How the 2016 Grammy Nominations Stack Up

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Every year, we at Paste have published our Predictions and Proclamations for the Grammy Awards. We live-tweet our thoughts and snarky comments, comparing what happened with what should have happened and who got snubbed.

When the 2016 nominations were announced recently, however, we were (quite frankly) surprised and impressed. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States (NARA) has a history of spotlighting only the most popular acts in its bestowing of Grammy awards. And it makes sense to recognize the music that has reached the most people and pervaded the most eardrums. But as we all know, the most played music doesn’t always make for the best actual music.

This year, though, the Grammy nominations encompass a broader range of music. Not only did a number of our 2015 favorites get nods from music’s highest power, but also, many of our favorite acts in other genres received a considerable amount of attention. Take Kendrick Lamar, for example. The young rapper out of Compton leads the count with 11 nominees for Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Rap Performance, and more. In fact, he even has a 40% chance of winning the latter category, as he’s nominated for his own track “Alright,” as well as part of the crew involved in Kanye West’s “All Day.” Lamar’s presence is felt in our own lists, too. We named his self-aware LP To Pimp A Butterfly and his breakthrough single “King Kunta” our second-best of the year on our Best Albums and Best Songs lists, respectively, and the social and racial commentary in his video for “Alright” helped it top our Best Videos list.

Lamar isn’t a one-off example, though. Other categories are simply stacked with artists deserving of the Grammys’ love and admiration. Major categories like Best Alternative Album include no bad choices; The Alabama Shakes, My Morning Jacket, Tama Impala, Björk, and Wilco all made excellent records this year. But even the smaller or non-televised categories like Best American Roots Performance feature strong selections, pitting Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn, The Punch Brothers, and The Milk Carton Kids against legends like Mavis Staples and Buddy Guy in an impossible showdown.

The music industry has always been a fluid one. Technology has changed the way we make, consume, and remember this art form. Keeping up with the changes and remaining relevant through them remains the challenge. But if the 2016 nominations are any indication, NARA is beginning to do so, and that can only be a good thing.

Check out the full list of Grammy nominees here and be sure to watch the Music’s Biggest Night on Monday, February 15, 2016 on CBS.

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