As We All Know … Grammy Awards wins, particularly in the major categories, largely amount to a popularity contest, with sales and social-media dominance a much bigger factor in determining who takes home the trophies than anything resembling artistic achievement.
And yet, sometimes Grammys do go to older and younger artists alike who are focused on musical excellence.
Exhibit A, this year: Bonnie Raitt, left, the veteran blues-rock singer, slide guitarist and songwriter, won Song of the Year for “Just Like That,” the title track from her 2022 album.
She beat out a crowd of much more en vogue artists, including Adele, Beyonce, Harry Styles, Taylor Swift and Lizzo.
The tune, inspired by late country-folk singer John Prine, also won for Best American Roots Song, and Raitt’s “Made Up Mind” won for Best Americana Performance
Just like that, the 73-year-old Raitt gave lots of industry folks something to talk about.
Exhibit A, Part Two: The superb young tradition-digging jazz singer Samara Joy, who I had the opportunity to hear perform in July at the Montreal Jazz Festival, took home the award for Best New Artist, triumphing over a roomful of folks who had racked up far more success in terms of streams, sales and airplay. The win reminded me of jazz bassist-singer Esperanza Spalding‘s win in the same category, in 2011.
Grammy wins, for better or worse, historically have provided a commercial boost for winners, particularly those in the leading categories.
Raitt notched an astonishing sales bump after her win, according to The Tennessean newspaper: “Digital song sales for “Just Like That” jumped 12,900% in the U.S. from Feb. 4 — one day before the awards — to Monday, a day after the show, according to data consumption company Luminate (formerly Nielsen Music/MRC Data). In that same period, on-demand streaming of the song rose roughly 5,700%, per Luminate. Additionally, Raitt’s album sales saw a 605% bump, while digital song sales from her catalog jumped about 2,100%, Luminate reported.”
Back in 1990, Raitt’s win for the “Nick of Time” album “sent that disc to No. 1 — her first-ever Top 20 album, never mind chart-topper — and transformed the veteran singer-guitarist into a pop-radio presence,” as NPR noted in 2013.
And Joy’s album is now No. 1 on the Top Jazz Albums, Traditional Jazz Albums and Heatseekers Albums charts.
To be fair, NARAS, by bestowing Grammy Awards, does give lifts to artists in categories far removed from the pop/celebrity spotlight and top categories.
In the jazz arena, the following folks scored awards:
Samara Joy, again (right), Best Jazz Vocal Album for “Linger Awhile” (which landed on my “22 for ’22” list of favorite albums)
Terri Lyne Carrington, with Kris Davis, Linda May Han Oh, Nicholas Payton and Matthew Stevens, Best Jazz Instrumental Album for “New Standards Vol. 1”
Wayne Shorter and Leo Genovese, Best Improvised Jazz Solo for “Endangered Species”
Steven Feifke, Bijon Watson and Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra, Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, for “Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra”
Arturo O’ Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Best Latin Jazz Album for “Fandango at the Wall in New York”
Geoffrey Keezer, Best Instrumental Composition for “Refuge”
John Beasley, Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella for “Scrapple From the Apple,” as performed by Magnus Lindgren, Beasley & the SWR Big Band featuring Martin Aeur
Vince Mendoza, Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals or “Songbird (orchestral version),” as recorded by Christine McVie
And these blues, roots and Americana artists (in addition to Raitt) landed Grammys:
Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder, left, Best Traditional Blues Album for “Get On Board”
Edgar Winter, Best Contemporary Blues Album for “Brother Johnny”
Aaron Neville with The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Best American Roots Performance for “Stompin’ Ground”
Brandi Carlile, Best Americana Album for “In These Silent Days”
Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway, Best Bluegrass Album for “Crooked Tree”
Ranky Tanky, Best Regional Roots Music Album for “Live at the 2022 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival”