Rather than some shadowy cabal taking the members’ top vote-getters, considering them and then making their own final decision on the nominees anyway, the Recording Academy says these picks are pure: Whoever got the most votes from their music industry peers is who is appearing on the final ballot.
Do you see that reflected here? My sense is that it benefits those with wide name recognition and enduring industry connections and respect — Bieber, Abba, maybe even Carlile, who has a record of the year nomination and two for song, including an Alicia Keys duet. At the same time, you could imagine the secret committees keeping out something like Lady Gaga and Bennett’s “Love for Sale,” because it’s so stereotypically Old and Stuffy Grammys — the kind of thing it felt like they were distancing themselves from in recent history.
CARAMANICA I will not lie: my heart palpitated a little erratically (and worryingly) when I read the first name in the first category, record of the year: Abba. Now look, I exult at weddings just like the next sap, and I honor anyone whose albums were in my parents’ vinyl collection. But this new Abba music is thin, thin, thin. It exists primarily as an advertisement for the old Abba music, and the group’s avatar-led stage show that’s debuting next year.
PARELES That’s obviously one of the Grammys’ better-late-than-never nominations. Abba never got a Grammy in its prime; this nomination is the apology.
Meanwhile, count me surprised that Arooj Aftab turns up in the best new artist category. She is a Pakistani musician who studied at the Berklee School of Music and is based in Brooklyn, mingling South Asian music, jazz and chamber music; some of the songs on her (third) album, “Vulture Prince,” presumably the one that caught the Grammys’ attention, have lyrics by the 13th-century Persian mystical poet Rumi. It’s a lovely album, but I hardly expected to see her name alongside Rodrigo and Saweetie. Persian aside, there’s also still a language barrier for Grammy voters in this category; where are streaming blockbusters like Rauw Alejandro, whose debut album came out last November?
COSCARELLI Best new artist is confusing, especially with the removal of the nomination committees taken into account. Enough people knew Aftab, Baby Keem and Japanese Breakfast to put them ahead of, say, Polo G, Tems, Jack Harlow and Maneskin (shudder)?