This morning, the Recording Academy announced the nominations for the 2018 Grammy awards and for the first time, Grammy voters acknowledged the dominance of rap, R&B and Latin pop in the streaming era. Jay-Z led all candidates with eight nominations, but rising stars like SZA and Khalid also picked up five nominations apiece, and Luis Fonsi’s inescapable summer hit “Despacito” earned multiple nods as well. Here are five takeaways.
1. Grammy voters finally paid attention to streaming numbers.
This summer, Nielsen published a report demonstrating that hip-hop and R&B had passed rock as the most-consumed music in America for the first time, largely due to streaming. That appears to have gotten Grammy voters’ attention, as least for now: The most prestigious Grammy categories (Song/Record/Album of the Year) were dominated by streaming success stories, whether it was Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” (over 4 billion views on YouTube) or Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” (338 million streams on Spotify). The only exception to the rule in the major cross-genre categories was Lorde’s Melodrama, which was not a massive streaming success.
2. Pop suffered.
Although Ed Sheeran (11 nominations to date, two wins) has competed in the Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Record of the Year categories in the past, he was limited to single-genre competition this year, with nods for Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Solo Performance. Though Katy Perry has earned a Grammy nomination in at least one category for every album since One of the Boys, Witness received none. Jack Antonoff, who produced for Lorde, Pink, Swift, Fifth Harmony and more, was not nominated in the Producer of the Year category. Neither was Max Martin (2015 winner, 2017 nominee, credited this year on albums by Swift and Katy Perry) or Jeff Bhasker (2016 winner, 2013 nominee, credited this year on albums by Harry Styles and Perry). Taylor Swift’s Reputation came out earlier this month, so it was not eligible for the 2018 Grammys; Swift’s lone nod came in the Best Song Written for Visual Media category.
3. The Academy nominated four minority performers for Album of the Year, tying a record.
The Album of the Year contenders this year include Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z, Bruno Mars and Childish Gambino. That’s the most minority nominees since 2005, when Ray Charles, Kanye West, Usher and Alicia Keys were nominated. Before 2005, the Recording Academy had never nominated more than three non-white performers for Album of the Year.
A big part of the shift this year is due to a change in the reception of R&B. Grammy voters often love vintage R&B when it’s performed by white singers: See Adele’s wins in 2017, Ed Sheeran’s 2016 Song of the Year “Thinking Out Loud” and Sam Smith’s multiple wins in 2015. This year, though, Grammy nominations went to Childish Gambino, who picked up five nods for his Seventies-funk love letter Awaken, My Love!, and Mars, who amassed six nominations for 24K Magic, which riffed on the Gap Band, Zapp and Jodeci.
4. Grammy voters still love Jay-Z.
Jay-Z has 21 Grammys to date, a figure that ties him for seventh on the list of most Grammy wins of all time. He leads the field at the 2018 Grammys with eight nominations. (One win will allow him to tie his wife, Beyonce, who currently has 22 awards.) Impressively this year he earned nominations for three different songs from his 4:44 album – the title track, “The Story of O.J.” and “Family Feud.” Voters are so enamored with Jay-Z that No. I.D., the sole producer on 4:44, also earned a nomination for Producer of the Year. This is a rare honor for a hip-hop beat-maker: Nineteen85, the man behind Drake hits like “Hotline Bling,” is the only rap producer to get a Producer of the Year nod in the previous three years.
5. Grammy voters appear ready to welcome new blood.
The Grammys made room for newcomers this year in a variety of categories. Camelphat and Elderbrook’s runaway club hit “Cola” earned a Best Dance Recording nomination next to grizzled heavyweights like LCD Soundsystem and Gorillaz. Julia Michaels’ debut single, “Issues,” was nominated for Song of the Year. Most impressive is the Best Urban Contemporary Album category, where three major-label debut albums appear: 6lack’s Free 6lack, Khalid’s American Teen and SZA’s CTRL. Contrast this with the Best Alternative Music Album category and the Best Country Album category, which include no debuts.