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Taylor Swift Primed To Make Music History At Eclectic Grammys

Women make up the vast majority of the contenders for the top Best Album and Best Record prizes, with just one man, the jazz polymath Jon Batiste, in the running.


Taylor Swift
(FILES) US singer Taylor Swift arrives for the “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” concert movie world premiere at AMC The Grove in Los Angeles, California on October 11, 2023. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP)

 

Taylor Swift’s name is on everyone’s lips as music’s glitterati descend on Los Angeles for Sunday’s Grammys, but with one of the more eclectic nomination fields in recent memory, the prestigious awards are anyone’s game.

Women make up the vast majority of the contenders for the top Best Album and Best Record prizes, with just one man, the jazz polymath Jon Batiste, in the running.

The genre-bending SZA has the most chances at Grammy gold at nine, with Billie Eilish, the supergroup boygenius, and — of course — Swift all in tight contention for the major prizes.

Olivia Rodrigo, Miley Cyrus, Janelle Monae and Lana Del Rey are also in the mix to take home trophies.

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An Album of the Year win for Swift would be her fourth — the most for any artist, a new record that would break the tie she is currently in with Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder.

It would be a cherry on top for the 34-year-old, who is already the toast of the music world.

She makes headlines with every breath, not least for her romance with NFL star Travis Kelce, who can’t make it to the ceremony as he’ll be tied up preparing for next weekend’s Super Bowl.

The Grammys will also have a heavy dose of Barbie World: music from the effervescent summer smash earned 11 nods thanks to a bevy of catchy performances, including from Eilish, Dua Lipa, rapper Nicki Minaj and the movie’s sleeper standout… Oscar-nominated actor Ryan Gosling.

Bubbly Bronx rapper Ice Spice is also up for an award for her work on “Barbie” as well as the prize for Best New Artist, which industry watchers predict she could take home after a banner year that saw her win the internet.

‘Keep pushing’

That seven of eight nominees in the Album and Record of the Year categories are women or gender fluid is a sea change many industry watchers see as long overdue.

Speaking to AFP at a pre-Grammys gala over the weekend, the head of the Recording Academy — the organization behind the awards — said he’s “optimistic” the strong showing among women nominees is not just a one-off, but part of larger institutional change.

The Grammys have long been accused of being too male and too white, but Academy chief Harvey Mason Jr. said in the past five years, the voting body has brought in 2,500 new women and is now 40 percent people of color.

“We’re always going to tinker with the voting, we’re always going to try to improve it and look at what’s happening in music, and the percentages of what’s being created and consumed. We want to make sure we’re matching that,” he said.

“So we’ve got work to do. We always do. We’ve got to have more women, we’ve got to have more people of color, we’ve got to have more genre diversity, so we’re going to keep pushing.”

Best New Artist nominees The War and Treaty — the blues-country husband-wife duo comprised of Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Trotter — told AFP they feel change is afoot but also emphasized there’s much progress to be made.

“I would like to see a day come where it’s not like an ‘aha!’ moment to play a female on radio. It’s not like an ‘aha!’ moment to play different nationalities in country music,” said Trotter Jr.

And recognition matters, said Tanya: “Just being nominated for a Grammy, it puts you on a different playing field.”

“It gets more eyes on you.”

‘Full circle’

It will be a particularly poignant evening for Batiste, who triumphed at the 2022 gala while facing immense personal struggle behind the scenes as his wife, the writer Suleika Jaouad, was receiving treatment for a recurrence of leukemia.

This time around, she will be able to join the party as her partner contends for some of music’s most prestigious honors.

Among them is the top songwriting prize for “Butterfly,” which Batiste wrote for Jaouad while she was in hospital.

“For us to be able to celebrate the album and that song, and to also be at the Grammys again, with her this time? That’s what my favorite part of this is,” Batiste told AFP in an interview late last year.

“It’s full circle.”

The vast majority of the more than 90 competitive trophies are doled out prior to the Grammys gala broadcast, which is heavy on spectacle: many of the top nominees, including SZA, Eilish and Rodrigo are on deck to perform.

Nigerian sensation Burna Boy and rapper Travis Scott will also take the stage, along with country singer Luke Combs, who is expected to perform his hit cover of “Fast Car” with Tracy Chapman herself.

The main Grammys gala airs on Sunday at 5:00 pm (0100 GMT Monday) on US network CBS.

AFP