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A review of the 2023 Grammy nominations

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Nominations for next year's Grammy Awards are out today. Some of the world's biggest pop stars got major nods - performers like Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish and Miley Cyrus - though it was the singer and songwriter SZA who led the entire field with nine nominations.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KILL BILL")

SZA: (Singing) I might kill my ex - not the best idea.

SUMMERS: Here to talk all things Grammys with us is Stephen Thompson from NPR Music. Thanks for being here.

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: Thank you.

SUMMERS: OK. So they give out Grammys in 94 different categories. It's hard to sum everything up in just a few minutes. We're going to try our best. What are your big takeaways from this round of nominations?

THOMPSON: Well, the first thing that jumped out to me is that in the top three general categories - I'm talking about album, record and song of the year - they are overwhelmingly dominated by women. That is unusual for the Grammys, which have had kind of an up-and-down history with attempts to achieve some kind of gender parity. In each of those three categories, there are eight nominees apiece, and every artist is a woman except for Jon Batiste. As you scroll through those major categories, you see a lot of those same huge names popping up over and over again. You mentioned them - SZA, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo. All of them are hugely represented in those top categories, and each of them has at least six nominations. If you're looking for surprises, people who weren't necessarily expected to dominate, Victoria Monet had a massive day. She got seven nominations, including best new artist and record of the year for the song "On My Mama."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ON MY MAMA")

VICTORIA MONET: (Singing) I put that on my mama, on my hood. I look fly. I look good. You can't touch my bag.

SUMMERS: All right. What else jumps out to you? Are there any other big surprises that are worth us talking about?

THOMPSON: Well, it's hard to call Jon Batiste a surprise after he won album of the year. He pops up in album of the year, song of the year, record of the year. It's a clear reminder the Grammys absolutely love Jon Batiste. One thing I spotted scrolling through all of those 94 categories is that while SZA is the most nominated artist, the most nominated album is actually the soundtrack to the "Barbie" movie. I counted 11 nominations for songs from "Barbie," including four of the five nominees in the category of best song written for visual media. That doesn't even count the "Barbie" score, which is also nominated - so a huge, huge, huge day for the "Barbie" soundtrack. It helps that those "Barbie" songs are by huge stars. You've got Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Nicki Minaj, Ice Spice and, of course, Ryan Gosling for "I'm Just Ken."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M JUST KEN")

RYAN GOSLING: (Singing) I'm just Ken. Anywhere else, I'd be a 10. Is it my destiny to live and die...

SUMMERS: OK. In less fun news, let's talk about snubs, people who did not make the list for nominations - any of those stand out to you?

THOMPSON: Well, looking at the other categories, I'm actually surprised the "Barbie" soundtrack didn't get an album of the year nod. But what stood out to me the most, I think, is how scant the representation was for rock and country music and hip-hop, to a certain extent. With so much pop and R&B in the lead categories, there's not a lot of room left over for those other genres. A lot of people thought Foo Fighters were going to get major nominations for their album, "But Here We Are." It's one of their best in years. They are a big Grammy favorite. Dave Grohl is basically the mayor of rock 'n' roll. They're nominated in the rock categories, but they got shut out of the general field.

This was also a very, very big year commercially for country music, and yet country got largely left out of a lot of the major categories, too. Luke Combs had a massive crossover hit with his cover of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car." That only got one nomination. And I was very curious about what the Grammys were going to do with Morgan Wallen. His song, which is called "Last Night," was the biggest hit of this year, but he's also a mainstream country star with a very polarizing reputation. And in recent years, the Grammys have shied away from what you might call bro country, and they mostly shied away from Morgan Wallen this year, too. So he got just one nomination. "Last Night" was nominated for best country song.

SUMMERS: Stephen Thompson is a writer with NPR Music and a co-host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. Stephen, thank you.

THOMPSON: Thank you, Juana.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAST NIGHT")

MORGAN WALLEN: (Singing) I know that last night we let the liquor talk. I can't remember everything we said, but we said it all. You told me... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)