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2024 Grammy Nominations: A guide to the best, worst and most surprising nominees

Billie Eilish is nominated for six Grammys at the 2024 awards ceremony. Five of those nominations are for her song "What Was I Made For," from the soundtrack to the film <em>Barbie.</em>
Michael Tran
/
AFP via Getty Images
Billie Eilish is nominated for six Grammys at the 2024 awards ceremony. Five of those nominations are for her song "What Was I Made For," from the soundtrack to the film Barbie.

The just-released nominations list for the 66th annual Grammy Awards, to be held Feb. 4 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, promises awards show fans one thing: stereotype-transcending sartorial excellence. The singer-songwriter trio boygenius, up for six awards including album and record of the year, has a "menswear" game like no other; will the artistic throuple dust off the Western duds for its inevitable acceptance speech? Out-earning Bridgers-Dacus-Baker is the nine times nominated SZA, who adapted the sports-jersey-and-Timberlands look '90s male rappers perfected on the cover of her R&B-ruling album SOS. Likewise, slow-burning newcomer Victoria Monet blurs binaries in the Missy Elliott-worshiping video for "On My Mama," the hit that helped earn her seven Grammy nods. Add in pantsuit savant Brandy Clark (six nominations across three genres) and tux god Janelle Monaé (two including album of the year) — not to mention top contenders Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift, all of whom can tie a Windsor knot — and you have a slate that really sticks it to the old music-industry suits. In fact, the only male artist with multiple major nominations, Jon Batiste, defied formalwear norms in 2022 when he claimed his golden gramophones in a sparkling floor-length cape.

This supposedly surface-level read of the year's nominations reveals something more important than a huge pre-Grammys workload for the house of Armani. Declaring a sea change when it comes to gender equity in music is always risky; more often than not, a year of non-male dominance gives way to one in which Morgan Wallen rules everything. At least for now, though, that chart-annihilating country bro sits in the cheap seats with only one nomination, and country and hip-hop, historically hypermale genres, were overlooked in prime categories. What acknowledgment they did receive pointed firmly toward a new era, one in which Ice Spice's flow earns true admiration and genre-flexible artists of color like Batiste and the best new artist noms the War and Treaty stand proud for Nashville and the rest of the rootsy South. That Latin music was shut out of the top categories, however, is inexplicable — showing a nearsightedness uncharacteristic of the year.

The lack of a male nominee likely to good-naturedly ruin thingslightning likely won't strike twice for Batiste, and there's no Silk Sonic to dance its way to the winner's circle — indicates that the long-overdue shift toward a real acknowledgment of music that young women love. As expert trend spotter Stephen Thompson has noted below, the biggest sweep may go to the hotly debated avatar of change/no change: Barbie. Songs from the Greta Gerwig blockbuster's soundtrack have a whopping eleven nominations across many categories, better this year than any artist on their own.

Despite the Barbie-world energy, in some ways this is the same old Grammy Awards. The nominations favor established industry favorites; aside from boygenius, even the youngest already have a shelf of awards at home. And in the categories honoring behind-the-scenes work like producer, songwriter and song of the year, men's names still outnumber others. (Relevant: former NARAS head Neil Portnow is currently being sued for sexual assault, reflecting an incident that was allegedly covered up for years.) Will Music's Biggest Night feel revolutionary, or like the same old insiders' club night, simply with different faces up front? To understand what the Grammy nominations might say about music right now — and in the game spirit of making predictions — NPR Music's critics scanned the nominations list and chose categories that reveal what will likely feel good, bad and impeccably well-tailored on that February night. —Ann Powers


Album Of The Year

The nominees:

  • World Music Radio by Jon Batiste
  • the record by boygenius
  • Endless Summer Vacation by Miley Cyrus
  • Did You Know That There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd by Lana Del Rey
  • The Age Of Pleasure by Janelle Monáe
  • GUTS by Olivia Rodrigo
  • Midnights by Taylor Swift
  • SOS by SZA


Why the category matters:

Jon Batiste can stay at the lobby bar for this announcement; same with Janelle Monaé, probably. The biggest question is will the full flowering of the Age of Taylor Swift guarantee that her relatively modest Midnights will win despite heavy competition from her peers and protegés? Impact-wise, the three top seeds are boygenius's The Record, which made the indie group true rock stars; Olivia Rodrigo's Guts, strong evidence that the teen phenom has staying power; and SZA's SOS, fully deserving for its artistry and abiding presence on multiple charts. Still, this category could deliver a shocker — Lana Del Rey might fully enter her doyenne period with a win, or this might be boygenius's moment, the right way to reward a three-songwriter team with a woman producer. Any way it goes, expect tears and fond shoutouts to every competitor from the stage. —Ann Powers


