Jon Batiste might be the Grammys biggest surprise: The multi-genre performer and recent Oscar winner made such an impression on voters that he scored the most nominations, 11, on Tuesday. Batiste earned an album of the year nod for ‘We Are’ along with record of the year with ‘Freedom’, a feel-good ode to the city of New Orleans.
His nominations span several genres including R&B, jazz, American roots music, classical and music video.
Justin Bieber, Doja Cat and HER each came away with the second-most nominations with eight by the time the Recording Academy was done announcing its nominees for its January 31 show. Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo both had seven nods.
Along with Batiste’s surprise domination, another shock was The Weeknd nabbing three nominations after the pop star claimed he would not allow his label to submit his music. Earlier this year, he angrily slammed the Grammys, calling them corrupt after he received zero nominations despite 2020’s biggest single, ‘Blinding Lights’.
Even though The Weeknd said he would boycott future Grammys, he still became a nominee for his work on album of the year projects, including Doja Cat’s deluxe edition ‘Planet Her’ and Kanye West’s ‘Donda’.
His third nomination was for his appearance on West’s single Hurricane, which also features Lil Baby.
“What I like is the fact that no one is thinking about what happened before, what was the controversy, what was the noise, or where was this artist making music last year,” said Harvey Mason jr., the Recording Academy’s CEO.
He said voters focused on the excellence of music while considering nominees like Batiste and Kacey Musgraves, whose work also crosses over into different categories.
The voters are truly evaluating music and not getting caught up in the reputations of any other outside noise or any history of artists, he continued. “With that in mind, I think they’re voting for things that they are acknowledging as excellence.” Mason said he was pleased with the new peer-driven voting system after seeing the list of nominees.
He instituted the 10-3 initiative which allows the academy’s more than 11,000 members to vote for up to 10 categories in three genres. All voters can vote for the top four awards. The new system replaced the anonymous nominations review committee a group that determined the contenders for key awards.
Some claimed committee members favoured projects based on personal relationships and promoted projects they favored and worked on. Harvey knows the new voting system might not be perfect at first, but he believes the initiative will produce fair results in the long run.
“I know we didn’t get every single one perfect,” Harvey said. “I know there will be some people that feel left out or that we missed a nomination here or there. That makes me sad because I don’t want anybody to have that feeling. But I do feel like we’re heading in the right direction. I’m pleased with the way our voters did the work.”
For the first time, the academy expanded the number of nominees in the general field categories from eight to 10. The change impacts categories such as record, album, song of the year and best new artist.
Harvey said the academy increased slots in the general field categories after seeing an uptick voting participation over the past year along with the acceptance of new membership invitations and a high number of more than 21,730 entries submitted for Grammy consideration.
“We thought the timing was right,” he said.
“We saw an opportunity to do what the academy does, which is to highlight music, highlight the industry and highlight excellence in a bigger way. With the change in our voting structure, we don’t have the nomination review committee. This gives our voters an opportunity to have their voice heard, but also gives them a chance to have a bigger pool to draw from when it comes time to that one winner that takes home the Grammy.”