19 facts about the 2022 Grammy Awards

By Mark Savage
BBC Music Correspondent

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Billie Eilish could add to her already impressive haul of Grammy trophies

The Grammy Awards are upon us once again, after a three-month delay due to the surge of Covid cases in the US.

The star-studded ceremony is traditionally billed as “music’s biggest night” – which covers both the scale of the event and its mind-numbing length.

The first awards will be handed out in Las Vegas at 12:30 on Sunday, a thrombosis-inducing eight hours before the album of the year prize is presented at 20:30 local time (04:30 in the UK).

There are 70 categories in total, with everyone from Lady Gaga to Barack Obama on the nominations list.

Unlike last year’s smaller event, which featured a mixture of live and pre-recorded performances, the 2022 ceremony will be a more normal show – with Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, Carrie Underwood, Silk Sonic and Olivia Rodrigo all taking to the stage at the MGM Grand Arena.

Comedian Trevor Noah will host for the second time.

Here 19 facts about the ceremony to get your ready…

1) Voters had to listen to A LOT of music

Almost 22,000 songs and albums were submitted for consideration this year, resulting in shortlists for the main categories being expanded from eight to 10 nominees for the first time.

“We’re living in a time of extraordinary growth in music,” explained Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason, Jr. “Over 60,000 songs a day are being released. With so much more music available. There’s a lot more excellence to recognise and celebrate.”

2) Olivia Rodrigo is the one to beat

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Disney actress turned pop sensation Olivia Rodrigo is nominated in all of the top four categories – and she has a decent shot at a clean sweep.

The 19-year-old is practically a lock-in for best new artist; and her classy break-up ballad Drivers License is a strong contender for song of the year (which recognises the music and lyrics) and record of the year (which rewards the production, performances and engineering).

The one category where she might encounter trouble is album of the year; where her smart and peppy debut album Sour is up against more complex, musically-intricate works by Jon Batiste, Kanye West and H.E.R.

If Rodrigo takes home all four prizes, she’ll be only the third artist in history to do it, after Christopher Cross and Billie Eilish.

3) A song from 1934 is up for record of the year

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Yes, you read that right. Cole Porter’s I Get A Kick Out Of You is one of the 10 songs in the running for record of the year, thanks to a new cover version by Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett.

It’s part of a hallowed Grammy tradition of recognising the old guard – regardless of whether their latest release helped define the year in music.

In Bennett’s case, it’s a fitting tribute to a career that has spanned eight decades in clubs and concert venues. The star announced his retirement last year at the age of 95, after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

4) There’ll be tributes to Stephen Sondheim and Taylor Hawkins

What Would We Do Without You? Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim will be remembered in song during Sunday’s ceremony, with performances featuring Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Ben Platt and West Side Story star Rachel Zegler.

There are also plans to honour Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins at the show – a week after his untimely death at the age of 50.

“We will honour his memory in some way,” CBS executive vice president of music Jack Sussman told Variety magazine. “We want to figure out what is the right thing to do that is respectful to everyone involved. We’re patient. We’ll be planning right up until the very end.”

5) Jon who?

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Jazz pianist Jon Batiste has more nominations than anyone else – 11 in total, recognising both his boundary-bending solo album We Are and the soundtrack to the Pixar film, Soul.

A member of a New Orleans musical dynasty, he’s perhaps best known as the band leader on Stephen Colbert’s US chat show.

But he’s been widely praised for his debut album, which celebrates decades of black American music, while acknowledging the specific struggles black people face.

By the way, only two artists have ever exceeded that tally of 11 nominations – Michael Jackson in 1984 and Babyface in 1997.

6) Dua Lipa took herself out of the running

Dua’s monster hit Levitating was the biggest-selling song of 2021 in the US; and had spent a record-breaking 70 weeks on the Billboard chart. But it’s entirely absent from the Grammy nominations.

Variety magazine confirmed that the song wasn’t submitted for consideration, apparently to avoid giving recognition to featured rapper DaBaby after he made a number of homophobic comments last year.

7) Drake is still boycotting the show

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Drake has won a total of four Grammy Awards

Drake’s latest opus, Certified Lover Boy, had been nominated for rap album, and the single Way 2 Sexy, featuring Future and Young Thug, was up for rap performance. But he asked for the nominations to be withdrawn before the voting period closed, and the Academy honoured his request.

