• The San Juan Daily Star

Jon Batiste and young chart-toppers lead 2022 Grammy nominations

Jon Batiste performs at the Homecoming Concert in New York on Sept. 14, 2021. Batiste leads all nominees for the 64th annual Grammy Awards, with 11.

By Ben Sisario

Nominations for the 64th annual Grammy Awards, announced earlier this week, recognized chart-topping pop stars like Justin Bieber, Olivia Rodrigo, Doja Cat and Billie Eilish. But the artist with the most chances to win is Jon Batiste, a composer and bandleader known for his work in television and film, who was nominated 11 times, including for his eclectic, soul-inflected album “We Are.”

Batiste, who also emerged last year as a voice of social protest, will face off in some of the most prestigious categories, including album and record of the year, as well as in an array of genre fields — including R&B, jazz, American roots and classical — at the ceremony, which is scheduled for Jan. 31 in Los Angeles, and will be broadcast by CBS.

The list of nominees is even more robust than usual this year, after the Recording Academy, which presents the awards, expanded the ballots for the top four categories — album, record and song of the year, and best new artist — to include 10 nominees, up from eight. As recently as four years ago, there were just five slots in those categories.

For album of the year, Batiste — perhaps best known as the musical director on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” on CBS — competes against Bieber (“Justice,” in a deluxe version), Doja Cat (“Planet Her,” also deluxe), Rodrigo (“Sour”), Eilish (“Happier Than Ever”), Taylor Swift (“Evermore”), Lil Nas X (“Montero”), Kanye West (“Donda”), H.E.R. (“Back of My Mind”), and Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga (“Love for Sale,” a tribute to Cole Porter).

Record of the year, which recognizes the recording of a single track, pits Rodrigo’s “Drivers License,” Bieber’s “Peaches,” Doja Cat’s “Kiss Me More,” Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” and “Leave the Door Open” by Silk Sonic, the retro-soul project of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, against Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever,” Brandi Carlile’s “Right on Time,” Bennett and Lady Gaga’s “I Get a Kick Out of You,” and “I Still Have Faith in You,” a comeback single by Abba — the Europop icons who were never nominated for a Grammy in their heyday of the 1970s and early ’80s.

For song of the year, a songwriter’s award, the nominees are “Drivers License,” “Happier Than Ever,” “Kiss Me More,” “Leave the Door Open,” “Peaches,” “Right on Time” and “Montero,” along with Ed Sheeran’s “Bad Habits,” Carlile and Alicia Keys’ “A Beautiful Noise,” and “Fight for You” by H.E.R., who won the prize last year for a protest anthem, “I Can’t Breathe.”

The new artist category is a mix of fresh pop stars and lesser-known acts. It includes Rodrigo, a singer and actress who rocketed to fame this year with hits such as “Drivers License” and “Good 4 U”; the Kid Laroi, who has been ubiquitous on pop radio with “Stay,” featuring Bieber; and Saweetie, whose “Best Friend” featuring Doja Cat is another radio fixture; along with Finneas, Eilish’s producer brother; Japanese Breakfast, the alternative project led by Michelle Zauner, who has also won acclaim as a memoirist; Glass Animals; Arlo Parks; Baby Keem; Jimmie Allen; and Arooj Aftab.

In the music industry, this year’s nominations are being scrutinized for the effects of a series of changes to the Recording Academy’s voting procedures, which have come under harsh criticism in recent years, often because of whom they have left out.

Last year, for example, Abel Tesfaye, who performs as the Weeknd, accused the Grammys of being “corrupt” after he failed to receive any nominations, despite his album “After Hours” being a gigantic hit. In protest, Tesfaye pledged not to submit his music for Grammy consideration in the future.

His attack focused attention on a little-understood part of the nomination process — the use of “review committees,” whose anonymous members pared down the choices of the academy’s more than 11,000 voting members to a final ballot, ostensibly to preserve the awards’ integrity.

But those committees became the focus of criticism for perceived conflicts of interest and other agendas, and this year, the academy eliminated them in most categories. (They remain part of the process for “craft” categories, such as packaging, liner notes and engineering.)

Another Grammy rule change has allowed more songwriters to become eligible for album of the year. In past years, writers had to contribute to 33% of an album to qualify, but that threshold has been removed. One effect is that dozens of names — including featured artists, producers and engineers, in addition to songwriters — can now be on the ballot as contributors to a single album. If Bieber’s “Justice” wins, for example, around 100 people will take home Grammys.

Also notable are this year’s four rock categories. Last year, the Grammys earned plaudits for nominating many women, but this year the list is almost entirely male-dominated. For rock album, AC/DC competes against Paul McCartney, Foo Fighters, Chris Cornell and Black Pumas.

Alternative music album features a more diverse mix, with Halsey (“If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power”) competing against Japanese Breakfast (“Jubilee”), Arlo Parks (“Collapsed in Sunbeams”), St. Vincent (“Daddy’s Home”) and the men of Fleet Foxes (“Shore”).

Among other categories, the contenders for best pop vocal album are Bieber’s “Justice,” Doja Cat’s “Planet Her,” Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever,” Rodrigo’s “Sour” and Ariana Grande’s “Positions.”

Drake, whose “Certified Lover Boy” was ignored by the top categories, is up for two awards: best rap performance (“Way 2 Sexy”) and best rap album, in which “Certified” will compete against “Donda,” J. Cole’s “The Off-Season,” Nas’s “King’s Disease II” and Tyler, the Creator’s “Call Me If You Get Lost.”

The nominees for best country album are Chris Stapleton’s “Starting Over,” Sturgill Simpson’s “The Ballad of Dood and Juanita,” Mickey Guyton’s “Remember Her Name,” Brothers Osborne’s “Skeletons,” and “The Marfa Tapes” by Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall and Jack Ingram.

Kacey Musgraves’ latest, “Star-Crossed,” was not eligible for country album, after being deemed insufficiently country by the academy’s screening committee; it was moved to the pop category but received no nominations there. That decision drew wide notice in the industry since Musgraves’ last album, “Golden Hour,” won best country album — as well as album of the year — in 2019.

The nominees for producer of the year, nonclassical, are Jack Antonoff (for his work with Swift, Lana Del Rey and others), Rogét Chahayed (Doja Cat), Mike Elizondo (Twenty One Pilots, Turnstile), Hit-Boy (“Judas And The Black Messiah: The Inspired Album”) and Ricky Reed (Lizzo, Batiste).

With this year’s ballot, Jay-Z becomes the most nominated artist in Grammy history. He had been tied with Quincy Jones for 80 nods, but with three more — as a songwriting contributor on Bieber’s “Justice,” and twice in best rap song, for collaborations with DMX and West — he is now at 83. Jay-Z has won 23 Grammys so far.

The nominations recognize music released from Sept. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021, and can be voted on by more than 11,000 members of the Recording Academy, who must qualify as working musicians.

This year’s ballot was winnowed down from nearly 22,000 submissions — down slightly from the more than 23,000 submitted last year, which was a record.

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