Just like a well-meaning Venmo from a white friend or a celebrity donation chain, the Grammys would like to show the black community that it, too, stands in solidarity. So, did it retroactively give Lemonade Album of the Year? ANTI? Control? No, no, and no. It changed a bunch of category names and rules. The Best New Artist, Latin, R&B, and Rap categories received an update, along with rule changes to their Nominations Review Committee. The changes were voted on and passed in a May 2020 board of trustees meeting, according to a release. Even beyond the questionable use of “urban,” the Grammy’s R&B categories have been frequently criticized for pigeonholing black artists. “I’m excited to announce our latest changes, as we’re constantly evaluating our Awards process and evolving it to ensure the Grammy Awards are inclusive and reflect the current state of the music industry,” said Harvey Mason Jr., chair and interim president/CEO of the Recording Academy, in the release. Because, nope, the Grammys still hasn’t sorted out its CEO issues after it ousted its first female president ten days before this year’s awards. But it does have all these new rules that don’t change much ready to go for 2021. Here’s what’s new and going into effect for the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards.
Best Urban Contemporary Album
The Grammys’ most problematic category is getting a face-lift. It will now be called Best Progressive R&B Album to “highlight albums that include the more progressive elements of R&B and may include samples and elements of hip-hop, rap, dance, and electronic music,” along with elements found in pop, Europop, country, rock, folk, and alternative
Best Rap/Sung Performance
Likewise, this category has been renamed Best Melodic Rap Performance. Recognizing both solo and collaborative performances, this category “requires a strong and clear presence of melody combined with rap cadence” and is inclusive of non-rap genres, such as “R&B, rock, country, electronic, or more.” So … very similar to Best Progressive R&B Album.
Best Latin Pop Album and Best Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative Album
The Academy has combined Best Latin Pop Album with Best Latin Urban Album (Best Latin Pop or Urban Album), previously in conjunction with Rock and Alternative, “to migrate the genres of Latin urban and represent the current state and prominent representation in the Latin urban genres.” Best Latin Rock and Alternative will stick together.
Best New Artist
Going forward there will be no specified maximum number of releases an artist can have to be eligible for this category. Screening committees will be in charge of determining whether or not the artist had “attained a breakthrough or prominence” prior to the eligibility year. If so, the artist will be disqualified.
Nominations Review Committee
Each member of a Nominations Review Committee must submit a conflict-of-interest disclosure form, noting connections with anyone who may directly receive a nomination or win, any direct financial ties to a recording or creator up for consideration, relationships with any artists, or other connections, actual or perceived. (Former president Deborah Dugan claimed earlier this year that there have been “incidents of conflict of interests that taint the results,” including the nominations for 2019 Song of the Year.) Conflicts will now result in removal, and failure to disclose will permanently bar them from the Nominations Review Committee.