Music and other audio types are subjective, so nominating options that please everyone isn’t realistic. Regardless, the majority of 2023 Grammy nominations were excruciatingly painful to read and listen to, even with the correct amount of leniency granted for subjectivity. The Grammy Awards appear to have completely given up on awarding musical competency and have instead asked themselves, “who will make us the most money?” when handing out nominations. Here are our thoughts on a few of this year’s categories.
Album Of The Year
Heidi Reid, Assistant News Editor: Although this album wasn’t necessarily to my taste, Beyonce’s “RENAISSANCE” has definitely earned Album of the Year. “RENAISSANCE” is an imaginative masterpiece, paying homage to her culture and luring fans out of their comfort genre. Beyonce captures the emotions of sexual liberation and pays homage to those who paved the way for her by sampling from various tracks from ‘90s drag icons, giving revolutionaries in the industry the credit they deserve. With the exception of “Harry’s House,” none of the albums nominated were particularly infuriating, but the quality, creativity and homage to the industry in “RENAISSANCE” sets it apart from the rest.
Mary Kate Giuffrida, Assistant Copy Desk Chief: The years of the Grammy’s lifting new and groundbreaking artists into stardom appear to be over, and maybe have been for a while. The Album of the Year nominations seem to be more about big names than big innovations, and there's something to be said for artists being too comfortable in their fame to really push themselves. Bad Bunny’s “Un Verano Sin Ti” definitely earned its spot among the list, as did Kendrick Lamar and arguably even Harry Styles, but ABBA, Adele and Coldplay? It wouldn’t have been my first choice. When it comes to picking a winner I couldn’t have said it better, “RENAISSANCE” has earned this one fair and square, especially when you remember that Beyonce hasn’t taken home a Grammy in one of the top categories since 2010, despite being tied for most nominations in Grammy history.
Song Of The Year
HR: This year’s nominations for Song of the Year are a nightmare. I am convinced they selected these songs by listening to a pop radio station for an hour and picking the first ten songs they heard. When I say that, I am directly targeting “As It Was” by Harry Styles. Styles is now what Justin Bieber was for our generation a decade ago. No talent or creativity in his music, but thrives off of an over-glorified personality and appearance. His album is agreeable enough for a passive listen, but by no means employs the innovation deserving of a Grammy. The majority of the other nominations are surface level pieces as well, including their production, instrumentals and writing. I’m sorry, Taylor, but “All Too Well” sounds like a poem clumsily written by a high schooler going through their first break up. I’m sure the emotion is there, but the skill level to convey that emotion is not. Out of this category, I would like to see Steve Lacy or Kendrick Lamar win. Both artists had a large impact on the industry this year and deserve recognition. I just don’t think the selected songs are the right representation of their work.
MKG: Besides the (undeserved) Taylor Swift and Harry Styles hate, I have to agree when it comes to these nominations. So many of these felt like they were derived from TikTok hype rather than any actual innovation or unique qualities. Gayle’s nomination especially is literally a joke. That specific breed of overdone pop-punk with gimmicky lyrics that seems to thrive on the For You page is perfect for scrolling and reposts, but definitely does not represent one of the best songs of the year.
The other nominations don’t stand out to me. “As It Was” is maybe the last song from “Harry’s House” I would have chosen, but once again we fell down the pipeline of only awarding lead singles which, in my opinion, are usually the worst songs on the album. While “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” holds a special place in my heart, and in my opinion represents a lot when it comes to the music industry and Swift’s battle for autonomy in her music, I don’t see it winning nor do I really think it should. Bonnie Raitt’s “Just Like That” is probably the most surprising pick on the list, and while I don’t think it’s deserving of a win, I do think it adds a more heartfelt and genuine feeling to the nominations. In the end I would say Beyonce’s “BREAK MY SOUL” or Steve Lacey’s “Bad Habit” have my vote.
Best New Artist
HR: I would have loved to see Djo, The Backseat Lovers and Ethel Cain on the nomination list as they have all gained traction in the industry this year, but there are numerous deserving artists on this list. I hope Molly Tuttle wins this Grammy. Bluegrass artists so rarely get the recognition they deserve for their work and a female artist winning a nomination is even rarer. Tuttle not only has a stunning voice and is a skilled guitarist, but seems to be taking cues from artists such as Old Crow Medicine Show and Tyler Childers while putting her own unique and innovative twist on them. On her 2020 album “...but i’d rather be with you” she outdid multiple artists on their own songs and came back in 2022 with “Crooked Tree” to prove she could perform her own inventions just as well.
MKG: I was least disappointed with the Best New Artists nominations, although I was surprised Zach Bryan didn’t make the list. “American Heartbreak” came out of the gate running and took everyone by surprise with its success. Of those on the list, I’d be happiest to see Samara Joy or Molly Tuttle take this one home. While I’m not the biggest jazz listener, Joy is talented and “Linger Awhile” is romantic and nostalgic in all the right ways. Tuttle, who I saw live and fell in love with, has a breathtaking voice and makes it impossible to look away when she plays guitar. Seeing either of these talented women’s names called would feel like a win in my book.
