NEW YORK — Men and women will compete head-to-head, some of the more exotic awards like best Native American album and best spoken-word children's record have been eliminated and the number of categories has been reduced by more than 30 in the biggest overhaul in the 53-year history of the Grammys.
“It ups the game in terms of what it takes to receive a Grammy and preserves the great esteem of which it’s held in the creative community, which is the most important element,” Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow said.
While the academy has adjusted its rules and adapted to industry changes over the years, these new changes follow its first major examination of the awards structure, a process that took more than a year.
The biggest change will come in the number of categories, cut from 109 to 78. Awards will no longer be given in categories such as rap performance by a duo or group; some of the instrumental categories in pop, rock and country; traditional gospel; children’s spoken-word album; Zydeco or Cajun music album; and best classical crossover album.
That doesn’t mean that those types of music are ineligible; they will simply compete within larger fields.
Portnow said the changes will make the awards process more rigorous.
“That’s appropriate. We are talking about the most prestigious, coveted award and it should be a high bar in terms of the measurement of receiving that,” he said.
Separate male and female vocal categories in fields such as pop, R&B and country are among those being dropped. Men and women will now compete in each overall field. That is already the case in the field of rock, which does not have male and female vocal categories.
“A great singer is a great singer is a great singer and somebody that has a gift in terms of their voice, and is at the top of their game in terms of their delivery and emotion, really isn't necessarily defined by gender,” Portnow said.
The changes would appear to make it more difficult for artists in less known and less mainstream categories. Tia Carrere won’t be taking home any more Grammys for best Hawaiian music album, for example. But she could still win in the new best regional roots music album category which comprises more genres.
Other changes will require each category to have at least 40 entries instead of 25 and categories that receive between 25 and 39 will have only three nominations instead of four or five.
If a category gets fewer than 25 entries, it will be removed for that year and, if it happens three years in a row, the category will be discontinued and the material will find a new home in a related genre.