Grammy Voters Reveal Secret Ballots: Why Industry Pros Did or Didn’t Go for Beyoncé, Harry Styles, Adele, Lizzo and Other Front-Runners

Do Grammy voters go with their heads or their hearts? Do they pick by personal preference or strategically? Do they even know who the nominees are? To get inside the voting body’s mind, Variety spoke with five industry figures, on the condition of anonymity, to find out how Recording Academy members really 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 15-plus years

Record of the year: “I picked Steve Lacy’s ‘Bad Habit’ for both record and song. It’s pop music that doesn’t sound like any other pop music — not like records where you could replace the vocal and it sounds the same. I love ABBA, but I did not love this record. The Harry Styles record was really good. There are certain artists, like Brandi Carlile, that are very good for the Grammys, so I understand why she’s there, but that record 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 there’s a really good chance Beyoncé wins one or all the big categories. Beyoncé will win this, or maybe Adele could; ‘Easy on Me’ is cool, but it’s not ‘Rolling in the Deep.’”

Album of the year: “Kendrick Lamar. He’s so big, but that record doesn’t sound like he was looking at anybody else’s record. Bad Bunny was by far the most commercially successful album of the year, but I think a lot of people have no idea who Bad Bunny is, just like when ‘Despacito’ was the biggest song of the year 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 definitely don’t think Coldplay fans want to hear BTS and Selena Gomez.”

Song of the year: “This year in particular, I felt like they didn’t get this category right. I love Kendrick Lamar’s ‘The Heart, Part Five,’ but it’s singular for the record. If you take the production out, is it really the same song? I feel like this is usually more of a ballad-y category —a song that had commercial success but can become a Great American Songbook song. Gayle’s ‘ABCDFU’ I hate, but novelty records have been big forever. Again, that feels to me more like a record than a song. God bless Bonnie Raitt — if she wins, that would be fun — but I don’t know that anyone was thinking that was the best song this year. Steve Lacy’s hook is just so infectious I went with that again. For the winner, I feel like it comes down to a Harry-Beyonce thing. I think there’s a really good chance Beyonce wins one or all the big categories.”

Best new artist: “Some of them I didn’t know, which I think is probably true of a lot of people. I voted for Wet Leg because I love how singular it is. I think they could win. Every part of the industry is its own bubble, but in my circle, they have a lot of love. Måneskin feels very kitschy for the Grammys. Muni Long is awesome, but she’s not a new artist in any way. Anitta is not new at all either. I love the Latto single ‘Big Energy’ — that could have been in the record of the year category — but I don’t know if anyone really knows her beyond the song.”

Voter 2: 

A Grammy-winning producer-engineer who has been a voter for almost 20 years

Record of the year: “I felt 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 been there and go, ‘OK, Adele, Beyoncé — they always win; it’s the same people over and over again.’ So I went for Lizzo. I have no idea who’s going to 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 Brandi Carlile track, but I didn’t think it was record of the year. I also like the Steve Lacy track a lot, but what do I think everyone else is gonna vote for? Not those two. For the top categories, I think it has to be about more than just your taste. ‘And the Grammy goes to …’  should mean something other than ‘I just liked that track.’”

Album of the year: “I think they’re very much catering to the pop world. Brandi’s album is maybe the only one that has real musicians. The credit list on the album is not 8,000 people — three people made that record, plus the band, and that’s it. The pendulum is swinging. It was way deep into white man world, and it came back, and now it’s way into ‘We must appease the TikTok generation, or the kids won’t understand why we’re having this award show.’ But they don’t even watch TV! If it’s about what’s the most streamed, and if you look at how many Latin people there are in the world, it doesn’t surprise me at all that Bad Bunny would be in there. It’s also a great record, but it brings me to: What do I think is excellent? I feel like Lizzo crosses this line between pop and excellence of craft.”

Song of the year: “‘As It Was’ — regardless of the visuals, regardless of his audience, regardless of any of it, it’s a good song. But ‘About Damn Time” is also a fun song. ‘ABCDFU’ is a cute song, too — but do I think it’s song of the year because it was on TikTok eighty bajillion times? I don’t know. ‘Easy on Me’ is no different from every other Adele ballad. ‘Bad Habit’ is a good song, but I don’t think that was song of the year. I don’t care about the Taylor Swift song.”

