There’s never been more new music. Spotify, to take one recently unveiled example, sees 20,000 songs added to its libraries every day. Feeding the feeling of deluge, the Grammy Awards has expanded the number of nominations in its Big Four general categories from five to eight so as to “better reflect the large number of entries.” When the Oscars grew its field of Best Picture nominees in 2009, the goal was to help blockbusters, such as The Dark Knight, that had been shut out. But the decision has actually boosted acclaimed yet little-seen movies. What’s the result going to be for similar changes in music?
Friday morning’s Grammy nominations provide a tentatively promising answer: The Recording Academy has delivered a relatively decent take on what America actually listens to. Long-standing blind spots around rap and women appear to be getting addressed. A few exciting mid-range artists—well-liked but not extremely popular—have edged out faltering superstars. The drama of the February 10 ceremony may be about whether Cardi B or Post Malone, breakout entertainers for a new generation, get more stage time than the other.
Nominations in the all-important Album of the Year category include hip-hop’s Cardi B, Drake, Post Malone, and Kendrick Lamar (for the collaborative Black Panther soundtrack); the R&B experimenters Janelle Monáe and H.E.R.; and the country-music critical darlings Kacey Musgraves and Brandi Carlile. It’s a good showing for black artists in a category that hasn’t rewarded rap since OutKast in 2004, and it includes a notable number of women, given last year’s ceremony’s high-profile sexism controversies. The biggest curveballs may be Musgraves and Carlile, who each have challenged mainstream Nashville’s well-documented apathy toward female voices. Ironically, though, they could draw votes from more traditionalist—read: white—Grammy voters unenthused by the R&B and hip-hop boom.