March 29, 2023

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Grammy voters reveal their ballots: See how Adele, Beyoncé, Harry Fair

9 min read

Do Grammy voters go with their heads or hearts? Do they choose by personal choice or strategically? Do they know who the nominees are? To enter the mind of the voting body, diversity Members of the Recording Academy spoke to five industry figures on condition of anonymity to find out how they made their decisions about the contenders in the top four categories this year.

Voter 1:

A music manager who has been a Grammy voter for over 15 years

Record of the year: “I chose Steve Lacy’s ‘Bad Habits’ for both the record and the lyrics. It’s pop music that doesn’t sound like any other pop music – not like a record where you can replace the vocals and it still sounds the same. I love ABBA, but I didn’t love this record. The Harry Styles record was really good. There are artists, like Brandy Carlyle, who are too good for the Grammys, so I understand why she’s there, but that record just didn’t do much for me. I like but don’t love that Beyoncé song, ‘Break My Soul’; I like ‘cuff it’ better. I think Beyoncé has a really good chance to win one or all of the big categories. Beyoncé will win it, or maybe Adele will; ‘Easy On Me’ is great, but it’s not ‘Rolling in the Deep’.

Album of the Year: “Kendrick Lamar. He’s so big, but that record doesn’t feel like he’s looking at anybody else’s record. Bad Bunny was the most commercially successful album of the year, but I think a lot of people have no idea who Bad Bunny is, just like ‘Despacito’ was the most commercially successful album of the year.” Had the big song and didn’t win. The Coldplay record is an atrocity. I don’t know who that record is for — I don’t think 12-year-olds want to hear Chris Martin, and I certainly don’t think Coldplay fans want to hear BTS and Selena Gomez.”

Song of the Year: “Especially this year, I felt like they didn’t get this category right. I love ‘The Heart, Part Five’ by Kendrick Lamar, but this is a single for the record. If you take out the production, is it really the same song? I think it’s generally more of a ballad-y category—a song that was a commercial success but could become a Great American Songbook song. Gayle’s ‘ABCDFU’ I hate, but novelty records are forever great. Again, it feels more like a record than a song to me. God bless Bonnie Raitt – it would be fun if she won – but I don’t know if anyone thought this was the best song of the year. Steve Lacy’s hook is just so infectious I went with that again. As for the winner, I think it comes down to a Harry-Beyoncé thing. I think Beyoncé has a really good chance to win one or all of the big categories.”

Best New Artist: “Some of them I didn’t know, which I think is true of many. I voted for the wet leg because I love how unique it is. I think they can win. Each piece of art is its own bubble, but they have a lot of love in my circle. Maneskin feels too funny for the Grammys. Mooney Long is amazing, but she is by no means a new artist. Anita is not new either. I love the Latto single ‘Big Energy’ – which could be record of the year – but I don’t know if anyone really knows him outside of the song.

Voter 2:

A Grammy-winning producer-engineer who has been on the ballot for nearly 20 years

Record of the year: “I feel very strongly that Lizzo has changed this culture a lot. ‘About Damn Time’ was a great track that everyone responded to. I also look at who’s there and go, ‘Okay, Adele, Beyonce – they always win; It’s the same people over and over.’ So I went for Lizzo. I have no idea who will win; I feel a little out of touch with where the academy is right now. I think Harry Styles’ ‘As It Was’ is an amazing, catchy song. I loved the Brandy Carlyle track, but I don’t think it’s the record of the year. I also like the Steve Lacey track a lot, but what do I think everyone else will vote for? Not those two. As for the top categories, I think it should be more than just your taste. ‘And the Grammy goes to …’ should mean something other than ‘I liked that track’.

Album of the Year: “I think they’re catering too much to the pop world. Brandi’s album may be the only one that has real musicians. The album’s credit list isn’t 8,000 people – three people made that record, and so is the band. The pendulum is swinging. It was deep in the white man’s world, and it’s back, and now it’s ‘We must satisfy the TikTok generation, or kids won’t understand why we’re doing this awards show.’ But they do not watch TV! If it’s the most streamed and if you look at how many Latinos there are in the world, it wouldn’t surprise me that Bad Bunny would be there. It’s a great record, but that brings me to: What do I think is great? I think Lizzo crosses that line between pop and craft excellence.”

Song of the Year: “’As It Was’ — regardless of the visuals, regardless of its audience, regardless of whether it’s a single song. But ‘About Damn Time’ is also a fun song. ‘ABCDFU’ is also a beautiful song — but do I think it’s song of the year because it’s been played a tick eighty bazillion times? I don’t know that ‘Easy on Me’ is no different from every other Adele ballad. ‘Bad Habits’ is a good song, but I don’t think it was song of the year. I don’t care about Taylor Swift’s music.

