe vs. Wade too. Some women at the show might have something to say about it. I hope they do.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Jon Batiste, “We Are”
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, “Love for Sale”
Justin Bieber, “Justice (Triple Chucks Deluxe)”
Doja Cat, “Planet Her (Deluxe)”
Billie Eilish, “Happier Than Ever”
H.E.R., “Back of My Mind”
Lil Nas X, “Montero”
Olivia Rodrigo, “Sour”
Taylor Swift, “Evermore”
Kanye West, “Donda”
Will win: “Happier Than Ever” (Exposito); “Love for Sale” (Kimble, Wood)
Should win: “Planet Her” (Exposito, Kimble); “Sour” (Wood)
RECORD OF THE YEAR
ABBA, “I Still Have Faith in You”
Jon Batiste, “Freedom”
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, “I Get a Kick Out of You”
Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon, “Peaches”
Brandi Carlile, “Right on Time”
Doja Cat featuring SZA, “Kiss Me More”
Billie Eilish, “Happier Than Ever”
Lil Nas X, “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)”
Olivia Rodrigo, “Drivers License”
Silk Sonic, “Leave the Door Open”
Will win: “Happier Than Ever” (Exposito); “Drivers License” (Kimble); “Leave the Door Open” (Wood)
Should win: “Kiss Me More” (Kimble); “Montero” (Exposito, Wood)
SONG OF THE YEAR
“Bad Habits,” written by Fred Gibson, Johnny McDaid and Ed Sheeran (performed by Ed Sheeran)
“A Beautiful Noise,” written by Ruby Amanfu, Brandi Carlile, Brandy Clark, Alicia Keys, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, Linda Perry and Hailey Whitters (performed by Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile)
“Drivers License,” written by Daniel Nigro and Olivia Rodrigo (performed by Olivia Rodrigo)
“Fight for You,” written by Dernst Emile II, H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas (performed by H.E.R.)
“Happier Than Ever,” written by Billie Eilish O’Connell and Finneas O’Connell (performed by Billie Eilish)
“Kiss Me More,” written by Rogét Chahayed, Amala Zandile Dlamini, Lukasz Gottwald, Carter Lang, Gerard A. Powell II, Solána Rowe and David Sprecher (performed by Doja Cat featuring SZA)
“Leave the Door Open,” written by Brandon Anderson, Christoper Brody Brown, Dernst Emile II and Bruno Mars (performed by Silk Sonic)
“Montero (Call Me by Your Name),” written by Denzel Baptise, David Biral, Omer Fedi, Montero Hill and Roy Lenzo (performed by Lil Nas X)
“Peaches,” written by Louis Bell, Justin Bieber, Giveon Dezmann Evans, Bernard Harvey, Felisha “Fury” King, Matthew Sean Leon, Luis Manuel Martinez Jr., Aaron Simmonds, Ashton Simmonds, Andrew Wotman and Keavan Yazdani (performed by Justin Bieber, featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon)
“Right on Time,” written by Brandi Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth and Tim Hanseroth (performed by Brandi Carlile)
Will win: “Happier Than Ever” (Exposito); “Drivers License” (Kimble, Wood)
Should win: “Kiss Me More” (Exposito); “Happier Than Ever” (Kimble); “Drivers License” (Wood)
BEST NEW ARTIST
The Kid Laroi
Will win: Olivia Rodrigo (all)
Should win: Japanese Breakfast (Exposito); Olivia Rodrigo (Kimble, Wood)
Source by www.latimes.com