by Dom Jones
We’re Berklee kids. Every year, we await the GRAMMY nominations, not only for the artists who (if they’ve released music) we know will inevitably be nominated, but also with the hope that some of our favorites will be recognized as well. Of course, we’ve always got our eye out for those Berklee alums who will get some shine, but I think most of all, we’re counting on the industry to prove to us that it’s not always just about sales and marketing – that it’s still about the music in some regard. As with any awards show, the GRAMMYs don’t always get it right, but when they do, we revel in the moment. Here are some of the nominations we were most happy to see:
BJ The Chicago Kid
It was important to support this album because of how it built the crucial bridge between traditional and contemporary soul and R&B. Grandparents and teenage trap fans alike could enjoy this album, and apparently the Recording Academy agreed!
Best R&B Performance – “Turnin’ Me Up”
Best Traditional R&B Performance – “Woman’s World”
Best R&B Album – “In My Mind”
Come on, Berklee alum! This was an awesome album, with a great mix of original songs and covers. Lalah Hathaway, daughter of Donny Hathaway, has been making great music for a long, long time, so it’s nice to see her getting recognized for that work!
Best Traditional R&B Performance – “Angel”
Best R&B Album – “Lalah Hathway Live”
Chance The Rapper
This is huge for the industry because of what it means as the business of music evolves. Chance is known not just for his music, but also for being a rapper who has refused to sign a record deal, yet still been highly commercially successful, proving the growing perceived irrelevance of the record label to be true.
Best New Artist
Best Rap Performance – “No Problem” ft. Lil Wayne and 2Chainz
Best Rap Song – “No Problem” ft. Lil Wayne and 2Chainz
Best Rap Album – “Coloring Book”
+ nominations as a part of Kanye’s song “Ultralight Beam”
I’ll be honest. I’ve never been a huge Remy Ma fan or listener. This mention is strictly because in a male dominated industry where women are lambasted and shunned for the same behavior men are forgiven and/or praised for, Remy has faced the adversity around that double standard, and still come back swinging. I would have loved to see her nominated on a solo song, but this is a step in the right direction for her career moving forward. Now if we could just get her to mix a little Lauryn Hill in with that vintage Lil Kim, we’d be all set.
Best Rap Performance – “All The Way Up” with Fat Joe and Infared
Best Rap Song – “All The Way Up” with Fat Joe and Infared
I mean… could we finish this list without her? One of the most talked about and successful albums this year, conversations (and even college courses) around Lemonade and its meaning are still happening today. It’s also worth mentioning that Berklee alum, Tony Maserati, was the mixer and engineer for Lemonade! I could say more, but then I wouldn’t have room to list all of her nominations.
Album of the Year – “Lemonade”
Record of the Year – “Formation”
Song of the Year – “Formation”
Best urban contemporary Album – “Lemonade”
Best Music Video – “Formation”
Best Rock Performance – “Don’t Hurt Yourself” ft. Jack White
Best Rap/Sung Performance – “Freedom” ft. Kendrick Lamar
Best Music Film – “Lemonade”
I have to give a shout to this hometown hero from Oakland, CA. When he came to Berklee to perform earlier this year, I was so happy that his music which harkens back to blues roots music gave our school a much needed education in this genre and how it’s still relevant today in more than just a historical context. As a lyricist, he also speaks to current events, as his album has songs like, “Working Poor,” and is aptly titled The Last Days of Oakland, alluding to the Oakland losing it’s deep artistic and cultural roots and community to greed and gentrification.
Best Traditional Blues Album – “The Last Days of Oakland”
For many of us, the GRAMMYs is the holy grail of musical recognition, and something to aspire to. While music (as an artform and as a business) continues to evolve, our hope is that the focus of awards shows continues to hone in on musical greatness. In the technological age, aesthetics have become a huge part of the way we engage with music, but it shouldn’t be the sole determinant of an artist’s viability. I’ve heard industry folks say more than once, “People now listen with their eyes,” which is an unfortunate state for those for which this is true. One of the greatest R&B singers of our time, Kelly Price, was just on campus talking about her journey with body image and body positivity, noting that her first record hit number one without anyone ever knowing what she looked like, for fear that it would jeopardize her success. We’ve also seen more and more how the culture of celebrity can compromise an artist’s mental health. So for me, these nominees, each in their own way, are breaking boundaries of what it means to be an “acceptable” artist. I always ask, “Does it sound good and does it resonate with me?” If the answer is yes, then most of the time, I like it. Being award-worthy should be about the artist being talented and also innovative, relevant, reverent (of the craft), and if referential, respectful (of the reference). For the first time in a long time, I’m looking forward to the GRAMMYs this year.
WHICH NOMINATIONS ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT? SOUND OFF IN THE COMMENTS!