Music News: What to watch for at the Grammys

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Alicia Keys, host of the 61st Annual Grammy Awards.
Alicia Keys, host of the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. (Jaclyn Martinez/Courtesy of AK Worldwide, Inc/CBS)
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What to watch for at the Grammys
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Above, listen to an episode of The Current's daily Music News podcast. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts. You can also sign up for a daily Music News e-mail and join our Facebook group.


The Current's resident Grammy expert, Mac Wilson, joined Jay and Jade to talk about this year's awards. The Grammy Awards will be broadcast on Sunday night, hosted by Alicia Keys.

This year, The Recording Academy is also giving special recognition to three artists — Nina Simone, Link Wray, and George Clinton — all of whom are from North Carolina. Joni Deutsch of Charlotte public radio station WFAE interviewed Adrian Stallings and Veronica Cordle of the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, to talk about these three artists.

One big change to the Grammys this year is the increase from five to eight nominees in the categories of Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. "Rather than splitting these votes among five nominees, they're split among eight nominees, so we could see some real interesting results in the top four," said Wilson. Having more artists nominated in each category means that the results could be determined by smaller vote margins. "We don't know how that's going to shake out," Wilson continued. "It could be that the favorites win as they usually tend to do, or things could get really interesting on Grammy night."

This year could see Kendrick Lamar's first win for Album of the Year. "He's 0 for three in this category, despite being arguably the most critically acclaimed artist of the last ten years or so," said Wilson. Lamar is nominated for the category as the featured artist, producer, and curator of the Black Panther soundtrack.

Sunday could also be a night of firsts for Björk, who, despite being nominated for over a dozen Grammy Awards, has never won. Björk is nominated for Best Alternative Music Album for Utopia. "Björk has been nominated 15 times without ever winning [a Grammy]," said Wilson. "She's the fourth most-nominated artist to have never won, behind only Snoop Dogg, Brian McKnight, and Morten Lindberg."

Will Drake show up to the Grammys? The rapper has skipped the award ceremony in recent years, and has deliberately not submitted his music to the Grammys for consideration. Despite Drake's past beef with the ceremony, this could be the year that he attends the Grammys. "This was the first year where he sent in his music to be evaluated by the Grammys," said Jade. "I think for that reason alone, it might be the year that he shows up."

Wilson's prediction for winner of Record of the Year and Song of the Year is Childish Gambino's viral hit "This Is America." "It really captured the zeitgeist of 2018," said Wilson. "It was The Current's song of 2018, and we'll see if that translates on Grammy night."

In addition to big-selling artist like Childish Gambino and Drake, a number of lesser-known artists are also up for nominations this year. R&B artist H.E.R. is nominated for a number of Grammys, including Best New Artist. Singer-songwriter Anderson East sits alongside Brandi Carlile and Willie Nelson in the nominations for Best American Roots Performance.

In 2019, more artists are blending musical styles and defying the bounds of genre, but the Grammys still categorize awards based on more traditional definitions of genre, like Americana, R&B, Rock, and Alternative. These categories allow smaller artists like H.E.R. and Anderson East to exist in categories alongside big names. "They're able to coexist in these categories, and sometimes voters toss us a curveball," said Wilson.

Thanks to our guests Mac Wilson, Adrian Stallings, and Veronica Cordle — and thanks to Joni Deutsch and WFAE's Amplifier podcast for partnering with us on this special episode.


Audio sampled in podcast
Music in today's special Grammys episode:
Jahzzar: "Comedie" (CC BY 4.0)
Kendrick Lamar and SZA: "All the Stars"
Drake: "God's Plan"
Brandi Carlile: "The Joke"
Bjork: "The Gate"
Arctic Monkeys: "Four out of Five"
H.E.R.: "Focus"
Parliament: "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off The Sucker)"
Link Wray: "Rumble"
Nina Simone: "Young, Gifted and Black"
The Avett Brothers: "True Sadness"
Uncan: "Keeping Track" (CC BY-NC 4.0)
Childish Gambino: "This Is America"
Mitski: "Nobody"
Anderson East: "All On My Mind"
Weezer: "Happy Hour"
Jesse Spillane: "Ruffling Feathers" (CC BY SA 4.0-02)

1 Photos

  • Adrian Stallings and Veronica Cordle of the N.C. Music Hall of Fame
    Adrian Stallings and Veronica Cordle of the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. (Joni Deutsch | WFAE for MPR)

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