Best New Artist

The nominees:

  • Gracie Abrams
  • Fred again..
  • Ice Spice
  • Jelly Roll
  • Coco Jones
  • Noah Kahan
  • Victoria Monét
  • The War And Treaty


Why the category matters:

Always the weirdest top category, this year's slate plays by every rule in its warped book. It pairs genuine sensations like Ice Spice and Fred Again.. with deserving vets trying something fresh (the wonderful War and Treaty) and undeniably gifted artists that fulfill Grammy voters' conservative standards. The mostly-untested R&B belter Coco Jones and nuanced singer-songwriter Gracie Abrams, both kids of famous dads, fit this definition, as do adorable folk-rock revivalist Noah Kahan and canny formalist Victoria Monét. Most of these "new" artists have been releasing music for at least three Grammy seasons, and country rapper turned Nashville crooner Jelly Roll has seven under his belt. It's time to rename this category "breakthrough," folks. Ice Spice should win under any guidelines; she's defined the year's vibe in so many ways. Sentimental votes might go for the Jelly, though. —Ann Powers


Best Rock Song

The nominees:

  • "Angry" – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards & Andrew Watt, songwriters (The Rolling Stones)
  • "Ballad Of A Homeschooled Girl" – Daniel Nigro & Olivia Rodrigo, songwriters (Olivia Rodrigo)
  • "Emotion Sickness" – Dean Fertita, Joshua Homme, Michael Shuman, Jon Theodore & Troy Van Leeuwen, songwriters (Queens Of The Stone Age)
  • "Not Strong Enough" – Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers & Lucy Dacus, songwriters (boygenius)
  • "Rescued" – Dave Grohl, Rami Jaffee, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett & Pat Smear, songwriters (Foo Fighters)


Why the category matters:

The commercial viability and ultimate fate of rock and roll — you know the stuff, with the electric guitars and the drums and whatnot — continues to be the subject of endless debate. The genre's decline and/or demise has been greatly exaggerated for decades now, but this year's best rock song field does suggest something of an identity crisis.

First, you've got a pretty clear favorite in Foo Fighters' "Rescued," given that frontman Dave Grohl — that affable mayor of rock and roll — remains a Grammy staple. The group got nominated in all three rock categories and seems like a solid bet to sweep them all, as they did in 2022. But the other four best rock song nominations suggest a genre being pulled in drastically different directions: You've got extremely long-established veterans (The Rolling Stones' "Angry"), heavier sounds (Queens of the Stone Age's "Emotion Sickness") and a pair of artists whose relationship with traditional rock and roll isn't as clear-cut.

Olivia Rodrigo ("Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl") and boygenius ("Not Strong Enough") are heavily nominated in the pop and alternative fields, respectively, and both artists turn up repeatedly in the general categories. Their presence here — at the expense of both veteran rock acts (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Paramore, et al) and Grammy-anointed newcomers like Black Pumas — suggests a category that's faded to a bit of an afterthought. It also raises a question: If the presence of electric guitars qualifies a song as rock, what's to stop, say, Chris Stapleton's "White Horse" from competing here, too? —Stephen Thompson


The entire confusing R&B field

The categories:

  • Best R&B performance
  • Best traditional R&B performance
  • Best R&B Song
  • Best progressive R&B album
  • Best R&B album


Why these categories matter:

R&B categories at the Grammys have long been defined by insinuating signifiers, "urban/alternative" and "contemporary" being maybe the most maligned. The 2024 versions of that hair-splitting resurface age-old issues with the genre's classifications. The nominees are divided in "traditional," "progressive" and just plain R&B groupings, the latter seemingly denoting some kind of genre centrism between the other two poles. In the abstract, it's easy to understand the function of such a thing: To speak to the genre's breadth, its history and its evolution. But the nominees within these categories confer confusion rather than clarity. SZA is nominated as traditional, progressive and straight-up "R&B." Coco Jones and Victoria Monét appear in both the R&B performance and traditional R&B performance categories. (Monét's best R&B song nomination is for a different song than the one that scored her a best R&B performance nomination.)

