The Grammys are getting a major face lift. The Recording Academy held a news conference Wednesday morning at its Santa Monica headquarters to announce a complete revamp of its musical categories,– reducing the number of categories from 109 at the last awards show to 78.
It is also changing the way academy members vote for nominees and reworking the way categories are added and eliminated from the ceremony. “All categories wil remain, they’ll just be found in different genres” said President and Chief Executive Neil Portnow. “The message isn’t about cutting, it’s about changing the way we present the awards. We welcome all artists who make music in the Grammy process, it’s just going to look a little different.”
The number of categories has expanded over the years from an original 28 in 1959, evolving one category at a time on a piecemeal basis and “without an overall vision” said Portnow. The result has been more of a “collage,” he said. To give the Grammys a more cohesive structure that better matches the current musical landscape, in 2009 the organization initiated a sweeping, comprehensive evaluation of both the award categories and voting process.
The result of that process is the reworking announced Wednesday morning. The awards and nominations committee spent more than a year reviewing the process, said five-time Grammy Award winner and songwriter/record producer Jimmy Jam. It then submitted its recommendations to the Recording Academy’s board of trustees “with the greater purpose of promoting unity in our music community,” Jam said. The results were approved by the board, which directs the vision of the organization.
Over time, the number of categories and genre distinctions had resulted in curious and at times confusing nominations. In 2009, comedy rap group Lonely Island received a nomination in the best rap song category, when the original version was a "Saturday Night Live" clip. That same year, Hall & Oates was nominated for best pop performance by a group or duo with vocals for a live version of a song that was a hit nearly 30 years earlier. And in one of the most notable instances of genre confusion, in 1989 progressive rock group Jethro Tull won the award for best heavy metal album. The restructuring of the voting process is intended to address these frustrations.
Check back with Awards Tracker for updates and more detailed information throughout the day.
Photo: Mick Jagger and Raphael Saadiq perform during this year's Grammy Awards at Staples Center. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times