If the nominations for the 66th Grammy Awards make anything clear, it’s this: When music’s highest honors are handed out in February, the winner of the most-coveted prizes will be either a female act — or Jon Batiste.
Women thoroughly dominate the major all-genre categories in nominations announced Friday by the Recording Academy, with work by female vocalists and musicians nabbing seven of the eight nods each for album, record and song of the year, and women taking more than half of the slots in best new artist.
SZA, the witty and adventurous R&B singer known for her frank depiction of millennial romance, leads the field with nine nominations overall, including for album of the year (for her smash “SOS”) and record and song of the year (for her No. 1 single, “Kill Bill”). Behind her with seven nods each are Phoebe Bridgers, whose supergroup rock band Boygenius is up for album of the year (for “The Record”) and record of the year (for “Not Strong Enough”), and the ascendant R&B singer-songwriter Victoria Monét, who scored nominations for record of the year (for “On My Mama”) and best new artist, among other prizes.
Additional artists with multiple nominations include Batiste, the jazz and R&B composer known to TV viewers as the former bandleader from “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” along with pop superstars Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo and Miley Cyrus, songwriter/producer Jack Antonoff and country singer-songwriter Brandy Clark, all of whom have six apiece. Serban Ghenea, one of pop’s most in-demand engineers, tied Bridgers and Monét with seven nominations.
In a telling demonstration of where much of music’s energy resides these days, Batiste is the only male artist up for the album and record awards with his “World Music Radio” LP and his single “Worship,” respectively. Batiste, whose “We Are” took album of the year in 2022 in an upset victory over Swift and Rodrigo, is nominated for the song prize, as well, for “Butterfly” — the only tune in that category performed by a man. The other LPs nominated for album of the year (the Grammys’ equivalent of best picture) are Swift’s “Midnights,” Cyrus’ “Endless Summer Vacation,” Rodrigo’s “Guts,” Janelle Monáe’s frisky R&B set “The Age of Pleasure” and “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd” by the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey.
“Women had dang good music — some of the biggest records of the year and the biggest songs,” Recording Academy chief executive Harvey Mason Jr. said in an interview. “And our voters were obviously moved by a lot of it.”
Mason assumed his role in 2021, pledging to diversify both the academy’s executive ranks and its voting membership of more than 11,000 recording industry professionals in response to longstanding criticism that the organization overvalued the work of older white men. “We’ve definitely made huge strides, and it’s having an impact on who’s getting nominated,” he said.
The remaining nominees for record of the year — which goes to performers and producers, while song of the year recognizes songwriters — are Cyrus’ “Flowers,” Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?,” Rodrigo’s “Vampire” and Swift’s “Anti-Hero,” each a monster hit on streaming platforms and Top 40 radio. (Compare “Flowers’” 1.5 billion Spotify streams to the 1.2 million for Batiste’s “Worship” to get a sense of Grammy voters’ fondness for his feel-good messaging and his old-fashioned musical know-how.)
“Flowers,” “What Was I Made For?,” “Vampire” and “Anti-Hero” are all nominated for song of the year as well, along with Del Rey’s “A&W” and Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night,” which like the Eilish tune originated in director Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster “Barbie” movie. Swift’s nod for “Anti-Hero” brings her career nominations in the song category to seven — more than anyone else has earned in Grammy history. A win by Swift for album of the year at the upcoming ceremony, set for Feb. 4 at Crypto.com Arena in downtown Los Angeles, would be her fourth, breaking her current tie with Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder.
It would also cap a year in which Swift has been the most inescapable story in pop music as a result of her record-breaking Eras tour — a show Mason compared to “going to see LeBron James play basketball” — and the smash concert film that accompanies it. This week Swift notched the largest opening sales week of her career with her rerecorded version of her 2014 album “1989.”
Recordings eligible for the 66th Grammys had to be released between Oct. 1, 2022, and Sept. 15, 2023. After two years in which the academy selected 10 nominees for each of the top four categories, the organization lowered the number to eight for February’s show, a rule change Mason attributed to members who felt the higher number was “clouding the field and maybe diluting” the honor of a nomination.
