What to expect from the category – Billboard

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As social change has swept the world over the past two years – including through a widespread focus on racial justice following the 2020 murder of George Floyd – those in the music industry have also doubled down to bring significant changes. This includes the Recording Academy, which in 2019 launched an aggressive campaign to diversify its membership and, in 2020, created the Black Music Collective and hired its first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer.

In the spirit of these efforts, the academy has created a special merit award for songs with profound influence: Best Song for Social Change.

“There’s been great interest within our creative community to celebrate songs that have truly impacted our world and to do so in a way that wouldn’t be tied to any specific musical genre,” Ruby said. Merchant, Academy Director of Awards and Industry. . “The idea had been floating around for quite a while, but it took the insight of a handful of proposal writers this year who came together to finally put in writing exactly what this idea might ultimately represent.”

For years, other major music awards shows have included similar honors. In 2011, the MTV Video Music Awards presented Best Video with a Message (now called Video for Good), which recognized songs addressing topics such as racial justice (“This Is America” by Childish Gambino), the acceptance (“Born This Way” by Lady Gaga”) and body image (“Pretty Hurts” by Beyoncé). The BET Hip Hop Awards added an impact track award in 2012.

The award for Best Song for Social Change will have a similar scope. “There is no limit to the scope of topics that can encompass these criteria,” says Marchand. “What is unique about our award [is]first of all, it’s a songwriter award, so it recognizes the unique art and craft of songwriting,” as well as how the song has created social change.

A committee of 20-25 voting academy members will choose the winner, using an application that contains all eligible songs submitted along with the lyrics, liner notes and social impact statements of those recommending the tracks. Many of these voters themselves “write, record and perform songs that have had a strong social impact on a wide range of themes,” says Marchand. The 30 songs receiving the most votes in the first round of voting will be discussed and then narrowed down to 10 finalists. As with its other Special Merit Awards (Lifetime Achievement, Administrators, Music Teachers, and Technical Grammys), the academy will only announce the winner, at the Grammy Nominees Reception on July 4. February 2023.

Unlike the usual Grammy categories, the Song for Social Change award will be open to any song released within the last five years of eligibility, which is currently October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2022.” The five-year period allows a song to resonate, to find its critical mass, to really have an impact that can go beyond any given year,” says Marchand. And the academy doesn’t exclude music that has already received Grammys or awards. nominations — so previous Song of the Year winners “This Is America” ​​and HER’s “I Can’t Breathe,” for example, could potentially earn another accolade.

“Music has always reflected the era in which it came out, so it’s only fitting that the Grammys honor artists who speak out about what’s happening in their communities,” say Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas, founders of #TheShowMustBePaused. Some, like Willie “Prophet” Stiggers, co-founder and co-chair of the Black Music Action Coalition, would like it included in the general categories, receiving “the same level of attention as the other awards”. But, as Stiggers adds, the creation of honor should, in itself, have an effect.

“I believe this will inspire other artists to release music that will have a positive impact on our community,” Stiggers says. “It’s a step, and we should applaud every step we take on this path to justice.”

This story will appear in the October 8, 2022 issue of Billboard.

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