64th Annual Grammy Awards bore with uncreative nominations

Bland choices continue to make the Grammys the least interesting award show of the season.

by Jack Hargrove | 4/12/22 2:03am

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by Kalyn Dawes / The Dartmouth

After being postponed from its usual time in January due to the omicron variant of COVID-19, the 64th Annual Grammy Awards took place on April 3. Held only a week prior, the Academy Awards overshadowed the Grammys this year, given Will Smith’s high-profile slapping incident that received vast media coverage. In contrast, the Grammys maintained a much lower profile, as the night’s most celebrated artist, jazz composer Jon Batiste, won big, while most categories offered few surprises. Combined with Trevor Noah’s lackluster hosting and a mixed bag of live performances from various artists, the Grammys emphasized safety from scandal rather than ingenuity.

Jon Batiste, best known as one of the composers of the soundtrack for the Pixar film “Soul,” won five awards from eleven nominations, both highs for this year’s event. Coming in second place was Bruno Mars’ and Anderson. Paak’s R&B duo Silk Sonic with nominations for and wins of four awards. One other big winner at the event was Olivia Rodrigo, winning three awards, including Best New Artist. Rodrigo also gave one of the night’s best performances, explosively singing “Drivers License.” Sadly, not all of the performances were quite so good; in particular, Nas, Justin Bieber and J Balvin’s acts were slow to sit through. Trevor Noah’s hosting was energetic but ineffective, focusing on delivering canned jokes more than on the awards or the featured artists. Overall, the presentation this year was certainly less exciting than in previous years. Despite that, the winners of the categories, from the big ones like album of the year to the smaller ones like best alternative album, generally felt fitting.

Album of the Year: “We Are” by Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste’s jazz and R&B album beat out many more well-known and higher charting artists, such as Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Kanye West and Taylor Swift, among others. This field of nominees perfectly demonstrates the issue with the major categories at the Grammys: most are Grammy mainstays who released mediocre albums in 2021 but were nominated for name recognition alone. Kanye West’s “Donda” was not nominated because it was one of the best albums released last year — it was nominated because Kanye West is well-recognized. Ultimately, I think it would serve the Grammys well to nominate fewer albums in fields like this one and to give nods more often to more obscure acts, and for this reason, I’m glad that Batiste won this category.

Record of the Year: “Leave the Door Open” by Silk Sonic

“Leave the Door Open,” the debut single by soul superduo Silk Sonic, took the award for Record of the Year. This category featured many of the same names as in Album of the Year, in addition to disco group ABBA and singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile. Much like the previous category, Record of the Year suffers from a generally bloated, uninteresting group of well-known nominees. Furthermore, “Leave the Door Open” won song of the year as well, creating redundancy in the awards rather than celebrating the distinction between the winners of the song and record categories. However, the cultural moment created by the release of Silk Sonic’s first album last year makes me glad that they won this award — along with three others. 

Best New Artist: Olivia Rodrigo

For Best New Artist, Olivia Rodrigo takes a well-deserved win in one of the Grammys’ most consistently infuriating categories. The refusal of the Grammys to nail down hard rules for what constitutes a “new artist” results in each year having its fair share of absurdities nominated in this category: This year, the most egregious nomination was Glass Animals, who had a top charting album all the way back in 2016. FINNEAS was also nominated in the category despite the fact that he already won his first Grammy two years ago. Thankfully, the winner was actually a new artist — and a deserving one at that.

Best Pop Vocal Album: “Sour” by Olivia Rodrigo

In addition to her win for Best New Artist, Olivia Rodrigo won Best Pop Vocal Album with “Sour.” While not quite as dominant, Olivia Rodrigo’s showing at this year's Grammys was very reminiscent of Billie Eilish’s Grammy debut two years ago, in which Eilish had victories including all of the big four categories. Rodrigo beat out Eilish herself for this award, along with stars Justin Bieber, Doja Cat and Ariana Grande.

Best Alternative Music Album: “Daddy’s Home” by St. Vincent

Every year, the choices for genre-specific awards at the Grammys are far more interesting than most of the bigger awards; the same holds true this year. Starting with Best Alternative Music Album, my personal favorite album of last year “Daddy’s Home” took the victory. While the competition was steep — particularly Fleet Foxes’ great 2020 album “Shore” — I was glad to see “Daddy’s Home” win. 

Best Rap Album: “Call Me If You Get Lost” by Tyler, the Creator

Tyler, the Creator won his second Grammy for Best Rap Album in three years with his recent  album “Call Me If You Get Lost,” beating out Kanye West, J. Cole and last year’s winner Nas. The Grammys chose not to televise this award — likely because Tyler chose not to appear at the last second — but this is yet another example of rap awards being snubbed at the Grammys. Neither Kendrick Lamar nor Kanye West showed up to accept their respective awards either, which might be indicative of an ongoing problem tarnishing the awards.

Best Rock Album: “Medicine at Midnight” by Foo Fighters

After the sudden, premature death of their drummer Taylor Hawkins last month, Foo Fighters swept all of the Rock fields to win three Grammys this year. However, the field in these rock categories was exceedingly weak, a continuing problem throughout the last few years. For example, the nominees in this category were Foo Fighters, AC/DC, Paul McCartney, Chris Cornell and Black Pumas. This category and similar ones would benefit from members of the Recording Academy seeking out new rock acts instead of nominating the same ones every time.

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical: Jack Antonoff

Prolific producer Jack Antonoff finally won Producer of the Year, Non-Classical with his third nomination in the category after years of great work in the pop production scene. His first win in the category is for  his work last year on “Daddy’s Home” by St. Vincent, “Solar Power” by Lorde and “Sling” by Clairo, among others. This win was well-deserved as he has long been one of the best pop producers out there.

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