Last Wednesday in a press release, The Recording Academy has announced some changes to a few of their categories in Rap, Latin and R&B genres as well as ‘Best New Artist’ nomination eligibility. The Recording Academy has changed the name of “Best Urban Contemporary Album” to “Best Progressive R&B Album.” They have also changed the “Best Rap/Sung Performance” category to “Best Melodic Rap Performance.”

Rename the category “Best Urban Contemporary Album” to “Best Progressive R&B Album”

For albums containing at least 51% playing time of newly recorded progressive vocal tracks derivative of R&B. This category is intended for artists whose music includes the more progressive elements of R&B and may include samples and elements of hip-hop, rap, dance, and electronic music. It may also incorporate production elements found in pop, euro-pop, country, rock, folk and alternative.

Changing “Urban Contemporary Album”, comes just days after Republic Records announced they will be dropping the term “Urban”.

Change the name of “Best Rap/Sung Performance” to “Best Melodic Rap Performance”

This category is intended for performances that use the delivery of rap and melody over modern production. This performance requires a strong and clear presence of melody combined with rap cadence, and is inclusive of dialects, lyrics or performance elements from non-rap genres including R&B, rock, country, electronic or more. The production may include traditional elements of rap or elements characteristic of the aforementioned non-rap genres. Both the song and melody should be considered to fit these criteria to be accepted in this category.

“Best New Artists”, the highly anticipated and critiqued category also received a new upgrade. The Academy dropped the rule that an artist may have released no more than 30 tracks prior to the start of the current eligibility year.

Best New Artist Field – Eligibility 

Remove the upper limit rule and rely on the expertise of the Core and Genre Screening Committees to make the determination as to whether or not an artist had attained prominence in a prior year.

  • Minimum releases to meet eligibility:  five singles/tracks or one album
  • While there will be no specified maximum number of releases, the screening committees will be charged with determining whether the artist had attained a breakthrough or prominence prior to the eligibility year. Such a determination would result in disqualification.
  • An artist may not enter into this category more than three times, including as a performing member of an established group.

With the new “screening committees” the category will be even more subjective since each prospective artist’s eligibility will be open to interpretation. It remains to be seen which artists will benefit from the screening committee’s judgements, and which will be disqualified.

Additional changes approved by the board:

  • The Latin pop album Grammy has expanded and been renamed to best Latin pop or urban album, while the best Latin rock, urban or alternative album will now be called best Latin rock or alternative album.

What do you think of these changes? And what else should the academy do to promote fairness in their awards process?