There has been a contention brewing in recent days about the Grammy award nominations for Best Rock Performance. A category which saw Disturbed and Beyonce, two artists whose styles could not be further apart, nominated in the same category.
Yesterday, Disturbed frontman David Draiman offered some comments saying "When you can have, with all due respect, a Beyonce and a Disturbed in the same category, something has gone wrong. Not taking anything away from her whatsoever, we’re just very different from each other." He also asked "When did it all become ‘rock'?" saying that musicians of his ilk have limited entry points to Grammys.
I had a chance to speak to The Recording Academy's Senior Vice President, Awards, Bill Freimuth on Tuesday, shortly after the nominations were announced. The first thing I spoke about with Freimuth was the "Best Rock Performance" category and we asked him how Beyonce and Disturbed ended up in the same category.
"When you exclude metal, the rock category is one of our biggest umbrellas." Freimuth notes. "Not quite as broad as pop, but maybe the next up in terms of what constitutes rock – it can be blues rock, folk rock, ballads. All of that. I think what we found this year is that so many artists that were in rock or adjacent to rock were really taking more sonic risks this year than ever before, and it made for a really exciting dynamic landscape in that field."
He went on to defend the Beyonce performance as a rock performance: "That [Beyonce] recording has Jack White in it and it has Led Zeppelin samples in it and I think it's Beyonce really stretching. It's an artist at the height of her musical powers, really reaching in many different directions and we are all the better for it."
We asked Bill to explain how exactly the voting works and he was very forthcoming. "Every one of our thirteen thousand members can vote in the general fields and then for the genre fields, like the rock field, you get to choose up to 15 categories of the remaining 80 to vote in. So people have to be really selective, and we say that one should only be voting in a category where they have expertise. So, presumably, the people who are voting in metal have expertise in metal."
When asked if theoretically a rapper can end up voting for metal in one of their 15 selected categories, Bill noted that he was led by their auditors to believe that doesn't happen much.
As for who is voting, Bill made it clear nobody from the record labels, unless they also share creative duties, is involved in the voting process. "Producers, engineers, songwriters, instrumentalists, vocalists, notes writers, video directors, they all have to be creatively involved. So if you're on the business side, you're not voting."
The Grammy Awards are such a huge undertaking, that no matter who ends up nominated there will seemingly always be complaints.
We asked Bill if there was a possibility for some metal on the main show, like last year, and he said it was way too early to say.
I guess we'll find out on Sunday, February 12, 2017 when the Grammys are broadcast on CBS.