Grammys Stay Lean

Paul Grein
Stop The Presses!

Despite the controversy that ensued after the Recording Academy cut the number of Grammy categories from 109 to 78 last year, the academy has made only minor tweaks to its award structure for next year. It has added three new categories, merged two others and split an existing category in two. That will mean that 81 awards will be presented when the 55th Grammy Awards are presented at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 10, 2013. That's a routine number of year-to-year changes. Last year's 31-category drop was the biggest one-year revamp in academy history.

Protests probably contributed to two categories being reinstated. In the Jazz Field, the academy has brought back Best Latin Jazz Album, a category it awarded every year from 1994 through 2010. The category is designed to recognize recordings that blend jazz with Latin, Iberian-American, Brazilian and Argentinean tango music. (Chucho Valdes is the top winner in the category's history, with three wins. Arturo Sandoval, Paquito D'Rivera, Charlie Haden and Eddie Palmieri have each won it twice.)

In the R&B Field, the academy will again divide Best R&B Album into two categories, as it did every year from 2002 through 2010. In those years, it presented both Best Contemporary R&B Album (the top winners were Beyonce with three and Usher with two) and Best R&B Album. Last year, it merged them. Next year, it will present Best Urban Contemporary Album in addition to the returning Best R&B Album. The academy says the new "category is intended for artists whose music includes the more contemporary elements of R&B and may incorporate production elements found in urban pop, urban Europop, urban rock and urban alternative."

In the Latin field, the academy is again separating two categories that it combined last year: Best Latin Pop Album and Best Latin Rock, Alternative Or Urban Album. The awards had been separate every year from 1997 through 2010. (Mana was the top winner in the Latin, Rock, Alternative or Urban category, with three wins.)

The academy is offsetting this split by merging two other categories: Best Banda or Norteno Album and Best Regional Mexican Or Tejano Album. The name of the new category is Best Regional Mexican Music Album (including Tejano). (These were four separate categories in 2010, two last year and will be one next year.) According to an academy release, the new category will encompass not only banda, norteno and Tejano recordings, but also corridos, gruperos, mariachi and ranchera.

In the Classical Field, the academy is adding a new category, Best Classical Compendium. The award is for a multi-artist collection containing at least 51% playing time of newly recorded material by various soloist(s) and/or ensemble(s) involving a mixture of classical subgenres.

Also in the Classical Field, the Best Small Ensemble Performance category has been renamed Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.

With these additions, the Classical Field will have eight categories, more than any other field. The R&B and Jazz Fields will each have five categories, as many as Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music and American Roots Music. They will have more than Pop, Rock, Rap, Country and Latin, which will remain at four categories each.

Also, mastering engineers will now be eligible for nominations and awards in the Record of the Year category. The award (which was won this year by Adele's "Rolling In The Deep") currently goes to the artist, producer and engineer/mixer.

The academy also announced that it will present a Music Educator of the Year award at its annual Special Merit Awards ceremony (at which it presents Lifetime Achievement Awards, Trustees Awards and Technical Grammys). The award will recognize educators "who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools." Oddly, this new and presumably important award won't be given next year. It will first be presented in February 2014, 20 months from now. (Memo to the academy: Huh?)

These changes were ratified by the academy's Trustees at the annual Trustees Meetings, which were held in Los Angeles May 23-25. (These meetings used to be held in more exotic, far-flung locales, but the academy, like the music industry itself, is feeling financial pressures these days.)

The eligibility year for the 55th Grammy Awards is Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2012. The nominations will be announced on a one-hour live TV special on Dec. 5.