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Grammys rename ‘Urban’ award category, revamps rules and guidelines

Grammy trophies sit in the press room during the 60th Annual Grammy Awards on Jan. 28, 2018, in New York City. Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images

Ahead of next year’s award ceremony, the Grammys has implemented some major alterations in not only its overall rules and guidelines, but some of its award categories too.

Perhaps, the most notable change, is the renaming of the ‘Best Urban Contemporary Album,’ which will now be known as ‘Best Progressive R&B Album,’ as confirmed by the Recording Academy in an official press release on Wednesday.

The ‘Best Urban Contemporary Album’ award category was initially introduced in 2012 and each year has recognized successful R&B albums. Winners in the past have included Rihanna, Beyoncé, The Weeknd and most recently, Lizzo.

Though Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. didn’t explicitly address the reasoning behind their decision to drop the term “urban” in this category, the statement suggested that they considered it a subgenre of R&B and that the changes were made in an effort to “evolve with the musical landscape.”

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Lizzo arrives at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP).

Similarly, Republic Records dropped the term “urban” from their “verbiage earlier” this month, saying that while the term was not initially “deemed negative” towards Black music when coined in the 1970s, that it has since “developed into a generalization of Black people in many sectors of the music industry,” according to Variety.

“While this change will not and does not affect any of our staff structurally, it will remove the use of this antiquated term,” the record label’s statement read.

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Adding onto the Academy’s decision to rename the ‘Best Urban Contemporary Album’ category in particular, Mason reportedly told Billboard that, “There were some uncomfortable feelings around (the term),” on Wednesday.

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“I think it’s been a gradual shift within the R&B community. It’s been a little contentious at times (and) it’s been discussed (with the Academy),” he added.

As well as the ‘Best Urban Contemporary Album,’ three other categories have been renamed ahead of the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards ⁠— one, however, still includes the term “urban.”

This Nov. 14, 2019 file photo shows host Ricky Martin at the 20th Latin Grammy Awards in Las Vegas, Calif. AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File

Rather than having the ‘Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album’ award represent three individual Latin music genres within only one category, the Grammys have now created the ‘Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album‘ award too.

The “urban” portion of the retired category has now been merged with the ‘Best Latin Pop Album’ and will now be known as the ‘Best Latin Pop or Urban Album’ category.

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The ‘Best Rap/Sung Performance’ award will also now be known as the ‘Best Melodic Rap Performance’ award.

On top of these changes, the Grammys’ rules and guidelines have been revamped in order to crack down on instances of bias in the award nomination process.

Conflict of interest disclosure forms will now be given to all individuals invited to participate in any of the nominations review committees to ensure that they do not have any connections to any of the artists, their works or their teams.

This helps to avoid any unfair advantages or disadvantages for nominees and potential award winners.

Click to play video 'Grammy Awards 2020: Red carpet fashion highlights' Grammy Awards 2020: Red carpet fashion highlights
Grammy Awards 2020: Red carpet fashion highlights – Jan 26, 2020

Additionally, committee members will be required to take one year off after three years now, as opposed to the five-year limit set in previous years, according to Rolling Stone.

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The 2021 Grammy Awards are currently scheduled to take place live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 31, 2021.

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca