It is known as music’s biggest night, and according to the Recording Academy, the 63rd Grammy Awards will be happening on January 31, 2021, “rain or shine, COVID-19 vaccine or not”. With Koffee’s history-making win in the reggae category still fresh in many people’s minds, and, on the flip side, with 2020 being such a rough year, especially for the music industry, Grammy news is definitely something to savour.
Interestingly, the product eligibility period – the release dates of an album/single, which will determine if it is eligible for this year’s awards – is September 1, 2019, to August 31, 2020. That might just explain why Friday, August 28, seemed to have been the official ‘reggae album release day’ as labels scurried to ensure that they have a shot at the golden gramophone. Six albums from heavyweight acts dropped simultaneously on that day, which just happened to be three days before the door was slammed shut on entries. Among the August 28 releases were: Reggae Gold 2020, Various Artistes; Got to be Tough, Toots and the Maytals; Back A Yard, Wailing Souls; Higher Place, Skip Marley; In Search of Lost Time, Protoje; and Healing, Tarrus Riley.
And, despite the pandemic, which saw a number of album releases being pushed back or scrapped altogether, as Recording Academy Interim President/CEO Harvey Mason Jr pointed out, the amount of music released actually increased during the pandemic. In Jamaica, for example, the lockdown months seemed to breed a plethora of new singles, as well as new albums. In addition to the six mentioned above, between May and August 2020, albums or EPs came from Buju Banton, Popcaan, Vybz Kartel, Lila Ike, Etana, Chezidek, Anthony B, Richie Spice, Shaggy, Dexta Daps, Xyclone and Sevana. Additionally, at the start of the year, on January 10, Govana released Humans and Monsters Are Not the Same and, on the same day, Vybz Kartel dropped To Tanesha, the first of two albums for 2020 so far. Papa Michigan released Put Your Loving on Me on January 20, and on March 13, on the cusp of the world closing down, Jah9 released Note to Self. This, however, is by no means an exhaustive list of reggae releases during the stated eligibility period.
Other important dates on the Grammy calendar are September 30 to October 12. That is the period during which the first round of voting will take place. The date for the nominations announcement has not yet been revealed, but it will definitely happen “later this year”. However, the final round of voting starts on December 7, 2020, and runs until January 4, 2021.
According to the guidelines, an album is a collection of audio recordings issued for sale, download or streaming as a unit. “To qualify as an album, a release must contain at least five tracks (different songs, not different mixes) and have a total playing time of at least 15 minutes, or it may have any number of tracks if the total playing time is at least 30 minutes. An album must contain greater than 50% playing time of newly recorded (within five years of the release date), previously unreleased recordings.”
The Recording Academy has not announced the format for 2021, but they referenced CEO Mason’s comments in June during an interview with Variety magazine in which he explained that there were three possibilities. “We are simultaneously developing three plans for what the show would look like: One is the traditional show with the full crowd, two is a limited crowd, and three is no crowd, and there’s creative around all three of those ideas: how and where we would film it. But none of them involve changing or postponing the date,” Mason reportedly told the publication.
The organizers say that music fans from around the globe will be able to watch the ceremony live on CBS/ CBS All Access on January 31, 2021. Additionally, the Grammy Premiere Ceremony, where the majority of the 84 categories of awards are handed out, will be streamed live on Grammy.com.