Who’ll get the Grammy nod? - Picks could strike balance between reggae, dancehall, says one insider
With the Recording Academy’s announcement that the 2021 Grammy Award nominees will be made public on November 24, the usual chatter of who will get their shot at the golden gramophone has ensued.
Locally, names like Buju Banton, the late Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert, Protoje, Popcaan and Vybz Kartel are already swirling around as acts that could make the shortlist for music’s most sought-after award.
Still, with so many artistes having dropped compilations during the eligibility period of September 1 through August 31, it’s anyone’s guess who will make the cut. With that said, industry insiders believe that the pool to pick from this year is so strong and vast, the genre will emerge the biggest winner no matter who makes the final five.
Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner, music analyst Clyde McKenzie shared his thoughts on what the nominations list could look like come November. For him, the final five could strike a balance between reggae and dancehall of which the category has not seen in recent times.
“Toots’ album is definitely something that would be in strong consideration for a nod. Buju Banton’s Upside Down, 2020 of course, would also be in the mix, Protoje’s In Search of Lost Time, there is the Skip Marley album, Lee Scratch Perry also released a compilation that could make the cut. It’s a vast pool to choose from,” he said.
“But you know what makes this year all the more interesting? We could also see a few dancehall albums making the list. Vybz Kartel has been promoting his Of Dons and Divas album a lot, he has even called it the Grammy album, and of course, there’s Popcaan’s Fixtape with the Drake factor. He had a song on there that made Obama’s summer playlist and so it also could be in strong contention for a spot. If these albums or either of them makes the final list, it would provide insight into the level of acceptance certain segments of the international industry now have for the dancehall genre, and that can only spell good for Jamaica’s music industry overall. I’m not expressing a preference for these albums that I’ve mentioned; I’m just saying those are the ones that for me just rolls off the tongue, and you know what, it’s a good balanced bunch.”
Although McKenzie expressed that if the dancehall projects make the list this year, it could only reflect well on the genre and the entire local entertainment industry by extension, he believes it will be a hard-fought battle to the final five for Popcaan and Vybz Kartel. He expressed that with the Grammys already having a reputation for being very political, the compilations irrespective of how good they are may not get a shot at the golden gramophone.
“It’s hard to say how the Academy itself will perceive an album like Kartel’s. I don’t know how they will treat this kind of hardcore dancehall music and to add to that the image from his incarceration, it may not boil down to just the music,” he said. “The Grammys is still very much political, and so you can’t help but think that all these factors will play a part in the final decision.”
His sentiments were echoed by established music producer, Sean ‘Contractor’ Edwards. Edwards whose album Tropical House Cruises to Jamaica was submitted and accepted by the Recording Academy for consideration at the 2019 Grammy Awards and who is hoping to finally land a nomination this year, says that despite a host of good, quality albums being released every year, the list usually almost [always] reflect those from the most established acts.
“There are a lot of good reggae albums that come out every year, and it’s the most high-profile ones that get nominated. A lot of the people on the Grammy committee are older, white males and females and they are more in tuned with reggae acts with an established name like a Toots or a Buju Banton and so you expect those names to be in the mix come November. The committee would also be exposed to younger artistes such as Lila Ike and Protoje because they have crossed over somewhat into the ‘white reggae market’ and they have a powerhouse label behind them. Their major label lobby for them big time,” he said.
“I think Popcaan may stand a chance because of the Drake association, and Kartel, Kartel is possible because it qualifies, but we know the Grammys are kinda polished and so dancehall albums making the cut are perhaps unlikely. Kartel’s legal troubles and criminal record make it all the more difficult for him. His reputation is tainted. They (the Recording Academy) might not want to nominate a convicted murderer no matter how good the music is.”
Still, like McKenzie, Edwards believes a Popcaan or Kartel nomination would be good for the dancehall industry. “If Popcaan or Kartel gets nominated, they’d be on cloud nine and so would everyone in the genre. I think it would provide some impetus for the crop of artistes in the thick of things right now to continue working hard. Dancehall artistes haven’t been nominated in a long time and so what it would do is give artistes like the Skillibengs, the ladies like Jada Kingdom and Shenseea something to work towards. It would give them something to look forward to. But all in all, whichever way the pendulum swings when the announcement is made, it’s going to be a very strong list this year, and we haven’t even mentioned the non-Jamaicans, and I’m sure a few of them will be contenders.”
After the nominations are made public, the final round of voting will take place between December 7 and January 4. This round will determine the Grammy winners. The 63rd Grammy Awards will be broadcast on CBS on Sunday, January 31, 2021.