Category: Grammys

Latin jazz Grammy category reinstated, two others added

  Bobby Sanabria was among Latin jazz artists who protest Grammy Awards elimination of their category last year
A year after the Recording Academy ignited a firestorm of protest in portions of the jazz and Latin communities by eliminating its Grammy Award category for Latin jazz music, the category has been reinstated as part of annual award revisions that also include two new categories and more changes in other areas of music industry recognition.

A coalition of jazz artists and Latin community activities sued the Recording Academy in an attempt to rescind the changes, but a New York judge dismissed the suit in April. This week’s announcement of category revisions by the academy’s board of trustees is being greeted by affected members as akin to losing a battle but winning the war.

“This member of the community is thrilled,” veteran Latin jazz musician Bobby Matos said Friday. “Restoring this category is a huge step in giving us some dignity and some respect.”

Musicians including Carlos Santana, Paul Simon and Playboy Jazz Festival emcee Bill Cosby were among the celebrities who joined the outcry against the elimination of the Latin jazz category.

Despite the lawsuit, which Recording Academy President Neil Portnow described this week as “distracting” and a significant expense to the group, Portnow had said the board would continue to evaluate the relevance of various categories when it met to consider ongoing revisions.

Last year’s dramatic changes resulted in a net reduction of 31 categories, from 109 to 78. Many of the changes came in niche categories of jazz, classical music, folk, roots and R&B. This year, awards will be distributed in 81 categories.

“With the focus squarely on ensuring the awards process is pertinent within the current musical landscape, the Board of Trustees continues to demonstrate its passionate commitment to keeping the Recording Academy a relevant and responsive organization in our dynamic music community," Portnow said in a statement issued Friday.

"Every year, we diligently examine our awards structure, including evaluating proposals, to develop an overall guiding vision and ensure that it remains a balanced and viable process, as well as maintains the prestige of the highest and only peer-recognized award in music,” Portnow’s statement said.

That philosophy was at the heart of Latin jazz enthusiasts’ protests over last year’s move.

“Jazz is a niche music, and Latin jazz is more of a niche music,” Matos said. “The public perceives the Grammy Awards to be the recording industry’s awards of excellence, and that’s what they were meant to be. How can you do anything meaningful as an artist if your category of music is not recognized? Millions of people don’t know what Latin jazz is, and if they don’t find out from the Grammys, how are they ever going to know about it?”

“Latin jazz is the original world music, as far as I’m concerned,” Matos said. “It has elements of jazz, of Italian romantic music, of English country dances, of African American blues and African gospel music. It’s truly a world music — not just Latin music.

“I’m so happy,” he said. “We don’t go into Latin jazz to make a lot of money. We do it out of passion and love. That’s the only reason.”

The other changes in the Latin field are the split of the Latin pop, rock or urban album Grammy into two awards: Latin pop and Latin rock, urban or alternative album; additionally, separate awards for banda or norteño album and regional Mexican or Tejano album are being merged into a new category for regional Mexican music album (including Tejano).

Also new for next year’s Grammy Awards ceremony, scheduled for Feb. 10 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Recording Academy’s board has added a “classical compendium” award to recognize classical albums that incorporate some pop or other nonclassical elements; and a new “urban contemporary album” category under the R&B field for “artists whose music includes the more contemporary elements of R&B and may incorporate production elements found in urban pop, urban europop, urban rock, and urban alternative.”


Grammy Award changes affect classical, jazz categories

Grammy Awards: Musicians will protest category reductions

Judge dismisses the effort to rescind Grammy award reductions

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Latin jazz musician Bobby Sanabria, shown here arriving for the Grammy ceremony in 2008,  was part of a group that sued the Recording Academy last year for eliminating the Latin jazz Grammy Awards category. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press

Paul Simon's 'Graceland' 25th anniversary box set is a trove of riches

Paul Simon's 1986 album 'Graceland' is being reissued June 5 in deluxe 25th anniversary box set

It might seem there'd be little left to say about Paul Simon's watershed 1986 album "Graceland," which is being reissued today in a deluxe four-disc 25th anniversary box set.

Simon collected Grammy Awards for the title track and the album, as record and song of the year. It was No. 71 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time and introduced millions of listeners to the wonders of the music of South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo, among its other attributes.

But the new box set does indeed help shed new light on the music and the entire project by way of the various bonus features that now accompany the original album.

Chief among them is the disc containing Joe Berlinger's fascinating documentary "Under African Skies," laying out the controversy around Simon violating the United Nations' cultural boycott of South Africa's racist apartheid system when he recorded several tracks in Johannesburg with the members of Ladysmith and other musicians from the region.

