The Recording Academy has announced the complete list of nominees for the 2021 Grammy Awards which will presented in a ceremony at the Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles on January 31, 2021. It will be the 63rd annual awards ceremony, but the first since the global COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible recordings for the 2021 Grammy Awards must have been released between Sept. 1, 2019 and Aug. 31, 2020.
While popular music singers Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Dua Lipa, who was named Best New Artist in 2019, have the largest number of nominations and are therefore the most visible in the mainstream media, there are a total of 84 award categories representing a much broader range of music-making. There have been a few small nomenclature changes this year, e.g. the “Best World Music Album” category has been replaced with the name “Best Global Music Album. (Of course, both names are equally problematic since all music, with the possible exception of the music of Sun Ra, Karlheinz Stockhausen, or Lucia Pamela, was created on this planet and therefore all of it qualifies as world OR global music.)
It would be a truly herculean task to enumerate all the nominated recordings and an unnecessary duplication, since the information is readily available on the Recording Academy’s Grammy Awards website. However, it is worth noting here that Richard Danielpour, Carlisle Floyd, Ted Hearne, Thomas Adès, and the late Christopher Rouse have been nominated for “Best Classical Composition” and that Maria Schneider, Arturo O’Farrill, Remy Le Boeuf, Christian Sands, and Alexandre Desplat have all been nominated in the curiously unrelated “Best Instrumental Composition” category. Additionally, all the nominations for “Best Orchestral” recording are for performances of contemporary compositions, with three of the five devoted to music of American composers (Ives, Copland, and a compendium of Pulitzer Prize winners). Three of the five nominees for “Best Opera Recording” are American operas (Gershwin, Dello Joio, Floyd). Three of the five choral albums are devoted exclusively to American composers (Danielpour, Paul Moravec, and James Primosch). Four of the five nominees in the chamber music category are devoted to new music, one of which–Contemporary Voices (Pacifica Quartet on Cedille)–features all music by female composers (Jennifer Higdon, Shulamit Ran, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich). All of the discs nominated in the category “Best Classical Compendium” are devoted to the music of living composers; among the nominated discs in that category are collections of works by José Serebrier, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Luna Pearl Woolf. And on and on.
Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah, Regina Carter, Gerald Clayton, Chick Corea, Joshua Redman, and Julian Lage are all up for “Best Improvised Jazz Solo,” while Ambrose Akinmusire, Terri Lyne Carrington, Gerald Clayton, Chick Corea, and Brad Mehldau have all been nominated for “Best Jazz Instrumental Album.” Jeanine Tesori, Stephen Schwartz, David Byrne, Alan Menken, and Alanis Morissette have composed scores for musicals nominated for “Best Musical Theater Album,” while Kamasi Washington, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Thomas Newman, Max Richter, and John Williams have composed the music for films nominated in the “Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media” category.
All in all, it is a tremendous amount of music. The only hope is that the Grammy nods will inspire listeners to listen beyond their assumed preferred genres and explore the wide terrain of music-making that these awards acknowledge.