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SZA leads album of the year Grammy nominations 2024

NEW YORK (THE WASHINGTON POST) – The breakout R&B star SZA arrived at the 2018 Grammys with five nominations and left without a trophy.

It was something of synecdoche for the night, which was so lacking in female winners that Variety asked then-Recording Academy president Neil Portnow to explain the disparity. He infamously responded women need “to step up because I think they would be welcome.”

The academy’s been in rebuilding mode ever since. Portnow stepped down amid the fallout, quickly replaced by the prolific songwriter and record producer Harvey Mason Jr. The recording academy added several new categories in hopes of increasing diversity, including best African dance performance, best alternative jazz album and best pop dance recording.

This year’s slate of Grammy nominees feels like another result of those efforts.

All but one of the nominees for album of the year are women: Lana Del Rey with “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd,” Janelle Monáe with the lusty “The Age of Pleasure” and Miley Cyrus with the synthy “Endless Summer Vacation.”

And, of course, there’s Taylor Swift, who ties Barbra Streisand for the most album of the year nominations by a female artist with her moody “Midnights.” If she wins her fourth this year, she’ll be the record holder for the category, finally beating out the likes of Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder, who all have three. And with her nomination for “Anti-Hero,” she’s the first songwriter to receive seven nods for song of the year. (Maybe now Travis Kelce will go to one of her competitions.)

Jon Batiste is the only male artist in the bunch with his “World Music Radio.”

The recording academy seems quite proud of this feat in its press material. “A majority of this year’s leading nominees are women artists or groups,” it wrote.

And: “Several of the General Field categories, along with the Pop Field are also dominated by women.”

And: “Women dominate both the Record of the Year and Album Of The Year Categories.”

And: “Women also dominate the Best Pop Solo Performance Category.”

Last year’s best new artist Olivia Rodrigo is back with her emo-tinged “GUTS” and indie-supergroup boygenius – composed of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus – earns its first nomination for “the record,” one six for the band (and seven for Bridgers, who is also nominated for a collaboration with SZA).

Speaking of SZA, she finally has her sweet revenge. In addition to an album of the year nominee for the vulnerable “SOS,” she leads the pack with nine nominations. She’s closely trailed by Bridgers, Serban Ghenea and Victoria Monét, all who have seven. Finally, there’s an eight-way tie for third, featuring Jack Antonoff, Batiste, boygenius, Brandy Clark, Cyrus, Billie Eilish, Rodrigo and Swift.

Now, here’s a sentence that would have had you checking this reporter for head trauma a year ago: “Barbie” made a strong showing in the Grammys. Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster famously featured a soundtrack of funny – sometimes surprisingly deep, sweet and endearing – earworms, and that wasn’t lost on the recording academy. Four of the five entries in the best song written for visual media category came from the film’s soundtrack. Meanwhile, “What Was I Made For?,” Eilish’s existential summer jam from the soundtrack, is up for both song and record of the year.

Most of the nominations proceed as expected. The Foo Fighters and Paramore will duke it out for best rock album, while Brandy Clark and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit fight for best America album. The ascendant Lainey Wilson joins Tyler Childers and Zach Bryan in the best country album category.

Luke Combs’s cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” is nominated for best country music performance some 34 years after Chapman’s version won for best pop music performance (female). While Combs’s cover was a massive hit this year, it sparked heated conversations about the lack of diversity in country music.

Still, despite the academy’s best efforts, the spectre of Portnow’s time still lingers. On Wednesday, a woman identified as Jane Doe filed a lawsuit in New York accusing him of sexual assault and the academy of negligence for not opening in investigation into a complaint she filed in 2018. In a statement, the academy said it believes “the claims to be without merit.”

This 66th Grammy Awards ceremony will take place at the Los Angeles’s Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, February 4, 2024 from 8 to 11.30pm. It will be produced by Fulwell 73 Productions, and the telecast will be broadcast on CBS and live-streamed (and on demand) on Paramount Plus.

SZA performs at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC, during her SOS Tour in February. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST
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