As noted in her review for The Times recently, film critic Betsy Sharkey lauded Berlinger for the riveting portrait assembled as Simon returned to South Africa last year on the 25th anniversary of his sessions there. The musician met with Dali Tambo, one of the founders of Artists Against Apartheid, who had criticized Simon for flaunting the boycott. Their discussion a quarter-century later isn't without tension, even though each offers unqualified expressions of respect for the work of the other.

Simon's take is that art transcends politics and that artists should not always be subservient to politicians. That view can sound self-serving, coming from Simon, but he gets some heavyweight support in supplemental interviews from Paul McCartney, Harry Belafonte, Peter Gabriel, David Byrne and Quincy Jones, among others. 

It also incorporates Simon's 1986 performance on "Saturday Night Live," for which he was joined by the dazzling Ladysmith Black Mambazo troupe before any of the songs from the album had been released, in a breathtaking appearance that can be seen here:


Beyond the film, there's another disc with studio outtakes, including a jaw-dropping early take of "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" that is largely just Simon's vocal along with bassist Baghiti Khumalo running gloriously wild and funky over the fretboard of his instrument. The same disc has an audio interview with Simon talking about the making of the title track, illuminating how this cross-cultural collaboration gestated.

The fourth disc captures the 1987 concert Simon gave in Zimbabwe on his "Graceland" tour, where he was joined by South African pop musicians Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela.

To paraphrase Rod Stewart, every album may indeed tell a story, but some stories are dramatically more compelling than others. The story of "Graceland" is one of the most compelling in all of pop music.


For Paul Simon, the world is his sound stage

Paul Simon at Gibson Amphitheatre: Street smart

Album review: Paul Simon's "So Beautiful or So What"

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Paul Simon, center, with Joseph Shabalala, left, of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Miriam Makeba and other musicians who were part of the "Graceland" tour. Credit: Radical Media

Grammys set for Feb. 10 in Los Angeles


The 55th annual Grammy Awards will be held Feb. 10, 2013, the Recording Academy announced  Thursday.

“Music's Biggest Night” will once again take place at the Staples Center, with the academy’s nomination concert special airing Dec. 5, 2012.

RELATED: 2012 Grammy coverage

This year's telecast drew nearly 40 million viewers, the largest audience since 1984 and the second largest in history. The telecast also boasted the highest ratings of the award show season, and became one of the largest social events in the history of television, with social networks buzzing over Adele's Grammy sweep and the emotional impact of the ceremony as pop icon Whitney Houston passed away the day before, forcing organizers to revamp the show in the eleventh hour.

The Grammy winners are determined by about 13,000 voting members. The eligibility period for nominated recordings is Oct. 1, 2011, to Sept. 30, 2012. The awards will be televised on CBS and will be broadcast live except to viewers on the West Coast.


2012 Grammy coverage

Adele affirmed, Whitney Houston mourned

For Neil Portnow, ‘the most emotional Grammys’

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photo: Adele sweeps at the 54th annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 12, 2012. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Latin Grammys to allow 10 nominees for album of the year

Calle 13
The chance of winning an album of the year Latin Grammy just slightly improved. Coming to the 2012 Latin Grammy Awards is an expansion of the four top categories, which will now include 10 nominees apiece.

This adds five new contenders to best new artist, as well as the record, album and song of the year fields. The move would seem to foretell similar changes for the Grammy Awards and would follow like-minded tweaks by the Academy Awards and the Emmys. However, the Latin Recording Academy operates independently of the Recording Academy, with each maintaining a separate board of trustees.

"Each organization, independent of the other, reviews its awards process annually, evaluating proposals and recommendations to the process and then, ultimately, determining any changes to be made," said Barb Dehgan, the Recording Academy's vice president of communications and media relations.

The Recording Academy will meet in late May to discuss any changes to next year's Grammy telecast. President Neil Portnow earlier told Pop & Hiss that he "would anticipate there would be some changes this year," but he did not elaborate. 

Dehgan cautioned against reading too much into the Latin Grammy changes. She pointed out that the Latin Grammys recognize and balance works from multiple countries, whereas the Grammy Awards honor only domestic releases. 

Increasing the number of nominees has been an award show trend of late. In 2009, the Motion Picture Academy altered the rules for the Oscars to allow for 10 nominees in its best picture race. The rules were further amended in 2011 to allow for anywhere from five to 10 best picture contenders. Also in 2009, the Emmys began allowing six nominees instead of five in a number of major fields.