The entire thing raises questions about the purpose of these designations. Along what lines are we making these distinctions? What makes Kenyon Dixon's "Lucky" more traditional than Robert Glasper's "Back to Love" with SIR and Alex Isley? What makes Terrace Martin and James Fauntleroy's Nova more progressive than Emily King's Special Occasion? (Excluding SZA's dynamic, sprawling SOS, the progressive category as a whole feels pretty buttoned-up and traditional, especially accounting for actual progressive 2023 standouts from Kali Uchis, Kelela, Liv.e, Nourished by Time, B. Cool-Aid and more.) If these qualifiers are purely cosmetic, telling us nothing of the artists or the music they make, bringing neither variety nor parity, why do we have them? —Sheldon Pearce


The rap categories are a mixed bag ... which is an improvement

The categories:

  • Best rap performance
  • Best melodic rap performance
  • Best rap song
  • Best rap album


Why these categories matter:

Neither Billboard charts nor Grammy awards have ever been reliable barometers for what's bumping in Black music. That fact has been reflected for years in the Grammy's rap categories, but taken as a whole, this year's nominees feel different, ranging from predictable perennials (Nas, Travis, Drake and 21 Savage) to underappreciated but well-deserved (Black Thought, Killer Mike).

Still, there are some gaping holes. And here's where it gets tricky. In a year where male rappers are largely taking a backseat to the feminine energy bubbling to the forefront, no women made the best rap album category. Sadly, Doja Cat's stellar album Scarlet fell just outside the window for 2024 Grammy consideration by one freaking week. (Her single "Attention" did grab double nominations for best rap song and best melodic rap performance.) Then there's Noname's total absence. After releasing one of the year's most insistent rap albums in Sundial, it's a glaring reminder that artists who operate outside the major-label system often remain unseen and uncelebrated by the industry's institutional canon.

The other cold, hard fact is this: Works must be submitted by artists, their labels or management for Grammy consideration. It goes to figure, considering the Academy's Grammy-come-lately relationship with the nation's most popular genre, that even the most deserving rappers might not always be hung up on getting a pick-me trophy from the wack-cademy. It's likely the reason so many more worthy independents — this year that would include billy woods, who continued his blinding streak of greatness with solo album Maps, and JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown's wild pitch collab LP Scaring the Hoes — are never present.

But it ain't all bad. Out of The Academy's four rap-related categories, Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice are vying for best rap song with "Barbie World" against Killer Mike's collaborative song "SCIENTISTS & ENGINEERS" with André 3000, Future and and Eryn Allen Kane. R&B star SZA — who one could argue is really the hottest rapper in the game right now — is nominated in the best melodic rap performance category with "Low." And Black Thought scored a surprising best rap performance nod for "Love Letter," a musicless, four-and-a-half minute spoken word history of hip-hop and its cultural impact as part of BET's celebration of the culture's 50th anniversary. —Rodney Carmichael


Best Alternative Jazz Album

The nominees:

  • Love In Exile by Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, Shahzad Ismaily
  • Quality Over Opinion by Louis Cole
  • SuperBlue: The Iridescent Spree by Kurt Elling, Charlie Hunter, SuperBlue
  • Live At The Piano by Cory Henry
  • The Omnichord Real Book by Meshell Ndegeocello


Why the category matters:

Among the three categories added for the 2024 Grammys, one stands out as both canny and confounding: alternative jazz, which (per the official guideline) represents "a genre-blending, envelope-pushing hybrid that mixes jazz with other genres." If that sounds like industry code for viral jazz, a term coined by pianist-composer Vijay Iyer and effectively embodied by drummer-producer Louis Cole — well, look who turned up among the nominees. But where Cole's Quality Over Opinion feels like a no-brainer in the category, it's a little more puzzling to make sense of Love in Exile, Iyer's mindful, tranquil collab with vocalist Arooj Aftab and multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily. Alternative? Absolutely. Jazz? Er, I guess?