He’s a long-time critic of the ceremony – even when he wins. “We play an opinion-based sport, not a factual-based sport,” he said while picking up an award for God’s Plan in 2019. “You already won if you have people singing your songs word for word, if they’re singing in your hometown. You’re already winning, you don’t need this right here.”

Also absent is The Weeknd, who is refusing to participate in the Grammys after being snubbed last year.

Ariana Grande and Doja Cat also declined to submit their duets with the star for awards, in an apparent show of solidarity. But Kanye West didn’t get the memo: His single Hurricane, which features The Weeknd and Lil Baby, made it onto the best melodic rap song shortlist.

8) Kanye West has been asked not to perform

When the Grammy nominations were announced last year, Kanye West picked up five nods, including album of the year for his eclectic, scattershot 10th album Donda.

It looked like the dawning of a new era. West had long been a critic of the ceremony’s under-representation of black artists and, in 2020, filmed himself urinating on one of his 22 Grammy awards.

But two weeks before the show, organisers told the star his planned performance could not go ahead due to his “concerning online behaviour”, Variety magazine reported.

That appears to have included the release of an animated music video that portrayed the kidnapping and burial of a figure who resembles Pete Davidson – the US comedian who is dating West’s ex-wife Kim Kardashian; and an Instagram post that used a racial slur to describe Grammys host Trevor Noah.

At the time of writing, however, West is still invited to the ceremony. Censors will be hovering nervously over the mute button if he gets to make a speech.

9) The Academy still isn’t fully on board with BTS

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Despite having the biggest-selling song in the world last year – the Michael Jackson-indebted summer anthem Butter – South Korean pop band BTS are only nominated for one award: Best pop duo/group performance.

Last year, they lost that category to Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande and their duet Rain On Me. Gaga could prove to be their downfall again in 2022, with her Tony Bennett collaboration also shortlisted for the prize.

The BTS Army had hoped to console themselves with a performance by the boyband – but even that looks in jeopardy, after members Jungkook and J-Hope tested positive for Covid-19.

10) Adele was too late to get an invite

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After sweeping the board at the Brits two months ago, Adele is completely absent from the Grammy shortlists – and for a very simple reason. The star’s comeback single, Easy On Me, and her blockbuster fourth album 30 were both released after the cut-off date of 30 September, 2021.

Other albums that missed the deadline included Ed Sheeran’s = (Equals), Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s An Evening With Silk Sonic and Taylor Swift’s Red (Taylor’s Version). Expect them to make an appearance next year instead.

11) Country music had a bad year

There are 40 nominations available across the Grammys’ four main categories, but only one of those spots went to a country act: Jimmie Allen.

Voters turned their backs on established stars including Kacey Musgraves, Chris Stapleton, Mickey Guyton, Maren Morris and Sturgill Simpson, who all released well-received, commercially-successful albums in 2021.

Meanwhile Morgan Wallen – who had the best-selling country album of the year – was locked out after being captured on video drunkenly using racist language at the start of 2021.

12) Kanye West might have to share a Grammy with 160 other people

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If Kanye West wins album of the year for Donda, the stage is going to get very, very crowded.

In the nominations list, his record is attributed to more than 160 people – a reflection of how many albums are now assembled using songwriting camps, guest verses, beat-swapping, multiple producers, remixes and evolving iterations of the same song.

In previous years, only people who had contributed 33% of an album’s playing time could merit a nomination; but that rule was scrapped for 2022.

By way of contrast: There are only five people on the credits for Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever.

13) Abba prove it’s never too late to get a Grammy nomination

A brisk 50 years after their debut single, Abba have picked up their first Grammy nomination – record of the year – for their single I Still Have Faith In You.

It seems unlikely to win – if voters were genuinely inclined to cast a ballot for Abba, they would also have been nominated in the pop genre categories – but the nomination corrects an historic oversight.

The band themselves greeted the honour with typically dry Swedish humour. “A Grammy should be mandatory for those who dare leave 40 years between album releases,” they told Variety in a statement. “We suggest a new category.”