Specific rules as to how the 10 Latin Grammy nominees will be arrived at were not revealed. A press release from the Latin Recording Academy was vague, noting only that the body "will closely evaluate a formula that now includes 10 nominees."  

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Judge dismisses effort to reverse Grammy award reductions

 Bobby Sanabria
Long a target of debate and criticism, the Grammy Awards this year had to deflect an attack from a block of its core constituency: the artists. Musicians and music activists cried foul after the Recording Academy slashed its number of award categories from 109 to 78, reducing and consolidating its R&B, American roots music, classical, Latin, jazz, country, pop and rock fields.

Those still hoping for a reversal of this decision were dealt a serious blow as a New York judge dismissed a suit aimed at forcing the Recording Academy to rescind the changes. Latin jazz musician Bobby Sanabria was one of those behind the suit, arguing that the cuts would hurt an artist's career and unfairly targeted niche categories. Sanabria said Monday that he and his lawyers would be reviewing the judge's decision and intended to file an appeal. 

"The reason we did this is because we believe in the academy," Sanabria said. "This past year, all of us were left out in the lurch -– all of the people eliminated in terms of 31 categories. You can’t have 6,000 musicians competing for one Grammy. You could, theoretically have that, but it’s just unfair. For example, the traditional roots music category is about six different genres of music, and you have Latin jazz competing against traditional jazz and contemporary jazz. It’s ridiculous. It devalues the music."

When the Recording Academy unveiled the changes last spring, seven Latin categories had been condensed to four. The American roots music field also had been heavily trimmed, going from nine categories to five, doing away with best zydeco/Cajun music album, and combining best traditional folk album and best contemporary folk album into the more direct best folk album.  

The Recording Academy will meet in late May to discuss any changes to the 2013 Grammy Awards telecast. President Neil Portnow praised the judge's decision in a statement and said Monday that he did not anticipate any massive overhauls to next year's nominations and awards.

"I would anticipate there would be some changes this year, but what I don’t think will change will be the overall restructuring," Portnow said. "We found a different way to categorize and to look at this very challenging process. We try to be objective about something that is subjective. The overall infrastructure that we implemented seems to work well. I think there will be individual tweaks and adjustments based on a review of how it went last year and what’s going on in music."

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Levon Helm, singer and drummer for The Band, in final stages of cancer

Levon Helm of The Band is in the final stages of cancer
This post has been updated. See details at the bottom.

The Band singer and drummer Levon Helm is in the final stages of cancer, according to a note posted on his website Tuesday by his wife, Sandy, and daughter, Amy.

“Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way through this part of his journey,” the note said. “Thank you fans and music lovers who have made his life so filled with joy and celebration . . . he has loved nothing more than to play, to fill the room up with music, lay down the back beat, and make the people dance! He did it every time he took the stage.”

At Saturday’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland, former Band guitarist and songwriter Robbie Robertson prefaced his induction speech for recording engineers Cosimo Matassa, Tom Dowd and Glyn Johns saying “Before I start, I need to send my love and blessings to my old band mate Levon Helm,” but he did not elaborate.

Arkansas-born Helm was the only non-Canadian member of the Hawks, a group that first backed early rocker Ronnie Hawkins, and then gained fame in the mid-1960s accompanying Bob Dylan when the singer and songwriter "went electric" to the consternation of many hardcore folk music fans who'd previously supported him. 

The Band worked closely with Dylan after he went into seclusion following a near-fatal 1966 motorcycle accident, recording a batch of influential songs that were widely bootlegged and only surfaced in official form in 1975 as "The Basement Tapes." The Band released its first album on its own in 1968, "Music from Big Pink," to broad critical acclaim. It included one of the group's signature songs "The Weight." It followed with the even more highly lauded sophomore album "The Band," which included "Up On Cripple Creek," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "Rag Mama Rag."

As one of three lead singers for the band, along with Richard Manuel and Rick Danko, Helm was the dominant voice on such signature songs as “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Rag Mama Rag,” “Ophelia,” “Don’t Do It” and “Daniel and the Sacred Harp.” Manuel committed suicide in 1986 and Danko died of drug-related heart failure in 1999.

Members of the Band decided in 1976 to quit touring, and threw a gala final concert they called “The Last Waltz,” which was captured on film by director Martin Scorsese. Here's a clip of Helm singing "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" at that concert:


After "The Last Waltz," Robertson began pursuing a series of solo projects, while Helm, Danko and multi-instrumentalist Garth Hudson engaged in various projects, including Helm's acting role as Loretta Lynn's father in the Academy Award-winning 1979 movie "Coal Miner's Daughter."