Such is the intrinsic weirdness of a category defined by the uncategorical. Hence the love for Cory Henry's Live at the Piano, really more of a gospel outing than a jazz set, and Kurt Elling and Charlie Hunter's SuperBlue: The Iridescent Spree, which hitches a ride to the groove nebula. For this listener, the best outcome in the category would be a win for Meshell Ndegeocello's The Omnichord Real Book, which balances an embrace of jazz custom with an arm's length wariness about its trappings. That position feels truly alternative, and the music makes it clear that no label can ever do it justice. —Nate Chinen, WRTI


Best Country Song

The nominees:

  • "Buried" – Brandy Clark & Jessie Jo Dillon, songwriters (Brandy Clark)
  • "I Remember Everything" – Zach Bryan & Kacey Musgraves, songwriters (Zach Bryan Featuring Kacey Musgraves)
  • "In Your Love" – Tyler Childers & Geno Seale, songwriters (Tyler Childers)
  • "Last Night" – John Byron, Ashley Gorley, Jacob Kasher Hindlin & Ryan Vojtesak, songwriters (Morgan Wallen)
  • "White Horse" – Chris Stapleton & Dan Wilson, songwriters (Chris Stapleton)


Why the category matters:

Country's been in crisis mode since 2021, when Morgan Wallen's careless racial slurirrefutably demonstrated the retrograde attitudes that still dominated music row. Things could really be changing, though, at least at the mostly-symbolic awards level. On the heels of a CMA Awards ceremony that bestowed entertainer of the year on the hard-working Lainey Wilson and gave song of the year to Luke Combs's cover of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" — making her the first Black songwriter to ever win, in more than half a century — reflects the New Nashville in hopeful yet daunting ways. Wallen's in here with his zombie smash "Last Night," but so is the great Brandy Clark, whose noms in Musical Theater and Americana show how country's borders are beneficially dissolving. (Songwriter nominee Jessie Jo Dillon cowrote "Buried," a crushing torch song that really earns this nod.)

This even playing field features the other major outliers changing the genre: world-beating outsider Zach Bryan duetting with genre escapee Kacey Musgraves on "I Remember Everything"; champion singer-songwriter Tyler Childers, finally defying his banishment to Americana with his Hot Country Songs-charting "In Your Love"; and everyone's favorite voice Chris Stapleton earning his 18th nomination for "White Horse," a huge rocker that burns down any enduring boundaries around the genre. Who knows, maybe next year a BIPOC artist will make it into this spot. —Ann Powers


Best Música Mexicana Album

The nominees:

  • Bordado A Mano by Ana Bárbara
  • La Sánchez by Lila Downs
  • Motherflower by Flor De Toloache
  • Amor Como En Las Películas De Antes by Lupita Infante
  • GÉNESIS by Peso Pluma


Música Mexicana is a new name for an older category at the Grammys this year, arriving in tandem this year with the rise in attention to corridos tumbados, a subgenre within the musical grouping which took the genre to the top of the Billboard Global 200 for the first time in the chart's history. As a result, it doesn't come as much of a surprise that the most widely-known artist in this group, 24-year-old singer Peso Pluma, has snagged a nomination in a category that has previously favored pure bolero, ranchera classic tradition.

What feels startling is the omission of all of the other artists who have collaborated on and innovated in the space, lifting previously looked-down-upon regional music to global visibility. Not to mention more traditional banda and norteño artists who innovate for a modern audience, favoring accordions over Grammys suitable strings. —Anamaria Sayre


Best African Music Performance

The nominees:

  • "Amapiano" by ASAKE & Olamide
  • "City Boys" by Burna Boy
  • "UNAVAILABLE" by Davido Featuring Musa Keys
  • "Rush" by Ayra Starr
  • "Water" by Tyla


Why the category matters:

One year ago, Harvey Mason Jr. walked through the Door of No Return. Like a lot of Black Americans who make the pilgrimage to Ghana's Cape Coast Castle – where, for centuries, captured Africans got their last glimpse of home before being shackled in cargo ships and stolen away to a cold, new world – the experience left Mason shocked.

"The fact that my ancestors survived these unthinkable conditions and then the unimaginable ocean crossing is quite literally the only reason I, or anyone in my entire family, is even alive today," he posted on Instagram. "So sad and humbling but also oddly inspiring."

As the first Black CEO of the vaunted Recording Academy, Mason's journey was a metaphorical step toward repairing the Grammys' shaky record on diversity and inclusion. He met with Ghanaian artists and music stakeholders while he was there, and eight months after returning from Africa the Academy announced the addition of three new Grammy ballot categories – including best African music performance.

When the nominees were announced in the inaugural category today, it felt like some long-locked shackles had been broken. Could it be the closest the Grammys have come to putting their finger on the pulse of Black music in decades? The nominees encapsulate a range of the continent's sonic reverberations — from the insurgent amapiano sound of South Africa to West Africa's afrobeat mainstay. Both are emblematic of the continental call-and-response African artists have been engaged in with hip-hop in recent years. And right now, America's listening.