Best New Artist: “I was between Tobi Nwigwe and Wet Leg, but I don’t see Tobi as a new artist, and I see Wet Leg as an exciting new thing, so I voted for it. Toby is around and Maneskin is around — how about that best new artist? Or is it time to move on to the Grammys? There are some interesting names here, but have you seen them graduate to the other lists we just looked at? I don’t see any of these artists doing that. Well, I guess the maneskin might be the heir to some big rock-stage throne. And Anitta is pretty awesome, so maybe she can.”

Voter 3

A 20-something producer, voting for the first time

Record of the year: “’As It Was’ is the most culturally influential and representative of what our generation is used to — a perfectly formed pop song. It was too ubiquitous not to be the record of the year. I think the Grammys should be more representative of the present. I’ve never heard those ABBA or Mary J. Blige records; What are they doing here?”

Album of the Year: “‘Harry’s House.’ Have I personally listened to it a ton? No. Has it made itself known on every TikTok? Absolutely. Beyonce is a close second. Lizo’s project was great, but it only had one huge song. I’ve listened to Kendrick a lot more than the others, but it still has a There weren’t great songs and I don’t think it had the cultural impact Album of the Year deserved.”

Song of the Year: “Definitely a Steve Lacey song. The freshest, most tasteful, exciting, different, fun song. ‘Bad Habits’ just smokes everything in terms of taste, cool factor and sonic boundary pushing, and it’s simultaneously so commercially successful and the biggest earworm of the entire year.” , perhaps, or there’s ‘As It Was’. Another thing about ‘Bad Habits’ is that everything feels like a chorus. Even the verses feel like a chorus… Looking at some of these other songs, like ‘God Did’ and ‘All Too well’ — what are they doing here?

Best New Artist: “That’s the easiest answer: Omar Apollo. He stands up for the LGBT community and Latino people and makes the best music. Domi and JD Beck are amazingly talented but feel very separate. The truth is I don’t know many of these other people.”

Voter 4:

A music business veteran in his 70s

Record of the year: “I try to be universal, but there’s a significant percentage I’ve never heard of. It’s a lot of work to hear it all. I think I’m a bad voter because I didn’t do my due diligence. But it’s my right… I voted for ABBA. They used to get short shrift because they were dismissed as pop fluff, but I’ve always been a fan. The new album isn’t their best, but it’s pretty good. I really hope they win something, but I doubt they will. I would have voted for Adele’s ‘Easy on Me’ if ABBA hadn’t been in the category.”

Album of the Year: “Again, ABBA… with Beyoncé, the fact that every time she does something new, it’s a big event and everybody’s supposed to be shaking in their shoes – it’s a little bit more exciting. I hold Harry Styles’ origin story against that. He came from a boy band and I never took these jobs seriously.”

Song of the Year: “Lizzo has this focus and super-talent. The fact that she is big and can do whatever she wants is secondary to me. He writes, sings and plays the flute in between. He deserves recognition because he put effort into it; His success is not about marketing. Although it takes an entire office building to write these songs, it’s kind of boring.”

Best New Artist: “I was blown away by the Rolling Stones’ Molly Tuttle’s Beyond-Great version of ‘She’s a Rainbow.’ I didn’t know much about him, but I heard his cover of ‘Cold Rain and Snow’ by the Dead. I didn’t do a real analysis with brackets – I liked him, so I voted for him.”

Voter 5:

A thirty-something, Juno-nominated singer is voting for the second time

Record of the year: “I voted ‘as is’. It’s a pretty standard pop song, but it’s catchy and similar to what I want to express, so it influenced me. If I had to listen to one song forever, this would be it. I didn’t vote for Adele or Beyonce in any of the top categories. I love Beyoncé’s albums and have been a fan of Adele’s, but I feel like they’ve already won too many Grammys. I think Doja Cats are great and I respect Brandy Carlyle, but their records didn’t blow me away. I respect Lizzo as an artist, because she plays flute and so do I, but she is not my favorite.

Album of the Year: “I’m a huge Coldplay fan, even more than Harry Styles. They have stood the test of time; They are amazing, outstanding songwriters. It’s not their best album, but I’d like to see them get a Grammy.”

Song of the Year: “‘All to Well (Taylor’s Version).’ That song is amazing, and my focus was on the lyrics. Nowadays most songs are created by committee. Taylor is an old-school writer and one of only two credited on the song, and he most closely matches what I want to be. Kendrick Lamar is a great songwriter, great songwriter, but not second or third in the poll.”

Best New Artist: “Maneskin. I’ve never really heard anyone in this category except for Anita and Samara Joy. Maybe I’ve been living under a rock. I’ve listened to all of them and I loved Maneskin the most. I love their videos, and they put on a great live show.”

Additional reporting by Roy Trackin and Alice Shaffer

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