Grammys to increase nominees in top categories from 5 to 8 in potential diversity push
The Grammys are making major changes to the top categories, signaling an increased emphasis on diversity from an organization that has been criticized in the past for its lack of female nominees.
In a letter to its members released Tuesday, the Recording Academy announced that the Grammy Awards' four biggest categories — album, song and record of the year and best new artist — will expand the nominees from five to eight.
Five artists have been the Grammys standard since the prizes were first awarded in 1959. The other categories will stay at five nominees.
The increase in the main categories "will better reflect the large number of entries in these categories and allow voters greater flexibility when selecting this year's best recordings," the letter said.
The change comes months after the 2018 Grammy Awards ceremony in January, which was criticized for the lack of women nominated in the night's top categories. Only two female performers won awards during the live telecast, and Lorde, the only female artist nominated for album of the year, was not scheduled to perform, with Grammys president Neil Portnow claiming that there wasn’t time for a Lorde performance in his comments after the show.
Portnow also courted controversy with comments he made afterward to reporters, putting the onus on female artists to "step up" and gain recognition.
"I think it has to begin with women who have the creativity in their hearts and their souls — who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, who want to be producers, who want to be part of the industry on an executive level — to step up, because I think they would be welcome," he said at the time.
In response to the backlash generated by the male-dominated show, Portnow announced that the Recording Academy would create a task force to uncover unconscious biases and other barriers that impede women's success in the music industry. He also announced he would step down as the Recording Academy's president and CEO next year.
In addition to a perceived gender bias in its main categories, the Grammys have also been accused of ignoring hip-hop stars in its major categories. This year, the critically favored Kendrick Lamar album "Damn" lost in the major categories to Bruno Mars, and Jay-Z failed to secure a single win from his eight nominations. Mars won album, song and record of the year, while Alessia Cara was named best new artist.
The Grammys' larger categories next year mean that more albums and artists will compete for the night's top prizes, which could result in a more diverse winners' pool.
Voting for the 2019 Grammys will take place in the fall and will include songs and albums released between Oct. 1, 2017, and Sept. 30, 2018.