Best new artist: “I was between Toby Nwigwe and Wet Leg, but I don’t see Toby as a new artist, and I saw Wet Leg as more of a sensational new thing, so I voted for that. Toby’s been around and Måneskin’s been around — how is that best new artist? Or is it just time for the Grammys to push them forward? There’s some interesting names here, but do you see them graduating to the other lists we just went through? I don’t see any of these artists doing that. Well, I guess Måneskin could inherit some bigger rock-stage throne. And Anitta is pretty outstanding, so maybe she’s the one that could.”

Voter 3

A 20-something producer, voting for the first time

Record of the year: “ ‘As It Was’ is the most culturally impactful and representative of what our generation consumes — a perfectly well-formed pop song. It was too omnipresent to not be record of the year. I do think the Grammys should represent more of what’s current. I’ve never heard those ABBA or Mary J. Blige records; what are those doing here?”

Album of the year: “‘Harry’s House.’ Did I personally listen to it a ton? No. Did it make itself known in every TikTok? Absolutely. Beyoncé is a close second. Lizzo’s project was great, but only had one massive song on it. I listened to Kendrick much more than the others, yet it didn’t have a standout song and I don’t feel it had the cultural impact that album of the year deserves.”

Song of the year: “The Steve Lacy song for sure. Freshest, most tasteful, exciting, different, fun song. ‘Bad Habit’ just smokes everything in terms of taste, cool factor and pushing sonic boundaries, and it was simultaneously so commercially successful and the biggest earworm of the whole year, probably, or up there alongside ‘As It Was.’ Another thing about ‘Bad Habit’ 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 these doing here?”

Best new artist: “This is the easiest answer: Omar Apollo. He stands for the LGBT community and for Latino people and makes the best music. Domi & JD Beck are amazingly talented but feel too niche. The truth is I don’t know a lot of these other people.” 

Voter 4:

A music business veteran in his 70s

Record of the year: “I try to be ecumenical, but there’s a significant percentage of music I’ve never heard. It’s a lot of work to listen to all of it. I guess I’m a bad voter because I didn’t do my diligence. But that’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 is not their best ever, but it’s pretty good. I really hope they win something, but I doubt they will. I would’ve voted for Adele’s ‘Easy on Me’ if ABBA wasn’t 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 everyone’s supposed to quake in their shoes — it’s a little too portentous. I hold Harry Styles’ origin story against him. He’s from a boy band, and I never took those acts seriously.”

Song of the year: “Lizzo has this focus and ultra-talent. The fact that she’s big and can do what she wants is secondary to me. She writes, sings and, of all things, plays the flute. She deserves the recognition because she put the effort into it; her success isn’t about marketing. Though it is a bit jarring to see it takes an entire office building to write these songs.”

Best new artist: “I was captivated by Molly Tuttle’s beyond-great version of the Rolling Stones’ ‘She’s a Rainbow.’ I didn’t know much about her, but I did hear her cover of the Dead’s ‘Cold Rain and Snow.’ I didn’t do a real analysis, with brackets — I liked her, so I voted for her.”

Voter 5:

A thirtysomething, Juno-nominated female singer voting for the second time

Record of the year: “I voted for ‘As It Was.’ It’s a pretty standard pop song, but it’s catchy and similar to what I would want to put out, so that influenced me. If I had to listen to one of the songs forever, it would be that one. I didn’t vote for either Adele or Beyoncé in any of the top categories. I love Beyoncé’s album and have been a fan of Adele, but I feel that they have already won a lot of Grammys. I think Doja Cat is cool and I respect Brandi Carlile, but their records didn’t overwhelm me. I respect Lizzo as an artist, because she plays the flute and I do, too, but she’s not my favorite.”

Album of the year: “I’m a huge Coldplay fan, even more than Harry Styles. They’ve stood the test of time; they’re amazing, prolific songwriters. This isn’t their best album, but I would love to see them get a Grammy.”

Song of the year: “’All Too Well (Taylor’s Version).’ That song is awesome, and my focus was on the lyrics. Most songs these days are created by committee. Taylor is an old-school writer and one of only two credited on the song, and she’s the most similar to what I aspire to be like. Kendrick Lamar is a great songwriter, great lyricist, but there’s no second or third place in the voting.”

Best new artist: “Måneskin. I hadn’t really heard of anyone in this category except for Anitta and Samara Joy. Maybe I’m living under a rock. I listened to songs from all of them and I liked Måneskin the best. I love their videos, and they put on a great live show.”

Additional reporting by Roy Trakin and Ellise Shafer

Read More About:

Source: Read Full Article