Chris Rizik: Soul Music Fans Rejoice -- We complained and the Grammys listened

Well, soul music fans, maybe our voice was heard after all.  At a time when artists around the world are proclaiming their allegiance and debt to soul music, soul fans who watched the Grammy Awards in February were shocked at the genre's odd lack of representation on the 3 1/2 hour Grammy broadcast. Soul was left on the cutting room floor (along with classical, jazz, Latin and many other traditionally revered musical genres) when it came to the evening's performances.

Well, soul music fans, maybe our voice was heard after all.  At a time when artists around the world are proclaiming their allegiance and debt to soul music, soul fans who watched the Grammy Awards in February were shocked at the genre's odd lack of representation on the 3 1/2 hour Grammy broadcast. Soul was left on the cutting room floor (along with classical, jazz, Latin and many other traditionally revered musical genres) when it came to the evening's performances.  Just as bad was the consolidation of Grammy categories, which resulted in a Best R&B Album category where soul favs such as Ledisi and Kelly Price were categorize alongside -- and ultimately lost to -- hip-hop singer/dancer Chris Brown. I wrote a personal rant about the insultingly misguided show and it tapped a nerve: the article became the most popular article in SoulTracks history, and was reposted by newspapers around the country (even NPR).

Well, we don't know what the performance schedule will look like for the next Grammy Awards broadcast, but it appears that our cries about the award categories were heard.  Today the Grammys announced the creation of a new category called "Best Urban Contemporary":

Best Urban Contemporary Album is for albums containing at least 51 percent playing time of newly recorded contemporary vocal tracks derivative of R&B. This category is intended for artists whose music includes the more contemporary elements of R&B and may incorporate production elements found in urban pop, urban Euro-pop, urban rock, and urban alternative.

We're not entirely sure about that description, but what this appears to mean is that acts like Brown will fall under the new category and will no longer be pitted against soul music artists, who will continue to be covered under the "Best R&B Album" category.

We at SoulTracks and our readers probably screamed the loudest about the Grammy slighting of soul music earlier this year, so it is only appropriate that we give them guarded kudos for apparently listening. Here's hoping that, in practice, this new category does what it seems to say it will do: take a small step toward (again) recognizing that modern black music has a breadth that goes beyond what plays on major "Urban" format radio stations around the country.  It may be too late for the slighting of Kelly Price's brilliant album Kelly this past year, but it may mean that, in the future, she and Ledisi won't hear their names announced alongside Rihanna or Nicki Minaj come Grammy nomination time.

This may be a small victory for soulheads, but is a victory worth savoring. Congratulations, soul music!

By Chris Rizik

 

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