For best new artist, Monét will compete against a fellow R&B vocalist in Coco Jones, who got her start as an actor on the Disney Channel; the other nominees are rapper Ice Spice, singer-songwriters Gracie Abrams and Noah Kahan, dance artist Fred Again and a pair of Nashville acts in Jelly Roll, who this week won the Country Music Assn.’s new artist prize, and the husband-and-wife duo the War and Treaty.
Given the huge year country music has had on the charts, it’s not shocking to see more than one country act in the running for best new artist for just the third time this century. Yet country hitmakers including Luke Combs, Zach Bryan and Lainey Wilson were left out of the Grammys’ top categories, scoring nods only for the ceremony’s various country awards. Morgan Wallen, whose “One Thing at a Time” is 2023’s biggest commercial hit of any genre, received no nominations for the third year in a row, though the songwriters of his Hot 100-topping “Last Night” were recognized in the country song category.
Mason said he was “really surprised” by the lack of high-level nominations for country artists. “And for Latin, which continues to have massive commercial and critical success,” he added. Many observers expected Peso Pluma, one of the young stars of the booming regional Mexican music scene, to be nominated for best new artist; instead, he got only a single nod, in the música Mexicana album category for “Génesis.” The música urbana category features just three nominated works — Rauw Alejandro’s “Saturno,” Karol G’s “Mañana Será Bonito” and Tainy’s “Data” — because, the academy noted, it received fewer than 40 submissions for the award.
“That tells us we need to continue to develop our membership — to continue reaching into those communities and getting more voters,” Mason said.
Rap was also largely overlooked for major prizes, in part because established Grammy faves such as Kendrick Lamar, Lil Nas X and Cardi B didn’t release albums during the eligibility window. Lamar is nominated for rap performance with “The Hillbillies,” a single by his duo of the same name with his cousin Baby Keem. For rap album, Travis Scott’s streaming hit “Utopia” will vie against Killer Mike’s “Michael,” Metro Boomin’s “Heroes & Villains,” Nas’ “King’s Disease III” and “Her Loss” by Drake and 21 Savage.
The race for producer of the year, non-classical, will pit Jack Antonoff — who won in 2022 and again at the most recent Grammys thanks to his work with Swift and Del Rey, among others — against Dernst “D’Mile” Emile II, Hit-Boy, Metro Boomin and Daniel Nigro. The nominees for songwriter of the year, non-classical, which was awarded for the first time this past February, are Edgar Barrera, Jessie Jo Dillon, Shane McAnally, Theron Thomas and Justin Tranter.
The category of audio book, narration and storytelling recording is a jumble of boldfaced names, with nods for Meryl Streep, William Shatner, Rick Rubin, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama.
A number of classic-rock icons turned up in specialty categories like historical album, in which Bob Dylan’s “Fragments — Time Out of Mind Sessions (1996-1997): The Bootleg Series, Vol 17” is nominated, and music film, for which director Brett Morgen’s David Bowie movie “Moonage Daydream” will compete against “I Am Everything,” a documentary about Little Richard directed by Lisa Cortés. The Rolling Stones scored a nod for “Angry” in the rock song category, which also includes Foo Fighters’ “Rescued,” Boygenius’ “Not Strong Enough,” Queens of the Stone Age’s “Emotion Sickness” and Rodrigo’s “Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl.”
Boygenius, in which Bridgers is joined by fellow singer-songwriters Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, garnered additional nominations for rock performance, alternative music performance and alternative music album, making it the most-nominated act in the traditionally male-dominated rock and alternative fields.
The nominations, which were revealed in a livestreamed event on Friday, come just two days after an unnamed female musician filed a lawsuit against former academy head Neil Portnow, whom she said drugged and raped her in a New York hotel room in 2018. Portnow, who denies the accusations, stepped down as chief executive in 2019 after he was widely condemned for saying that women in music should “step up” in order to be recognized for awards such as the Grammys.
Portnow’s departure set off turmoil within the academy including the hiring and quick firing of the group’s next leader, Deborah Dugan, who said she was ousted for calling attention to a variety of financial and ethical violations inside the organization. Mason, who declined to comment on the allegations against Portnow, took over on an interim basis in 2020 before being officially appointed the following year.
Big winners at the 65th Grammys included Harry Styles, whose “Harry’s House” took album of the year; Lizzo, whose “About Damn Time” won record of the year; Bonnie Raitt, whose “Just Like That” was named song of the year; and jazz singer Samara Joy, who won best new artist.