My 2023 Grammy Wishlist

Three years ago I came to this blog to fret about the Grammys. It was late January in 2020 and I did not know that there would soon be more pressing matters than puzzling performance choices to worry about. By March 14th 2021, the date of the next Grammy Awards Ceremony, we had spent a full year wandering through the murky anxious haze of a global pandemic, and the partial solution of vaccines were only in their infant stages of being rolled out. But in a plot twist that seemed even less likely to my pre-pandemic self than an entire NBA playoffs taking place inside a Walt Disney World bubble— the Grammys had somehow fixed themselves?

Perhaps it was the constraints of the pandemic that held the producers back from overthinking things, that stopped them from attempting to paper mache a moon when all we’ve been asking for are stars; but at some point during the planning stages they decided that simply letting the current crop of the world’s best musicians get up on stage and play their music might be good. And it was.

Though the people behind the 2021 Grammys did not necessarily take many or any of my earnest, fervent ideas (honestly, what are they doing with their time if not scouring the internet for unsolicited suggestions from unheralded minor blogs?) the course of action they chose at least shared the same spirit of my screeds: that music is important.

The 2022 ceremony involved fewer COVID restrictions, but the lessons learned weren’t lost. Relevant performers performed. The major awards didn’t go chalk. The night that is meant to celebrate a major pillar of the entertainment industry actually felt celebratory and entertaining.

To ask more from the Grammys after they’ve already come so far so fast seems like it might earn me some Oliver Twist style expressions aghast. But if I learned anything from the events of 2020, it’s that the best you can do is clearly articulate what you want from the universe and then sit back and wait to be surprised.

Harry Styles plays a less heralded track

This is, I know, my faintest hope, so much so that it barely has an outline. He’s going to sing “As It Was”. And perhaps that’s as he should— it was the biggest single of last year, after all, having broken all kinds of streaming records and becoming the 4th longest reigning number one hit on the Billboard charts. It will likely win at least one of the major categories tonight, and deservedly so— it’s an excellent song, with surprisingly introspective lyrics leaning against an unexpectedly gentle synth-pop arrangement. The opening bars still make my entire limbic system perk up.

And yet it’s not my favorite from Harry’s House, the album that is also the current favorite to land the ceremony’s top prize. Neither are the other two singles, “Late Night Talking” and “Music For A Sushi Restaurant”, though they each have similarly endearing grooves. Because I like Harry best at his most unadorned, specifically on the songs “Grape Juice” and “Little Freak”, when his rumbling feels almost contemplative, conversational. He’ll never sing them on the Grammy stage. But he should.

Brandy & Monica 25th Anniversary The Boy Is Mine

I made it extremely clear in my original Grammys manifesto that celebrating notable anniversaries would be central to my vision if I suddenly found myself in charge of the ceremony, and it doesn’t get much more gilded than this. 25 years ago the Brandy/Monica duet “The Boy Is Mine” was the biggest song in the world. It would go on to be nominated for three Grammys, have an iconic music video starring Mekhi Phifer, and secure a legacy as one of the most important songs of the 90s.

Though the ladies have reunited several times over the years to celebrate their hit— notably in a tiktok duet, and for the most-watched episode of Verzuz— their most significant performance to date is still from the 1998 VMA’s. The 2023 Grammys should change that.

Taylor wins for ATW(TMV)(TV)(FTV)

Rooting for Taylor Swift to win Grammys is a bit like rooting for Tom Brady to win the AFC Championship game during the 2010’s— something I am zealously happy to do, though I know that an inexorable force needs no cheering on to continue its momentum. After nine original studio albums, she’s racked up 11 Grammys, including three for the biggest honor, Album Of The Year, a feat she shares only with Stevie Wonder and Frank Sinatra. She’s a genius, and not one unrecognized by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Yet the pulse of her brilliance— her songwriting— has somehow never been honored in the top category meant to do so, Song Of The Year. There isn’t a songwriter working today who more strongly evinces a love for words the way Taylor does; who puts care and craft into every single syllable, Her songs function as poems, as novellas, as movie scripts that need no actors or sets or director to nevertheless fully exist. Her nominated song tonight, the ten minute version of All Too Well, serves as the kind of proof that comes with neon signs and flashing lights. Let’s hope the Grammys don’t miss it.

Beyoncé sets the record winning in a major category

To be clear, Beyoncé doesn’t need anything from these Grammys, from this awards body that has let her down about as consistently as they’ve honored her. She is already the most awarded female nominee of all time. She already has a credible case for being the most important artist of the 21st century.

Four wins tonight would make her the most awarded nominee full stop, putting her over Quincy Jones and orchestral conductor Georg Solti. Whether that happens is not my concern though— how it happens is. Beyoncé has 28 wins, but not one of those is from a Big Four category. All of her statues come with genre modifiers, which seem like diminished honors for someone who has put out masterpieces like Lemonade and her 2013 self-titled effort.

Renaissance, last year’s studio album and the centrepiece of this year’s nominees, is not as seminal as some of Beyoncé’s earlier work. It sounds more like the product of an artist who is ready to have fun after everything she has achieved (even if she hasn’t been properly recognized for it). But Paul Newman won his Oscar for The Color of Money, not Cool Hand Luke or Butch Cassidy. Voters don’t always get it right at the right time. But hopefully, tonight, they’ll finally correct the records.

One thought on “My 2023 Grammy Wishlist

  1. Although I am not familiar with most of the performers you mentioned, I see you were definitely right about Beyonce. I trust you enjoyed the Grammys, Ainsley. Interesting article. Thanks for sharing!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s