For the first time in six decades a woman and people of color are the principal artists in contention for album of the year, the flagship category in the Grammy nominations for the 60th Grammy Awards.
The nominees in the category are Childish Gambino for late-2016 release “Awaken My Love!”, Jay-Z for 4:44; Kendrick Lamar for DAMN, Lorde for Melodrama; and Bruno Mars for 24K Magic. Without Ed Sheeran in the mix, the 2018 Album of the Year contest is—on a technicality—the first without any white male performers nominated. Additionally, all five tracks nominated for 2017′s Record of the Year came from artists of color.
It is however important to note that although the performers themselves are people of colour, that doesn’t account for everyone who could potentially receive a Grammy. For instance if Lorde were to win for ‘Melodrama’, album co-producer Jack Antonoff would win also and the same is true of Childish Gambino’s “Awaken, My Love!,” co-produced with longtime collaborator, Swedish composer and producer Ludwig Göransson.
The album of the year is not the only award whose nominations reflect a dynamic shift. For record of the year, singles by Jay-Z, Lamar, Mars and Gambino are up against “Despacito,” the chart-topping hit by Puerto Rico’s Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee and tunes by Logic and Julia Michaels. No to mention best new artist will go to either a woman (Michaels, SZA or Alessia Cara) or an African American man (Khalid or Lil Uzi Vert).
The nominee approaches
Jay-Z has received eight nods, more than any other artist for “4:44” which is an album that speaks to more mature subject matter like marital discord and the meaning of black achievement in Donald Trump’s America.
The latter was also taken up by Kendrick Lamar in “Damn,” his third straight studio album to be nominated for album of the year.
On “24K Magic” and “Awaken, My Love!” Mars and Childish Gambino burrow deep into R&B and funk styles and arguably the main reason Gambino’s “Redbone,” is up for record of the year is due to its prominent feature in Jordan Peele’s racially charged horror film “Get Out.”
As the only title by a woman in the album category, Lorde’s “Melodrama” bears quite the responsibility. Women are even more underrepresented in record of the year (with zero female nominees) than they are in album of the year showing a glaring gender bias.
Some have said that the fifth album nod should have gone to “More Life” by Canadian singer and rapper Drake as opposed to Gambino. Except for the fact that Drake; like Frank Ocean in 2016; reportedly declined to submit “More Life,” presumably as a means of protesting the Grammy’s infamously old-fashioned and discriminatory value system.