Grammys Add Songwriter of the Year, Best Song for Social Change Categories

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This year’s Grammy Awards were disastrously boring, and they drew dire ratings. Clearly, the entire awards institution needs to make major changes. The folks behind the Grammys seem to realize this, and they’ve responded as they always do: by adding a bunch of new award categories.

As Variety reports, the Recording Academy just announced a bunch of new categories and rule changes. Probably the biggest of these new awards is the Non-Classical Songwriter of the Year category, which specifically aims to recognize, as the Academy puts it, “the most prolific non-performing, non-producer songwriters for their body of new work released during an eligibility year.

The Grammys also added categories for Best Alternative Music Performance and Best American Performance. (They already had Best Alternative Album and Best American Album; the most recent winners of those two awards are St. Vincent and Los Lobos, respectively.) Best Spoken Poetry Album — two new categories that would have made perfect sense if the Grammys added them in 1997.

Probably the loudest of the new awards, however, is the nebulously defined “Special Merit Award Addition” for “Best Song for Social Change.” The Academy defines the award as follows: “Submissions must contain lyrical content that addresses a current social issue and promotes understanding, peacebuilding and empathy.” Maybe the problem with the Grammys is that the show doesn’t allow sufficient self-righteous demagoguery.

Another new rule is that albums nominated for the awards must include at least 75% new material; the previous threshold was 50%. Presumably, this rule was added to prevent the Academy from offering deluxe editions of albums released before the eligibility window. We’ll see how all of these changes play out next year.

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