The group reconvened and recorded a new studio album, “Jericho,” in 1993, without Robertson, and continued to tour periodically until Helm’s health deteriorated because of the throat cancer diagnosed in 1998.

Following radiation treatment, his voice was little more than a whisper, but he hosted a series of loose performances at The Barn, his home and studio in upstate New York, where he slowly regained much of the quality that distinguished his work in the Band.

In his 1993 autobiography, Helm told of his falling out with Robertson over songwriting credits and publishing royalties related to the group's highly regarded catalog, which was singularly credited to Robertson. The Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. 

Helm mounted a comeback and subsequently released three albums, all of which garnered Grammy Awards. He received the 2007 Grammy for traditional folk album for “Dirt Farmer,” the 2009 Americana album award for its follow-up, “Electric Dirt,” and again for 2011's "Ramble at the Ryman" live album recorded at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium.

He was the subject of a 2010 documentary, "Ain't In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm."

[Update at 5:27 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said Helm had won two Grammy Awards for his post cancer-treatment albums. All three won Grammys. Also it said he had undergone a laryngectomy. He refused the laryngectomy and underwent radiation treatment instead.]


Album review: Levon Helm's 'Electric Dirt'

Levon Helm is still ready for the load

Robbie Robertson has a sense about 'How To Become Clairvoyant'

--Randy Lewis

Photo of Bob Dylan's 1974 "Before the Flood" tour stop at the Forum in Inglewood, where he was backed by the Band (l-r): Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Levon Helm. Credit: Kathleen Ballard / Los Angeles Times.

Adele, Bruno Mars, Civil Wars among Grammy sales winners

Adele at the 2012 Grammy Awards

Adele's latest album has only 304 million people left in the U.S to reach. One full year after its release, her "21" continues to find a new audience. In its 52 weeks in the top 10 of the U.S. pop charts, "21" has now sold more than 7.3 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. 

In the first full sales week after her Grammy wins and performance, Adele's "21" has tallied its best week ever on the U.S. pop chart, selling another 730,000 copies to its total. This places it atop the pop charts for the 21st nonconsecutive week. The run, as reported earlier, sees Adele surpass the 20-week grip at the top of the pop charts by the Whitney Houston-led soundtrack to "The Bodyguard."

Adele, back in the news last night for flipping the bird at the Brit Awards, has two albums in the Top 5. Her 2008 debut, "19," sold 87,000 copies this week, and has sold just shy of 2 million since its release. The mighty increase by her "21," however, is the largest post-Grammy sales bump since SoundScan began providing the music industry with accurate sales data in 1991. The previous post-Grammy high was held by Norah Jones, whose "Come Away With Me" sold 621,000 copies after her multiple Grammy wins in 2003. 

The Feb. 12 Grammy telecast was kind to numerous other artists as well. Bruno Mars saw his genre-hopping, R&B-centered debut, "Doo-Wops & Hooligans," rocket back into the Top 10, up from No. 30 to No. 8 this week. Mars performed his vintage rocker "Runaway Baby" near the top of the Grammy telecast, and his album sold 38,000 copies this week compared with 16,000 the previous week. 

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Adele's '21' sets record with 21st week at No. 1


This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.

Adele's momentum is showing no signs of slowing. After winning six Grammy Awards and taking the top prize at the Brit Awards, the young soulful star bested a chart record set by another vocal powerhouse, the late Whitney Houston. Adele's "21" coasted to another week at the top of the pop charts, giving it 21 nonconsecutive weeks in the pole position. That's the most by any album in the modern sales era. 

Buoyed by her Grammy wins and return to the stage after vocal cord surgery, "21" sold a mighty 730,000 copies in the United States for the week beginning Feb. 13, according to Nielsen SoundScan stats released by Billboard. The tally gives Adele her best sales week. The album, which has now remained in the top-10 for one full year, has sold more than 7.3 million copies. 

With another week at No. 1, Adele has bested a chart record set by the Houston-led soundtrack to "The Bodyguard," the Grammy album-of-the-year winner for 1993. SoundScan began providing accurate sales data for the music industry in 1991, and "The Bodyguard" had its run at the top of the charts beginning in late 1992. 

Artists who perform at the Grammy Awards typically experience a sales bump in the days that follow, yet Adele's 207% sales increase is rare any time of the year (the album sold 237,000 copies for the week ending Feb. 12). Adele's "21" is the best sales week for an album since Lil Wayne's "Tha Carter IV" debuted at No. 1 with 964,000 late last fall. 

