The award show that everyone loves to hate tried a new tactic this year: not sucking.
The Grammys are infamous for being out of touch, especially with their predominantly–white secret nominating and voting committees. While the Recording Academy, the group that runs the awards, asserts that they award artists based on artistic value, they often tend to gravitate toward works that generate the most buzz or are something completely out of left field.
In response to recent criticisms, the Grammys threw a few curveballs this year. 2022 was the first year they nominated artists and bodies of work without the committees. The most nominated artist, Jon Batiste, is a relatively niche musician who had the unusual benefit of having nominations both for his recent album, We Are, and for his contribution to the soundtrack of the movie Soul. Then we have the debacle of ten nominations rather than eight in the four all–genre categories, where two nominees were supposedly added to each of the categories 24 hours before the scheduled announcement. There’s also the argument about interpolated songs and whether or not the interpolated artist should be included as a nominee. And out of the blue, Drake announced that he was withdrawing his nominations, an unprecedented move.
But amid the chaos, the Grammys didn’t award many unusual choices this year. While many of the options are still considered safe, the Grammys kept the ceremony simple and controversy–free—a low bar to clear given the drama at the Oscars just one week prior. They also kept the streamlined time frame from the 2021 Grammys, making the show’s usually three–hour drawl less painfully slow. Here’s a breakdown of the year's most notable winners and some other moments worth mentioning.
Silk Sonic takes home all four of their nominations, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
Silk Sonic recently released their debut album An Evening with Silk Sonic, but the only project eligible for this year’s Grammys was “Leave The Door Open,” which bagged four nominations (Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best R&B Performance, and Best R&B Song). Fortune was on their side this year as the duo of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak managed to win all four awards.
Granted, awarding the breakout hit of the super duo was deserved and certainly makes sense—the song was well–received by critics and the public—but one cannot help but feel that this is just another instance of Mars/.Paak favoritism, especially when Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license” felt like a bigger song than “Leave The Door Open.” Nevertheless, it’s not a bad choice at all in a year with very strong contenders.
Almost no one expected Jon Batiste to win with Album of the Year. People who’ve been following the Grammys, however, are not surprised.
When the final award of the night was announced, Twitter exploded, wondering why a supposedly no–name artist won the biggest prize of the night. But Twitter isn't the Grammys voting committee, and longtime followers of the Grammys weren’t surprised that the Academy chose to award Jon Batiste’s We Are.
Batiste garnered 11 nominations this year, winning five of them. The Academy Award–winner, frontman of the band for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and racial equality activist was just too good for the Grammys to pass up. While certainly a left–field choice, it's both celebratory and disappointing that Batiste is the first Black musician to win the coveted prize in 14 years.
Rodrigo, despite winning three out of her six nominations, seemed like she was snubbed. Billie Eilish saw worse.
Rodrigo took home Best New Artist and Best Pop Solo Performance for “drivers license,” as well as Best Pop Vocal Album for Sour, the latter two of which were stacked with strong competitors. Yet because she lost in three of the four all–genre categories, Rodrigo’s awards felt like a snub, at least when compared to Eilish’s debut era, when she swept all four of the most prestigious awards. Sour was Rodrigo’s breakout era, arguably bigger than Eilish’s debut album, but perhaps three for Rodrigo was fair enough to level the playing field. Plus, Eilish herself got none of her nominations this year despite winning Record of the Year last year for a technical one–off single.
Lady Gaga was surprisingly snubbed—yet won a bigger accolade for her side project than for her latest movie.
Going into the Grammys, Love For Sale felt like a solid contender in the six categories the project was nominated for, including Album of the Year. Yes, this ten–track jazz covers album isn’t anything groundbreaking, but it was Tony Bennett’s last album before he announced his retirement due to Alzheimer's disease. One might think the Grammys would go unconventional and show Bennett love on his last project for not the the first time, as his 1995 Album of the Year win shows.
However, the Grammys only gave the 95–year–old musician Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, a category he was expected to win anyway. Funnily enough, while Gaga saw no major acting awards for her role in House of Gucci, she managed to snag another Grammy for what’s considered her side project. And while she won only one award that night, she won over the internet after helping SZA with her dress and having other celebrities line up to meet the pop icon. Speaking of SZA …
The Grammys narrowly avoided awarding a producer with sexual abuse allegations, but quietly awarded another person with confirmed allegations.
Doja Cat and SZA snagged their first Grammy ever, which was well–deserved after leaving empty–handed multiple times prior. “Kiss Me More” winning Best Performance by a Pop Duo or Group, however, was still a surprise because the song contains a songwriting credit courtesy of Dr. Luke, who is still facing sexual abuse allegations in an ongoing legal battle with Kesha. Dr. Luke isn’t awarded because the award is only given to the performers of the song, so the Grammys dodged a bullet there.
However, if one watched the Grammys premiere ceremony, they would know that the moral fiber of the Grammys is still in muddled waters as they nominated and awarded comedian Louis C.K., who admitted to sexual misconduct back in 2017, for Best Comedy Album
Despite being banned from performing, Kanye West proves he still has influence, but not enough to win Best Rap Album.
Kanye West may have defaced his Grammy in an unconventional manner and the Grammys might have banned him from performing, but they had no qualms in giving him two awards in the rap categories Best Melodic Rap Performance and Best Rap Song. Yet Tyler, the Creator bested him in the Best Rap Album category, allowing Tyler to snag his second Best Rap Album Grammy after IGOR won in 2020.
Kacey Musgraves was shut out.
Even without the debacle behind the categorization of star–crossed—which made it ineligible for Best Country Album—Musgraves was completely shut out of her two nominations of the night. Instead, those two awards went to a safe option in Chris Stapleton, who has been carving more and more of a mainstream name for himself after working with the likes of Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift. That’s not to say Stapleton didn’t deserve his awards, but it certainly felt odd that the Grammys gave Musgraves the cold shoulder after giving her Album of the Year in 2019 for Golden Hour.
St. Vincent remains a Grammy darling, winning Best Alternative Album in a stacked year.
This year’s Best Alternative Album category was surprisingly competitive, with Halsey’s most sonically consistent album to date, Japanese Breakfast’s most critically acclaimed project, Arlo Parks’ U.K. Breakout album, and Fleet Foxes’ best project in recent memory. All these artists had a reason to be on the list, but alas, it was St. Vincent’s Daddy’s Home that took home the prize, her second after her self–titled 2014 album. Yet, it’s hard to be mad at St. Vincent for taking home the Grammy for Daddy’s Home, as the artist has consistently put out solid albums for the past few years, this one included.
And lastly, Philly native Jazmine Sullivan had a great night, finally winning not one but two Grammys.
Jazmine Sullivan has been nominated for the Grammys 15 times since 2009, but finally, in 2022, the Philadelphia–born–and–raised R&B artist took home two Grammys, one for Best R&B Song for “Pick Up Your Feelings” (tied with Silk Sonic) and another for Best R&B Album for Heaux Tales. In her acceptance speech for the latter, Sullivan said her album “ended up being a safe space for Black women to tell their stories,” and it was satisfying to see her hold her first Grammys for such a solid project.