Thoughts on the 2022 Grammy Nominations

What a long, strange year it’s been. The fact that we’re even having an almost normal 2022 Grammy ceremony is a miracle in itself, considering the pandemic has caused havoc to the music industry on so many different levels. Consequently it’s been a variable year in terms of quality releases, so I’m thankful to have these nominations to remind us of what good stuff deserves further attention.

Starting in the country categories we find some pleasing nominations, most notably in the ‘Best Country Album’ with my personal favourite ‘The Marfa Tapes’ by Miranda Lambert, Jack Ingram and Jon Randall getting a nod alongside Sturgill Simpson (also nominated in best bluegrass album), Chris Stapleton, Brothers Osborne and Mickey Guyton.

The performance category is much more scattershot with Kacey Musgraves picking up the first of two nominations for Camera Roll, which is one of my favourite songs of the year. Overall she must feel slighted by the disappointing response to Star-Crossed here and the exclusion from the country album category remains inexplicable since Mickey’s album is equally as ‘pop’ in sound. Rounding out this performance category are Luke Combs, Mickey Guyton, Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell for a Johnny Cash cover song.

The fact that the atrocity ‘Fancy Like’ is nominated in ‘Best Country Song’ is an embarrassment to the genre, especially when even other mainstream talents like Carly Pearce have been completely ignored. Mickey picks up a further nomination in this category for ‘Remember Her Name’ and it will be interesting to see if she can win this time round after being shut out for arguably a better song last year. Rounding out the Song category are Kacey’s ‘Camera Roll‘, Country Again‘ by Thomas Rhett, ‘Better Than We Found It’ by Maren Morris and ‘Cold‘ by Chris Stapleton, who has a good chance of sweeping the country categories.

In the best duo/group I love ‘Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home) by Miranda and Elle King so I’m glad to see it pick up a nomination. Maren Morris receives her second nod of the night for ‘Chasing After You‘ a duet with her husband, Ryan Hurd. Also featuring here are the ubiquitous Dan and Shay, the deserving Brothers Osborne and the not deserving duo of Jason Aldean and Carrie Underwood.

Overall these country nominations read like really strange disparate groupings of totally random artists rather than offering any kind of coherent sense of genre identity. Some may think this is a good thing but I would really like to see country separated into ‘Traditional’ and ‘Modern’ or ‘Progressive’ like the RnB categories, which would open up the scope of the albums the ceremony can celebrate. I think it’s time to retire the surplus duo/group performance category too.

In the Americana/Roots categories we have well deserved nominations for Allison Russell and Yola in ‘Best Americana Album’ alongside Jackson Browne, John Hiatt and Los Lobos. Allison Russell also picks up nomination for ‘Nightflyer’ in Roots Performance alongside Billy Strings, The Blind Boys of Alabama & Bela Fleck and Jon Batiste (more about him in a minute). Brandy Clark and Brandi Carlile’s collaboration ‘Same Devil‘ is also nominated in Roots Performance (although this is not the best song to showcase their talents imo).

In Best American Roots song I’m delighted to see ‘Call Me A Fool‘ by Valerie June get the nod, as its one of my favourites of the year. Yola’s ‘Diamond Studded Shoes’ is also nominated in this category alongside her friends Allison Russell and Rhiannon Giddens. Any of these women would be worthy winners.

Strangely rounding out that category is Jon Batiste again, whose album is nominated in various different genres including RnB, Traditional RnB, Jazz and Roots despite being labelled ‘RnB/soul’ on iTunes. Why then, if the definition is so loose, have they rejected Brandi Carlile’s wish to be in these categories and shunted her to pop? Again perhaps a change in eligibility or category title is needed here to make it easier for the artist to submit and voters to compare the work.

The folk category equally makes no sense. Tyler Childers continues to reject his natural home of ‘Americana’ for folk this time, and is rewarded with a nomination. A Mary Chapin Carpenter live album is deemed better than every other new traditional folk album. And someone needs to explain to me again how a singer/songwriter like Madison Cunningham was ‘Americana’ last time and is now ‘Folk’ this year, gaining a nomination for an EP of slight sounding cover songs which no one even heard. At least Rhiannon Giddens and Sarah Jarosz are also nominated to offer some credibility to this category.

Beyond these fields I am pleased to see personal favourites Shemekia Copeland nominated for Best Blues Album for her underrated ‘Uncivil War’, Natalia Lafourcade continues to dominate the Regional Mexican Category, Arlo Parks picks up a couple of nominations in a slow night for the British contingent and St Vincent is nominated in Alternative album. Elsewhere Carrie Underwood is nominated for Best Roots gospel album and Dolly is nominated for her Christmas album in the ‘traditional pop’ category, which makes no sense since it is at least 50% country music and far from her best work. At this point they should just include a separate ‘Best Christmas Album’ category since so many artists now release seasonal music.

As for the general field categories I find them pretty disappointing and predictably bland from a country/roots/alternative music fan perspective. Brandi Carlile is nominated in various song categories for ‘Right on Time‘ but will no doubt be pushed out by the big pop hit makers. She misses out on Album of the Year which once again includes nothing from any of the genres beyond pop, rap and rnb. How on earth Justin Beiber and a Lady Gaga/Tony Bennett covers album can feature in Album of the Year is beyond me. It would be far more interesting and reflective of the diversity of the awards overall to have the ‘album of the year’ category be made up of at least one album from each of the different fields.

Despite the randomness of some of these nominations it’s always refreshing to have a ceremony with so many categories in the first place – even if the definitions and eligibility criteria need some attention.

You can find a link to the full nominations here. Let me know your thoughts and favourites in the comments or on social media.

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