Those sonic reverberations hit an inflection point when rap, part of the nation's most-consumed hybrid hip-hop/R&B genre, got shut out of the No. 1 spots on Billboard's tentpole singles and album charts the first half of 2023, while African music was enjoying an upsurge stateside. Just like the Black British soul invasion of the '80s and '90s, African rhythms are kicking right now. But that shouldn't divide the pie, despite the industry's scarcity mindset. Africa's rising dominance is proof of hip-hop's long global influence. Afrobeat's drums are just talking back. Loud and clear. —Rodney Carmichael


Best Song Written for Visual Media

The nominees:

  • "Barbie World" [From Barbie The Album] – Naija Gaston, Ephrem Louis Lopez Jr. & Onika Maraj, songwriters (Nicki Minaj & Ice Spice Featuring Aqua)
  • "Dance The Night" [From Barbie The Album] – Caroline Ailin, Dua Lipa, Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt, songwriters (Dua Lipa)
  • "I'm Just Ken" [From Barbie The Album] – Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt, songwriters (Ryan Gosling)
  • "Lift Me Up" [From Black Panther: Wakanda Forever - Music From And Inspired By] – Ryan Coogler, Ludwig Göransson, Robyn Fenty & Temilade Openiyi, songwriters (Rihanna)
  • "What Was I Made For?" [From Barbie The Album] – Billie Eilish O'Connell & Finneas O'Connell, songwriters (Billie Eilish)


Why the category matters:

If you find yourself playing a heated game of Grammys Trivia, keep this stat in mind: SZA has the most nominations of any artist this year, with nine. But the most nominated album just happens to be Barbie: The Album, with 11. (That's not even counting Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt's Barbie score, which also picked up a nomination.)

Barbie: The Album's stats are padded by its domination in the always-curious field of best song written for visual media. The Grammys' unusual eligibility window — nominated recordings must have been released between Oct. 1, 2022 and Sept. 15, 2023 — often throw this category out of whack: Many major Oscar contenders come out at the end of a given year, which means you frequently see songs nominated for Grammys nearly a full year after they featured in the Oscars race. But this year, thanks to the Barbie glut, Rihanna's "Lift Me Up" (from 2022's Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) was the only pre-2023 selection to make the cut.

Taking up the rest of the space: "Barbie World" (from Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice featuring Aqua), "Dance the Night" (from Dua Lipa), "What Was I Made For?" (from Billie Eilish) and... "I'm Just Ken" (from Ryan Gosling). Rihanna included, that's a pretty intense pileup of big names. Eilish is probably the favorite to win, given that "What Was I Made For?" was also nominated for record and song of the year. But "Dance the Night" and "Barbie World" picked up other significant nominations, too. —Stephen Thompson


The surprisingly progressive classical music field

The categories:

  • Best Orchestral Performance
  • Best Opera Recording
  • Best Choral Performance
  • Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance
  • Best Classical Instrumental Solo
  • Best Classical Solo Vocal Album
  • Best Classical Compendium
  • Best Contemporary Classical Composition
  • Best Engineered Album, Classical


Why these categories matter:

The oldest opera nominated in the best opera recording category this year was written in 2013. That's not only a victory for contemporary music, but it's indicative of a slow-moving trend in the classical Grammys in recent years — a wider recognition of music composed in our time. Of the 45 classical nominations this year (not including Producer of the Year), 44 albums are made up mostly or entirely of 20th and 21st century music. Another trend — shamefully long overdue — is the increased inclusion of artists and composers of color, traditionally a troublesome issue in the classical field. Ten years ago, of the 45 Grammy nominations, a mere two were all, or predominantly, artists of color. This year nearly half (21 in total) of the nominations are recordings dominated by artists of color. It's taken a very long time, but perhaps the Grammys — at least in this category — are finally beginning to look like America. —Tom Huizenga

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs.
Rodney Carmichael is NPR Music's hip-hop staff writer. An Atlanta-bred cultural critic, he helped document the city's rise as rap's reigning capital for a decade while serving on staff as music editor, culture writer and senior writer for the defunct alt-weekly Creative Loafing.
[Copyright 2024 WRTI Your Classical and Jazz Source]
Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.
Sheldon Pearce
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Anamaria Artemisa Sayre
Anamaria Artemisa Sayre is co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.
Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)