Grammys Shed Over 30 Categories for 2011

Posted April 7, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in News
President/CEO Neil Portnow, five-time Grammy-winning record producer and chair emeritus Jimmy Jam and Academy Awards' Vice President Bill Freimuth participating in a live chat discussion on the day of the Grammy award scaleback.

Big changes for the Grammys are announced as the categories are trimmed, and everyone’s not happy

Rumors flew big-time when Grammy committee members were met with e-mail invitations to an important re-structuring meeting earlier this week. After very little debate, the Recording Academy  announced on April 6 that is plans to cut over thirty award categories from its 2011 round-up, trimming the field from 109 to 78. Most of the categories no longer standing is the separate male and female categories that flood the genre contests of pop, country, R&B and gospel. Now the genders will go head-t0-head for their respectable genre’s big prizes. Meanwhile, the minimum amount of artists eligible to enter the nomination process for a category has escalated from 2010’s 25 entries to 40. Another part of the re-tooling strategy on the awards’ future includes the lack of submissions. If less than twenty-five enters for a specific category, that category goes on a hiatus.

“Every year, we diligently examine our Awards structure to develop an overall guiding vision and ensure that it remains a balanced and viable process,” Grammy President and CEO Neil Portnow said in a statement. “After careful and extensive review and analysis of all Categories and Fields, it was objectively determined that our Grammy categories be restructured to the continued competition and prestige of the highest and only peer-recognized award in music. Our Board of Trustees continues to demonstrate its dedication to keeping The Recording Academy a pertinent and responsive organization in our dynamic music community.”

The top four awards – Record of the Year, Artist of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of the Year – was left untouched.

Certain awards titles were consolidated into one, such as Best Hard Rock and Best Metal Performance; along with Best Rap Solo Performance and Performance by a Duo or Group. A handful of categories were axed indefinitely including Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group, Best Urban/Alternative Performance  and Best Contemporary R&B Album. Awards for Best Hawaiian Album and Best Cajun Album were also dismissed, but replaced with a roots album category.

A handful of critics, particularly supporters of independent acts, are upset and even worried about the ramifications of the Grammy upheaval. Facebook began to light up with comments about the risk that lesser-known indie acts  – who usually are nominated in the early rounds of low-profiled alternative genres – will be forgotten, while pop royalty will continue to dominate the golden party. Fans of urban genres like R&B and gospel are also worried, believing that the Academy is being unfair. E! News’ Josh Grossberg disagrees, stating that “it’s about time.” “No genre is escaping the massive overhaul—the cuts are across the board with several similar-sounding genres getting bunched together, and less distinction between male and female categories,” he says.

HiFi Magazine editor, J Matthew Cobb, also sounded off on the big changes on his Facebook status. “I’m fine with it. It just means that artists have to work twice as hard to get nominated and three times harder to win,” he says.

In a recent press conference with award-winning R&B/pop producer and Academy’ chair emeritus Jimmy Jam and the Academy’s VP Bill Freimuth in attendance (see archived telecast), Academy CEO Neil Portnow stated that in its 53-year existence, the Grammy pool has escalated from twenty awards to over a hundred in total. Cutting back seemed apropos. According to Portnow, the changes had nothing to do with the controversial New York Times’ full-page ad and the uproar surrounding Esperanza Spaulding’s big win over teen pop idol Justin Bieber for New Artist of the Year. “It’s all about the music. We are purely peer based,” says Portnow.

The Academy will continue to weigh in on growing criticisms and concerns from its body of voters, leading up to the 54th Annual Grammy Awards next year.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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