By comparison, last year's album-of-the-year winners the Arcade Fire sold 41,000 copies of its "The Suburbs" in the first full sales week after the Grammy Awards. For the week heading into the awards, "The Suburbs" had sold 12,000 copies. 

Complete chart data will be released early in the day on Wednesday.

[FOR THE RECORD, FEB. 28: An earlier version of this post stated that the Whitney Houston-led soundtrack to “The Bodyguard” won the Grammy album of the year in 1992. The album was released in 1992 but was honored with the 1993 album of the year Grammy.]  


Brit Awards: Blur returns and Adele raises her middle finger

Rihanna and Chris Brown put forth two songs and raise questions

Whitney Houston appreciation: A voice for the ages tarnished by addictions

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Adele performs during the 54th annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 12 in Los Angeles. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press


Skrillex releases 'Bangarang' video

Skrillex has released a new video for 'Bangarang'
If you're a menacing-looking adult and you happen to find yourself inside a Skrillex video, you can count on getting your comeuppance at the hands of some mighty disenfranchised and angry youth. In Skrillex's world — or at least in his videos — the kids are taking control.

That was the lesson of Skrillex's "First of the Year (Equinox)" clip (from the "More Monsters and Sprites EP), and it's a theme the young L.A. electronica producer returned to for the video to "Bangarang," the title track to his latest e.p. The song starts with a twitchy guitar sample and promptly dives into Skrillex's inimitable face-punching bass drops — a suitable backdrop for this tale of pre-teen delinquency.

The theme of youth empowered by crime or at least n'er-do-welling might not be much of an innovation, but Skrillex is riding high after a sweep of the major dance Grammys awards and a string of beyond-sold-out New York and Los Angeles shows, so we can't exactly blame for for sticking with what's clearly working.


Album review: Skrillex's "Bangarang"

Grammys 2012: Deadmau5 trolls Skrillex on the red carpet

Review: Skrillex at Dim Mak

—August Brown

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images For (Belvedere) RED

Adele, Whitney Houston, Fun make an impact on the charts

Adele, Whitney Houston, Fun make an impact on the charts

Adele's "21" has now spent 51 weeks in the top 10 on the U.S. pop chart, but it still, apparently, has room to grow. Buoyed by her multiple Grammy wins Sunday night and return to the stage after vocal cord surgery, "21" holds its grip on the No. 1 spot on the U.S. pop charts, selling an additional 237,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, With sales up 95%, Adele out-sells Van Halen's first full-length with David Lee Roth since 1984.

Adele's album has now spent a total of 20 weeks at No. 1, giving it the longest run at the top spot since Whitney Houston's soundtrack to "The Bodyguard" racked up 20 weeks in the pole position beginning in late 1992. SoundScan tracks sales through Sunday evening, so the full effect of the Grammy Awards won't be evident until next week's charts are revealed. Already, however, "21" has now sold more than 6.6 million copies.  

While the Grammys celebrated the return of one signature voice, they also paid tribute to the loss of another. Houston died suddenly on Grammy eve, and her passing resulted in nearly instant sales of her work. Houston's "Greatest Hits" re-entered the chart at No. 6, having sold the bulk of its 64,000 copies in less than 24 hours. 

Houston's cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," her signature song from "The Bodyguard," sold more than 194,00 digital downloads in the same time span. It's the No. 3 selling digital single in America. Fans also gravitated toward Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)," which sold 74,000 downloads. All told, Houston sold more than 100,000 albums and nearly 900,000 individual tracks in a little more than 24 hours.

"There’s a duty almost, I guess you could say, for the music community to make the music available," said Jim Donio, president of the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers, a trade organization representing music retail. "People want to remember her. People want to celebrate her. People want to own it and listen to it. It’s important that it’s there for people.

"You can’t look away from the fact that there’s a commercial dimension, one that’s pretty significant, and that’s the nature of the situation. The bottom line is to be able to have the music be available for those who to remember her."

Including her soundtrack work on "The Bodyguard" and "The Preacher's Wife," Houston placed six albums on the Billboard top 200. 

A reconciled Van Halen returns to the top 10 at No. 2 this week with new album "A Different Kind of Truth." Released in conjunction with the launch of a new tour, the Roth-fronted Van Halen album sold 187,000 copies. The group's last studio set,"Van Halen 3," featuring Gary Cherone on vocals, entered at No. 4 with 191,000 copies sold, according to Billboard. That album, however, was released during the flusher sales era of the late '90s.

Other notes from this week's pop chart:

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