Recording Academy aims for a more focused Grammys, slashes 31 categories

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LOS ANGELES
— The 2012 Grammy Awards will look a little trimmer as the Recording
Academy on Wednesday unveiled a massive overhaul of its categories and
voting process, most notably slashing the number of nominated
categories by 31 to 78. The Grammys had swelled from 28 categories in
1959 to 109 at the most recently televised awards, in which the Arcade
Fire was a surprise win for album of the year.

“The message isn’t anything about cutting,” said Recording Academy President and Chief Executive Neil Portnow at a Wednesday press conference.

Instead, the Grammy czar said the academy had
previously taken a “collage” approach that lacked a specific vision and
noted that changes to the Grammy format began in earnest in 2009 — the
same year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences altered the
Academy Awards, upping the number of nominated best picture films from
five to 10.

“This growth,” Portnow said of the past increases in
Grammy categories, “springs from a tradition of honoring specific
genres and/or subgenres within a field, and it has basically been
approached one category at a time without a current overall guiding
vision and without consistency across the various genre fields.”

The official Grammy site has posted a
category-by-category comparison. Some of the most noted changes include
the cutting of the “best contemporary R&B album” category and going
with the more simplified best R&B album. In recent years, artists
such as Mary J. Blige had jumped back and forth from
best contemporary to best R&B album without any rhyme or reason, as
the contemporary field lacked an easy definition.

Elsewhere, the best rap performance by a duo or
group has been streamlined to best rap performance, and seven Latin
categories have been condensed to four. Since the launch of the Latin
Grammys in 2000, many have questioned the need to repeat some of the
Latin categories at the broader Grammy Awards.

The American roots music field has been heavily
trimmed, going from nine categories down 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
pop and rock fields have also been given a clearer directive. No longer
will best pop solo performance be divided by the sexes, as best female
pop vocal performance and best male pop vocal performance are now a
thing of the past. Likewise, best rock instrumental performance and
best rock solo vocal performance can now be found in best rock
performance.

Portnow was asked whether the changes will result
the Grammys becoming even more of a popularity contest, as there was
some grumbling in industry quarters that the Arcade Fire beat out such
household names as Eminem and Lady Gaga. No, responded Portnow, who
said those interested in seeing only the familiar walk away with
trophies should direct their attention to other music award programs,
which Portnow dismissed as “variety shows.”

Other Grammy changes are more of the behind-the-scenes ilk.

In order for a category to receive a full five
albums, there must be at least 50 submissions. If anywhere between 25
and 39 albums/artists are submitted, there will be only three nominated
releases. If a category fewer than 25 submissions, it will go on
“hiatus.” Submissions to a category headed for hiatus will be
reassigned to “the next most appropiate” category, read the official
rule changes.

Additionally, voters have been granted more freedom,
as they may now vote in up to 20 genre categories rather than nine. The
genre votes are in addition to the four general field nominations —
album, record and song of the year, as well as best new artist.

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(c) 2011, Los Angeles Times.

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