New Grammy Rules Spawn Battle of the Sexes

Recently announced guidelines will pit female and male singers against each other in the vocal performance categories. What if judges had been forced to do this all along?

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The Recording Academy announced yesterday that 31 categories will be cut from next year's Grammy Awards, lowering the total count from 109 to 78. It's a good move for the organization—the rate at which the number of awards has grown has long been one of the biggest criticisms of the show. But are they going about the downsizing in the right way?

One of the changes that will be implemented next year will be the streamlining of all vocal performance categories into one award, doing away with the separation between female and male categories. Not only will there be significantly fewer stars at next year's ceremony (can you see Katy Perry or Ke$ha scoring nods now that there are half as many nominees in their genre?), but there's also the question of whether male and female vocal performances are actually comparable.

Take 1994, for example, the year Whitney Houston won a Grammy for her anthem "I Will Always Love You." Her victorious male counterpart that year in the pop category was Sting for "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You"—both deserving winners, both with wildly different singing styles.

Going back as far as the first Grammy Awards in 1958 (when there were only 28 categories), male and female vocal performances were separated—at least in the pop categories. What if these new Grammy rules had been in effect then? Performances by Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald, Norah Jones and John Mayer, and more would have been pitted against one another. What should the judges of the past have done if they'd been forced to adhere to the new guidelines all along? You decide.

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Kevin Fallon is a reporter for the Daily Beast. He's a former entertainment editor at TheWeek.com and former writer and producer for The Atlantic's entertainment channel.

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