Best Alternative Music Album
HR: Who knew Björk released this year? Absolutely no one. She is one of the nominations who were thrown in the mix for the purpose of recognition — I’m looking at you too, Ozzy Osbourne. Especially with categories such as this one, the nominations need to be far more open minded and just more extensively researched. These nominations feel like they just took all the big alt-rock names who released this year and threw them in without giving them a listen. Out of the nominations, Big Thief should go home with the Grammy. They outdid every other album in the category as well as their own previous discography. The folky instrumentals paired with Lenker’s lazy yet aware voice prove to be a unique combination, hopefully a combination that resonated with the Recording Academy voting members.
MKG: Both the Björk and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ nominations came out of left field for me. Three of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ most listened-to songs are different versions of “Heads Will Roll” which originally came out in 2009, and Björk is another case of the Grammys favoring age and legacy over quality. I have to agree with my co-writer here when she says these categories warrant more research. I’ll throw the Recording Academy a bone for the Wet Leg nomination. Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers have created a fun, self-deprecating and maybe even timeless sound that definitely wouldn’t disappoint me if it took home this award. Big Thief is also a contender for me, they have something unique with “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You.” It feels ambitious, something I wish more of the nominations shared.
Best Rock Album
HR: Machine Gun Kelly attempted to dive even deeper into the pop-punk genre, but only came up with the same four chords repeatedly copied under lyrics that one could write after Googling “emo tumblr 2013.” How this album was awarded a nomination over both Red Hot Chili Pepper albums released in 2022 is beyond comprehension. Ozzy Osbourne’s nomination cannot be justified either. Osbourne hasn’t produced anything of note since 1995, so they likely only threw his name to increase viewership. Although I think Spoon hasn’t and will never produce any better than “They Want My Soul,” I think their album is the best choice to win. “Lucifer on the Sofa” isn’t exactly innovative, but it perfectly captures the essence of rock and is the most cohesive album that made the list.
MKG: Do I have to say it again? The Recording Academy is predictable, so it's no surprise to find both Ozzy Osbourne and Machine Gun Kelly on this list with no real merit. “Dropout Boogie” is good, enjoyable even, but it feels like the Black Keys are going through the motions. They’re going to keep selling out stadiums with their familiar garage-rock songs so why try something new? That seems to be the same feeling for most of these nominations. I’ll agree that Spoon seems to be the best option, but I’d love to see the nominations expand to include some newer, and more risky, names.
Best Historical Album
HR: “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” by Wilco is set to be one of most revered rock albums of the 2000’s, thanks to the production genius of Jeff Tweedy. Foxtrot rejects standard rock structure and somehow links the mess of emotions from 20 years ago into a new yet familiar masterpiece, while addressing new avenues and problems the group has faced.
The album opens on the enormous “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” featuring minimal voices and seemingly chaotic instrumentation, including the use of a washboard and random and harsh F sharps. Neither the production or emotion slows for its duration, and even uses samples from other beloved Wilco albums, such as “A Ghost Is Born,” to truly take the listener through the ups and downs of Wilco and the entirety of their sound and music.
Listening to Foxtrot for the first time was comparable to listening to “The Wall” or “Led Zeppelin III” for the first time. It somehow captures both the weariness and passion of the group all at once and the different layers of instrumentation is the perfect addition to Tweedy’s apathetic voice singing barely indecipherable yet deeply meaningful lyrics. Although the other nominations aren’t necessarily disappointing, Foxtrot is the clear choice to win.
MKG: I won’t attempt to say more about “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” but I will add “Against the Odds: 1974-1982” to the list of albums I would be okay with seeing take home Best Historical Album. It would feel remiss to not mention Blondie here, especially when their music was so formative for so many people. With songs like “Call Me,” “Moonlight Drive” and “Underground Girl” on this album it wouldn’t be surprising to see them walk away with this award.
Best Rap Album
HR: Kendrick Lamar’s much anticipated album exceeded expectations. “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers” is much faster paced and far more intimate that his previous work, and Lamar manages to grace his music with these traits without making a gritty mess. Lamar’s use of string instruments and percussion that sounds perfectly improvised underneath astonishing rapping make “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers” the best choice for the Grammy. I enjoyed Future’s “I Never Liked You” and believe it shows growth from his previous music, but it does not have all the aspects necessary to make it an award-winning masterpiece. I don’t even want to acknowledge DJ Khaled and Jack Harlow, their names are like clickbait compared to the other nominees.
MKG: “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers” is the clear winner on this list, the album is more solid than its competitors, with a soulful and thought out feel that explores the artist’s identity in a grounded way. Jack Harlow’s “Come Home The Kids Miss You” feels empty, and really only holds up well when paired with 15-second dance clips on TikTok. The same can be said for “God Did,” which feels exactly like every other DJ Khaled song you’ve ever heard. I’ll admit I’m not as well versed in Future and Pusha T’s music, but what I have heard didn’t provide me with enough to put either album above Lamar’s.
The 65th annual Grammy Award Show will be held on Sunday, Feb. 5. A full list of nominations can be found here.