14) Pakistani musician Arooj Aftab is a surprise nominee for best new artist

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The best new artist category always throws a few curveballs…

Fans of British band Glass Animals were stunned to see them nominated this year, more than a decade after they first formed (they are only now feeling the first flushes of US success, with the number one single Heat Waves).

Equally shocked was Pakistani-American musician Arooj Aftab, who gained a nomination on the strength of her third album Vulture Prince.

“I didn’t think that something like that could happen,” said the 37-year-old before heading to Las Vegas for the ceremony, adding: “I felt like it’s something that should happen.”

Aftab, who studied at the Berklee School of Music and is based in Brooklyn, has won rave reviews for her music – which mingles jazz, Hindustani classical music and Sufi devotional poetry. Her album, Vulture Prince, is dedicated to her younger brother, who died during the writing of the record.

15) There’s a kerfuffle over classical

When violinist Curtis Stewart heard that his album Of Power was nominated for the best classical instrumental solo Grammy, he was pretty excited.

“I just didn’t think I would have much of a chance,” he told Yes magazine but “the fact that I got that nomination was extremely heartening for me”.

But according to a lengthy report in The Observer, several musicians have sent letters of complaint over his nomination to the Recording Academy. They say Stewart’s album, and another track by Jon Batiste, were “mis-categorised” as classical works.

Among them was Professor Apostolos Paraskevas of Berklee College of Music, Boston, who said jazz-based compositions did not belong in those categories.

“Both of those musicians deserve the recognition for their work. But we cannot compare apples and oranges,” he told the newspaper.

“If you look at the nominees for the best contemporary classical composition, you see amazing musicians who write operas and symphonies. Batiste’s piece is two minutes long, someone playing sequences in the jazz style. If this person gets an award, this is a big slap on our face.”

16) Billie Eilish could make Grammy history

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In her few short years as a pop star, Billie Eilish has proved to be a darling of the Grammy voters. She’s already made history as the first woman to win all four of the main categories in a single night – and this year, she could rack up a couple of other firsts.

If she wins album of the year for Happier Than Ever, she would become the first artist to take that title for both their debut album and its follow-up.

The album’s title track is also up for record of the year – where Eilish could become the only person ever to receive that honour in three consecutive years.

17) There are some controversial nominees

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Five years after facing allegations of sexual misconduct, Louis CK is up for best comedy album.

Rock star Marilyn Manson could win an album of the year trophy as a songwriter and performer on Donda, even as he faces trial for sexual assault (he denies the charges). And producer Dr Luke, who has been accused of sexual assault by his former protégé Kesha (again, he denies the claims) has a shot at album of the year, song of the year and best rap song thanks to his work with Doja Cat.

Comedian Dave Chappelle got a nod for best spoken word album, despite a raging controversy over jokes he made about the trans community.

Grammys chief Harvey Mason Jr defended these nominations in a statement to The Wrap, saying: “We won’t restrict the people who can submit their material for consideration. We won’t look back at people’s history, we won’t look at their criminal record.

“What we will control,” he continued, “is our stages, our shows, our events, our red carpets. We’ll take a look at anyone who is asking to be a part of that, asking to be in attendance, and we’ll make our decisions at that point. But we’re not going to be in the business of restricting people from submitting their work for our voters to decide on.”

18) Tony Bennett is (almost) the oldest Grammy nominee in history

When Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga released Love for Sale, their album of Cole Porter standards, last October, Bennett broke the Guinness World Record for the oldest person to release an album of new material. He was 95 years and 57 days old.

With the collaboration up for album of the year, Bennett is now the oldest person to be nominated in one of the Grammys’ “big four” categories… but he’s a spring chicken compared with Pinetop Perkins, the Mississippi-born blues pianist who won best traditional blues album in 2011, at the tender age of 97.

19) There aren’t many ways to watch in the UK

In the US, the Grammys will be shown on CBS and Paramount+ from 8pm ET on Sunday. UK viewers can’t watch live and, sadly, no broadcaster has plans to show highlights the following day.

However, the Recording Academy usually posts clips of the winners on its YouTube channel in real time; and we’ll have full coverage and analysis on BBC News throughout the night.

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